The price of freedom - 3

How I have changed

As a result, I have long since lost faith in what I believed to be the ideal job. A career in the organisation does not appeal to me, because growing in rank would not change the nature of my tasks and, in addition, it would require me to believe in the system, or at least pretend to. Since neither is the case, I prefer to feel free and act consistently where I am. A promotion would eventually mean I’d play even more the role of a sponger.

Many years on, I can’t say I’m a professionally realised person. All this time, I’ve been working in the same unit and I have gained little know-how that could be spent elsewhere. What has made me stay put up to now are considerations that transcend the professional sphere. I work in a stately building dating back to the 1920’s that bears the prestigious name of Chamber of commerce. I’m not the employee of a start-up company that will lay workers off when the wind turns, but of a 200-year-old institution, whose presence in town spans the lifetime of the many who have worked for it or run it. The awe-inspiring portrait gallery on the first floor is a reminder of its long-standing prestige.

My workplace is conveniently near my house and is located in the town centre rather that some bleak industrial area The flexy time scheme is extraordinarily good and I’ve been free to pursue my personal interests in my spare time when I’m in town, or take periods of time off work to travel. Take my hobbies away, I don’t know how I could cope. All these factors have kept me tied to my job.

Change it?

Once, while travelling in Jordan, I met some Canadian senior citizens that were at cross purposes with their Arabic-speaking driver and I helped them out. They offered me a lift in their car and we struck up a conversation on work and personal satisfaction. The lady was adamant and urged me to seek fulfilment always and not content myself with second best. Seeing I could speak foreign languages, she assumed I had every chance to find something suitable. Her ideas made me dream for a while, but to be true, I never acted.

I may not feel so satisfied at work, but paradoxically I definitely am a fuller person like this, someone who’s had to invent himself in his private life in order not to succumb to dreary boredom. I’ve devoted myself to linguistic studies, my great passion, did some teaching, volunteering and explored many countries, finally putting my knowledge into practice. What private employer would leave me enough time and energy to learn Arabic or Chinese, considering that I’m not supposed to know any language in my position?

Come to think about it, I regret not working where my talents could be employed and even developed, let alone be useful to my employer. But the human resources policies at the Chamber of commerce don’t tend to prize special skills, basically because they are not required for the humdrum. Even the colleagues working in the foreign trade department rely on a rather rudimentary knowledge of English, but in order to take a bunch of provincial businesspeople to exhibitions abroad, not much more would be needed. In the realm of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

At least, I still have the possibility to travel in my free time – that is without doubt the great consolation for all the failings I have recorded. Significantly, I am free to be myself in my personal space and time, but also doing my work. I can choose what to turn my attention to and keep my load of culture unsoiled by all commercial constraints.

All things considered, when I need to appease my dissatisfaction I ask myself “Who has not complained about his work once?” and repeat to myself the old adage that the neighbour’s grass is always greener. Only to wish the next moment that by a legislator’s whim, the Chamber of commerce membership were made voluntary or they were suppressed outright and I were forced to start anew. Then is when I would really regret my dear old workplace!