37 years is certainly a long time, but it sounded more like eternity in the circumstances in which I heard this timespan mentioned.
I was about to attend a work meeting and was waiting with my colleagues for the speaker to arrive. A few older ones around me were talking about retirement, a topic that in itself denotes a certain tiredness and dwindled interest in one's present professional situation. One said that were he given the opportunity to retire now, he would leave at once.
"Why? Don't you think that if that possibility really existed, you wouldn't put off retirement and wait until you've reached the top age to retire?", came my candid question.
The answer, as if I shouldn't have expected, left me in disarray. My colleague bitterly said that after 37 years working in the same place, I should try being in his shoes.
I was dumbfounded, not so much for the possible tactlessness of my question which triggered the caustic reaction, but for the burden of weariness that the answer made me feel. All of a sudden I was weighed down under the same unbearable load of time, perceiving the fatigue that has built up from year to year, making one lose the last sparkle of vitality on the workplace. From that dreary outlook, enjoyment lies not in the part of our life that claims 8 long hours daily, but starts the exact moment we cross the doorstep of our workplace, in the outgoing direction.
We're not all lucky to be doing the job we like, provided there is one that we have identified as our ideal one. And after all, it's always easy to see the neighbour's grass greener than ours, failing to notice that there are flaws in his lawn too. All in all, since a negative attitude to one's job makes one miss out on such a large part of life, I try to maintain a positive outlook. However, the reason I was so questioned, is that I also happened to feel as if I was serving a sentence, or thought I'm keeping my job because I'm just too lazy to change, or am afraid to lose some of its convenient sides, while I'm not using my skills and do not fulfil my inclinations.
When I was doing the military service my companions were always so impatient for time to pass, counting the days until they would be next on furlough, or would be dismissed at the end of the draft year. Shortly before leaving for the drills, I had read a little book on time by Latin philosopher Seneca and was impressed by his conception, which was based on making the most of a limited resource. The wise man lives in the present – he maintained – doesn't anticipate future events or dreams of what he will be able to do tomorrow without thinking of casting foundations today. Wasting the tiniest instant of precious time is the biggest error we can make, because time never comes back.
I dread to think how I will feel with 37 years of worklife. Maybe I won't be practising what I preach now and I'll be looking forward to retirement just as my colleague does today. I sincerely hope I won't, not because I will have become so weary of work to yearn for the final day of my carreer, but because the absurd desire of accelerating the flow of time would imply that my precious days won't mean much to me.