This is a picture of Pops from the early to mid 1980s doing some paperwork while sitting at the couch in the den. Pops mostly did his paperwork there or at the dining room table -- which was otherwise known as Pops' desk because we never 'dined' at that table and it was always covered in his stuff. Tax forms, warranty books, DuPont work, planners, etc. He had a desk upstairs in their bedroom but that was just to hang his pants over when he took them off at night and a place to keep return address stickers and postage stamps top drawer on the right).
Now that he's retired, he has a home office. Go figure. I guess they needed to get us four boys out of there so they could use the rooms the way they wanted.
Anyway, the reason for using this picture for Way Back When-sday is to share some advice with you that Pops -- a workaholic if there ever was one -- recently gave me. He said: Remember son, it's just a job. No one on their deathbed ever said they wished they'd spent more time at work. He said it took him forever to start figuring that out.
He went on to say -- as if I didn't already know -- that he placed so much importance on his work, his job became a big part of his self-worth. He climbed the corporate ladder, traveling three or four days a week for management meetings at other DuPont sites. He was proud of his work and he was damn good at it. He spent as much time as he could with us, don't get me wrong, but he worked an awful lot. Work was almost everything to him.
But he recently told me that putting that much importance on his work -- letting it be a measure of his self-worth -- was one of the biggest mistakes he ever made. He said that once DuPont started going through cutbacks, layoffs and buyouts and the company stock started sinking, so did his feelings of self-worth. Even though he was still there, still employed, he felt like he could never do enough to feel his job was safe. It ate at him for many of his final years with DuPont, up until the day he took one of the buyouts.
There's a reason Pops shared this with me. The newspaper company I work for -- like most other print media companies -- is having a tough go of it right now. We've laid off more than a 1,000 people company wide and it's doubtful that round of layoffs will be the end of it. It's put a real hurting on a lot of people, not just the ones let go. Most of us wonder if we will be next. No one feels safe. For those of us still standing, there is now much more work to be done and less time to do it. More and more time is being sucked into taking care of work tasks and less and less is being gained from it. And just like happened with Pops -- I am my father's son -- I've found that my feelings of self-worth have also taken a hit.
It sounds selfish, I know. After all, I still have my job. What would I be feeling if I was staring at a table piled with bills and I didn't have a job?
Perhaps it's time to start reassessing things a bit.
"The work you do is not important. It is what the work does to you that’s important."