I have this collection of ties hanging behind my study door. A couple of observations: I don’t use them much anymore, and secondly – it doesn’t matter.
Long before I left regular work I had noticed that men’s ‘uniform’ for business was changing. Gone were the suited-and-booted approach with winged-tipped oxfords, gone were the vests and suspenders, gone were the extensive range of ties worn every day to work (matched against colour, or themed to fit the sort of environment – oh, and always try to slightly outdress the customer since going the other way was a cardinal crime). Even one of the account execs with whom I worked remarked that they hardly ever put on a tie to visit a customer now, and they would have mixed with CEOs and financial industry heavyweights much of the time.
So one of the things which I grew up understanding was needed to move into the world of work, then changed rapidly when the time came.
Men’s ‘costumes’ always seemed out of kilter with working women’s ability to chose between a range of appropriate attire. While they could chose dresses and blouses, we chose suits. While they could include slacks or skirts, we chose suits. While they could wear cardigans or sweaters, we chose suits.
Ties now seem limited to christenings, funerals and weddings. The “hatch them, match them, and dispatch them” mantra of the modern approach to ritual and ceremony. Beyond that, they seem consigned to the grave.
I left work almost to the very day when I had lived equal time on two different continents. The first half was spent growing up in different parts of Australia, while the second half has been spent getting married, raising a family and working in England. Is this my half-time, or do I have another third still to come?
I can look back at my early life with nostalgia, regrets, fond memories and laughter. The second seems to have been more of a grind, due perhaps to the efforts of raising a family and “doing time in the big city”. I didn’t enjoy work – not in the sense that I hated every minute of it and I had great colleagues and fun times, but the sense of purposefulness was missing. I really couldn’t see the point of it and the repetitiveness became a grind.
It was remarkable to realise that my life changed radically at exactly the same amount of time from when the first had occurred, and it was a moment of serendipity for me. Personally I don’t have great ambitions nor aims for what happens next; perhaps it will be the the third season of my life, the autumn before the winter or perhaps it will be a new era of discovery.
I heard a quote yesterday from some famous gruffer – they’d claimed to “never have done a day’s work in their lives: it was all fun” or words to that effect. Good for them. I’d love to be able to re-engineer my life’s history and in retrospect say ‘it was all fun’, but the painful truth is that I doubt that’s the whole truth. While optimism or pessimism affect your view of the daily struggle (and I suspect, affect it more than you realize at the time) most work is daily. Today, for example, is my admin day. I’ll attend a variety of phone conference calls, attempt to do some one to one calls with other people, and try to sort out the confusing morass which is the fun of the urgent and important overriding the necessary. Should I focus on the internal certification scheme of which I am an important part, or should I respond to the pushy sales manager who demands time? Is attending my division’s networking events critical (I’ve long since given up thinking I can socialise my way upwards) or should I load the database which has lists of all the calls I’ve made. Which one determines my final rating is important; equally I’m too tired to play the endless charade which keeps me ‘relevant’. I thought this was a job? No, it’s a parade of some sort.