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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Practice What I Preach: Zero Base Thinking (Part II)

Chapter 7 of My Life and Times at Purdue University

In our last installment, I spoke of cutting loose that which does not work. Well “work” I did.

After a very short stint, I canned myself from the Chinese experience. Reason: first, I no longer can tolerate working for another, or in, restaurants; second, the manager lacked the qualities to effectively run the operation. The first is rather obvious – if you know me, I am extremely independent, even, rather a lone wolf at times. And I cannot work for anyone that does not respect my experiences such as they are. The second one is not worth discussing except to say it was not going to be a positive relationship in the long run. (Doing “a job”, like laundry – like my 6 ¾ year daily grind recently – is not what I am after.)

I fell backwards towards a life I tried desperately to escape. That of a work slug – a person solely there to move widgets – and my “talents” are not in that realm. I no longer can do the bottom rung. While I must succeed at Purdue – even while going into huge debt ($45,000 plus) – I won’t be able to do these types of jobs anymore.

Some may say, “you think you are too good for it?” Yes. I can do more with my brain that chop broccoli, stir and fry up assorted meat and veggies, which I don’t do well at all because I never found it a pleasure to do it in all my experiences in my prior jobs. I know my skill sets do not include: cooking, fixing cars, chopping down trees, plumbing, carpentry work, or electrical installation. (That’s reality.)

I can do some marvelous things when I think to do them. Organize, plan, schedule, financial analysis, design via Autocad, and write. (I hope.) But alas, when I got back here to campus, I surmised too quickly: “I better get a job, any job, quickly.” So, instead of choosing a reasoned position, or doing something I like to do, or can build into my set of skills (a new writing gig), I took the first thing that came to my doorstep. Bad pattern of behavior instilled from years of practice, and being broke most times.

These engrained habits – like alcoholic drinking – are tough to break. Damn tough. Some go back as far as childhood when I was expected to work at 12 or 13 years old to assist with bills. Foregoing anything I wanted or desired – like then, improving my baseball skills or interpersonal relations with “girls” – to assist in putting food on the table. So the refrain went, “go mow lawns, deliver newspapers, wash dishes, shovel snow (or shit) for money…” While some work in youth is positive and life-affirming, when you are told to quit things you enjoy, or that it rarely matters what your needs are, it sets one up for a lifetime of failed working experiences. (And my mom was not the complainer; other relatives were.)

Getting back to this zero base thinking example, I knew when I went on break (on the sixth day) I was done. I said to myself, “you can’t work for anyone.” I love my freedom to create a project, design on paper, or explore (via notes and writing) a story, or world, or a biographical piece too much to give it over now to more of the same drudgery I tried so hard to escape.

I can understand too that even under zero-base thinking you must have resources to fall back on before you jump ship. Luckily, I do at this point. (More so than any other moment in my adult life.)

More to the point: I must complete the book I worked 6 plus years to put together. Goal numero uno. Then, do what my appeal for college reentry said: get awesome grades, build a publishing company, and go on to make the resources (money, relationships, connections) that I failed in the first 39 years of life to do adequately.

Practicing what you preach is not easy, especially, if on the heels of newfound freedom to choose.

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