When she sheepishly poked her head in my office door, it was early Monday morning, much earlier than she usually came to work. Something clearly was on her mind.
She shuffled across the floor, slid into a chair facing my desk, took a visibly deep breath and said the words any employer hates to hear:
“I have bad news,” she said. “I’ve been offered my dream job.”
When people come into my office to discuss problems with their job duties or conflicts with other employees or even personal problems, there’s usually a way to help. Some listening, some questions, some comments, and often people feel better; if not for good, at least for awhile.
But when someone says they’ve been offered their “dream job,” what can you say to that?
Once upon a time, I suspect we all had visions of a dream job, a place where we would be fulfilled and challenged and accepted and happy.
When I was a kid, growing up on a Minnesota farm far from anywhere, I listened to every Minnesota Twins baseball radio broadcast. I imagined myself at shortstop, happily diving in front of line drives. I pictured myself at the plate, ripping curves and sinkers over the fence. But in real life, I had trouble hitting even a Little League fastball, and that dream died a quick, quiet death.
That failure made me more realistic, and I decided instead I would be happy as an astronaut. It was the 1960s, and the Apollo astronauts were the Justin Timberlakes and Ushers of the day; who could resist the dream of flying into space leaving behind an adoring world and a trail of flashing cameras?
But in eighth grade, I was informed by a learned buddy peering snidely through my thick eyeglasses that astronauts needed 20-20 vision.
More dreams followed: Maybe I could be happy working for the FBI. Perhaps I would love being a politician. What about writing a book and becoming rich and famous?
Instead, I wound up here, publishing magazines and writing stories, riding herd with my wife on two sons, volunteering from time to time, and generally leading a life of quiet reservation.
A job like this, a life like this, wasn’t part of my original dream. Since then, many doors hiding many dreams have opened and closed, and I’ve grown accustomed to twisting the knob on some and walking quietly past others. As it turns out, the best part of my original dream came true: I’m happy doing what I’m doing, living the life I’m leading.
So when our soon-to-be former employee ended our meeting by standing up and briskly walking from my office, relieved that her dreaded resignation chore was over and excited about the road ahead to her dream job, I had to smile.
Who am I to stand in the way of someone on one of her paths to happiness?