Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time

I worked while I was acquiring my undergraduate engineering degree, hell, I worked while getting all three of my degrees. My undergraduate was especially interesting, in that I did not have a mass of skills so my work was not a high-paying gig.  I am grateful for the job, but there are downsides to everything.  The job was very physical.  However, I was in the shape of a 20+-year-old.  I had been involved in sports, heavily, from the time I was 9 or 10 years old.  The job kept me in shape.

I worked Friday through Sunday, and on holidays, I am grateful for being part of the team.  The reason for working was income.  I did not work because I had a wealth of time.  I did not, I worked because even though I was on the poverty (may not be as bad as the words, but most definitely not easy) plan for getting through school, and I had some help from family, I still needed some income to make ends meet.

I rented a small room in a very old house. My room was once a porch-now enclosed, and slept on a cot, in a sleeping bag.  A clothesline hanging above my cot for my clothes.  I did not think it was so bad, I know people, Steve B., who had it much worse than I did.  I am still connected with some of my school friends (especially my buddy Jason). They recall where I lived in the humble terms above and could be interpreted that I have made things sound better than it was.

I worked with many of the same people week after week.  There was at least one other person in my area of the business, as I recall.  I recall doing things alone, that the organization had processes that describe two people doing the work.  I hustled from customer to customer to meet the customer’s needs as quickly as I could.  The other person’s m0vements were not so crisp, a lack of a sense of urgency.

From Each To Each

I was in the Junior year of my undergraduate engineering degree.  It was that time of year when the company would announce raises.  I was pulled off to the side, the management indicated that I would not be getting a raise, but it was not because my performance was poor.  The other person I worked with, was about to have a child, their wife or girlfriend was pregnant.  That which would be my “increase” would be added to his so that his income would show an appreciative increase.  I know this because the manager told me so.

This was my first experience with this phrase, from each to each.  In my junior year, it was far from decided that I would actually get the undergraduate engineering degree.  It was completely possible that I would not make it through it.  The manager saw my engineering degree was going to be able to provide for me in the long-term, and the other team member needed the income, from the manager’s perspective, was needed more by the person that did not work as I did.

Maybe it Needed To Be So

As I am not the person privy to all information involved in the decision.  I do know, as stated earlier, that there was no guarantee that I would make it through my degree.  I was working hard, both at university and for this company.  I have attempted to make the best decision I could, sacrificing my short-term interests for the long-term.   I was being punished for working hard and making the best decisions possible and operating from a deferred gratification philosophy.  I found this demotivating.

This situation coupled with the difficulty of carrying a job for income while studying and learning to master my desired engineering pursuits led me to quit this job and tighten my belt yet further.  As luck would have it, I would find productive summer and vacation jobs within the company at large rather than in this one location.  This is likely the reason I recall the organization with fondness, in spite of this management decision.


We never know how things are going to work out.  There is nothing we can do to change these things retro-active anyway.  The missus used to say I am like Doris Day  She is not entirely incorrect, I will do all I can to move things where I prefer when I can, but I (we) must accept that there are things that cannot be altered and the outcome is going to be what it is even with our efforts.  There are plenty we can do to influence the outcome, doing nothing absolutely means you get what you get.   I am quite happy with my decisions in this portion of my past, especially in retrospect.  Perhaps that cannot be said for every decision in my life.  I am not sure this is a ubiquitous statement, I submit it is not possible to make adult decisions that are required to be made, without some measure of regret.  However dwelling on those things that did not go as we had hoped, is not a productive way to lead life, in my opinion.

What happens when our effort is not recognized, and during our evaluation, we do not receive any tangible recognition for our efforts?  Worse still, we are told that our effort has no economic recognition. Early in most people’s careers, for example, in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the lowest level is physiological.   Sleeping in a large closet that was formerly a porch, sleeping on a cot in a sleeping bag, surely means my physiological are marginally met. You can imagine how this has influenced my political thinking.


Post by Jon Quigley