I heard an interesting first hand quote today that got me to thinking about careers versus jobs. The great one, Duke Ellington, once was asked about his mastery of the trumpet. He was asked about why he continued to practice even into his oldest years when others saw no need for him to practice. It was accepted that he was the undisputed top musician of the day. In reply he said in part, “.. The closer I get, the farther it looks..”
What was he saying? Does he yet still speak to us today?
I started my journey to mastery of the building code over a decade ago. I was quite naive but willing to learn all I could. What most don’t understand is I see the dreams and hopes of every would be homeowner. The expectations and investments of every business owner. The excitement and fervor behind every sports enthusiast. All on paper. These disparate peoples all have need of one thing: a safe place to deposit people while making a profit on them. Hey, it’s the American way.
Each day at my place of employment, I find new and interesting challenges. I respond to people and their many concerns regarding the bringing of their dreams to reality. They have worked hard, saved much and invested deeply and now they come to me to see if they can cross that important final hurdle. Getting the cities blessing so a construction permit can be issued.
I am a building official.
What’s that? That’s a guy who reads your blueprint plans as you might a short non-fiction biography. The telling of a tale of imagination that is rooted in truth and not stretched beyond belief.
To be sure, none come to me FOR me. I’m not that grand a person. But I am responsible for assuring that the designs you have will last because the safety margins built into the code are not exceeded. If they will be exceeded, it’s not without smarter people than I proving it. Those smart people are engineers and architects who have studied from more fundamental positions structural and special design.
At any rate I’m digressing badly and likely confusing you, dear reader, as to my point.
I realized something that I felt was rather interesting the other day. That my vocation is available in more than one town or city. In fact it’s available anywhere. In any city or town or village where construction occurs. So it’s not unique. But I know now that I feel that if I’m not doing this work I’m rather empty inside. I feel a chasm in me that is wide and yawning. In other words, I miss this particular work challenge. I never missed any other work I’ve done.
Add to that the fact that the work is not just well paying. It’s not…. No definitely not. But I am respected in it by my peers. Missed by those who have reason to like me the least. Fussed over by those who don’t even meet me. And I was shaken with the realization that even were I not paid for this work, and I COULD live without salary from it, I’d still do it.
I actually love this work.
A former coworker of mine once said it best for his particular vocation ‘… I love my job!’
And so in my mind this vocation I am increasing skilled in has transcended the realm of work a day and a job to make ends meet. It’s now a career. A professional career with goals, rewards and mental gymnastics that make my days worth while. My time never feels wasted. And I am willing to arise from a very comfortable slumber and brave New England traffic to accomplish it.
So when Dizzy said what he said I felt that he was so very correct. I practice and work at and train in this skilled career daily. But the more I learn and the closer I get to my professional goals, the further I get because I learn just now little I truly know. The forest is rather large and expanding while my tree is only getting taller the closer to it I stand.
Is see the the trees bark and know it’s every wrinkle. But the forest has many a tree and none are like the last. As I approach my tree, the others grow increasingly distant. Not a bad thing. But that shows me I still have so much to learn about the globalism of my chosen craft.
What could be better than that? I’m not sure there is much that is better than that?
I’m not sure how this story ends or this stream of consciousness should conclude because this subject, though mundane, isn’t finished. It’s my story and it continues. So I’ll just close by saying, stay tuned. My story isn’t done yet.