The Road Not Taken – A Tale of Engagement

The following is a guest post from frequent commenter Curmudgeon. This post is his second guest post (“who am I?” was his first). Enjoy!


Here’s a situation you may find yourself in at some time in your life. I have a job. It’s a moderately responsible, moderately stressful, yet moderately enjoyable job for which I am paid moderately well (especially by the standards of this industry). I was promoted into this job from a subordinate role after a surprisingly short time at the company.

Well, thanks in large part to the economy (the employer just went through a significant layoff), I’m now told that I can’t be compensated at my new, higher level during 2009. I understand my employer’s point of view – I have been with the company less than a year, and have yet to prove myself at the higher level. And money is tight.

But it means that I have a decision to make. I have a standing offer of another job at what I might call a “lifestyle company,” one that is privately owned and run largely for the enjoyment and stimulation of the owners. Nonetheless, it is profitable, and the owners are willing to invest in it, and it is likely to be more enjoyable and certainly less stressful than what I am doing today. The downside is that it would be about a ten percent pay cut, a serious loss of coin but still within my means.

Perhaps because I live only a few miles from the Robert Frost homestead, I frequently consider the road not taken in life. I’m certainly not on the high performance fast track to anywhere in my career, but I have come to expect decent salaries and recognition for hard work and achievement. So it is a natural thought that I am, at this point in my career, giving too much and getting too little in return. Especially since I have available a slower-paced alternative.

A decade or so ago I was an academic – a college professor. I had a colleague in his mid-50s, a tenured professor with a PhD and loads of experience. However, at a time when I thought a professional person might fully test themselves, to reach for that last rung of the career or intellectual ladder because there would never be a better opportunity to do so, his only goal in life was to shrink his intellectual scope to the point where only the trivial mattered to him.

Now, I am not in my mid-50s, but if I stood on my toes and strained my eyesight, I just may be able to see it from here (with my multifocals on). To back off in energy or intellect now seems to accept that I will never again achieve at a high level.

In the end, I want to reach for that next rung of the ladder. I choose to continue to engage the world around me to the best of my abilities, for as long as I can. I hope that you do too.

Attribution Some rights reserved :  photo by Enchant_me