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Monday, August 06, 2007

Ain't It the Truth?

While watching Malcolm in the Middle over the weekend, we were treated to the episode ("Reese Joins the Army, Part 2") in which Hal gets put on trial for conspiracy to commit fraud at the company he had been employed by for many years. He is, of course, only a patsy, framed because he was unwilling to frame others.

He is saved from prison when Malcolm, who is a mathematics prodigy, realizes that every date that the prosecution has given for some allegedly nefarious incident engineered by Hal falls on a Friday. It turns out that Hal hadn't been to work on a Friday in 15 years.

And now to the point of this post. Once on the stand, as Hal starts to give his testimony, he says the following:

You know those nature shows where a wasp paralyzes a caterpillar, then injects it full of larvae? It stays alive for weeks, completely aware, feeling every little bite as the larvae devour it from the inside. I sat in a cubicle every day envying that caterpillar--'cause at least he got to be on TV. I hated that job. I was a crappy employee.

This is at once, to me, one of the funniest and truest things ever said on TV. I know I've lived it, to varying degrees, in the many jobs I've had over the years.

Some people are lucky. They make their living in ways that they love. I've found this to be almost unerringly true of engineers, for example. These are people who do what they do because they love it. If they don't like their job, it's the employer's fault, not theirs.

Most of us, however, make do. We get what jobs we can in order to make some money, no more, no less. As we've turned our colleges and universities and grad schools increasingly into trade schools, this has become more and more true for the so-called professions, as well. Most lawyers and, sadly, doctors today got in those lines of work simply because they were ways of making a comfortable living, not out of a desire to serve the community or a feeling of being called to it. If you take a quick gander at our current legal and medical industries, you can see how helpful that is.

I was lucky in feeling my call. However, I wasted many opportunities I had to pursue that calling through my own foolishness and pride and by putting earning a dollar too much ahead of following my own path. I've also envied the caterpillar.

Now, I'm not quitting my job or advocating that anyone else do so without the proper preparation. I am trying to get back on the path, one I diverged from many decades ago, and trying to do it in such a way that I do not ruin my family and bring more misery than peace. I don't know whether I'll ever make it. I just know that it is worth the trying.

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