David Alfe was twice my age when he went to work for me at the Starbucks store on South Street, Philadelphia. He had run restaurants and was a lot more qualified than me to manage the store but he was also going through a divorce and didn’t need the added stress of a hard job, so he applied for barista instead. And there were times I could see in David’s eyes a pause, a moment of resistance perhaps, when I asked or told him to do certain things. Behind his eyes he was maybe questioning if that made sense, or asking himself why he was working for someone half his age, with maybe half his skills at managing stores.
And now I feel like David Alfe working with a person who was born around the time I probably got that first job with Starbucks, 30 years ago. So it’s hard, because there’s nothing I can do about my age and nothing she can do either, and yet I feel some resistance being told what to do by someone so much younger. This is nothing new of course, people everywhere experience it. It’s made me rethink the need for status as a motivator though, status being something I didn’t think I cared much about but now realize I do.
I’ve come back to looking at what motivates me, and this dual-edged thing called ambition. There’s an ego/pride undercurrent to it I’ve felt many times before, that’s lit a certain glow around me others sense. It can attract or repel of course. It can lead you way off course too, I’ve found.
I updated my long-form resume, which is five pages long and jam-packed with lots I’ve done the past 20 years or so. I started thinking about applying for a director-level position at Microsoft, a hefty pay level, almost executive. It’s a stretch, but I got some validation from a former Microsoft client and friend that it’s viable. I sat with the idea of that. There would be no more afternoon baths with a job like that. No more starting to prep dinner at 4, or cleaning my head out on the weekends. Jobs like that paid a lot and took a lot, arguably taking more than they gave.
…unless what they gave fed that ambition you felt you needed. Fed your income and family dreams, financed college for the kids, financed comfort. A kind of exchange where long periods of work and discomfort yield an overlay of comfort known as financial security, early retirement.
All of it got too stark to contemplate, being north of 50 with maybe 10 years of work followed by maybe 10-20 years of post-work and that’s about it. “Existential?,” yes.
As is often the case it would be a lot easier to just keep doing what I had been doing and try not to let the age dynamic bother me.
But my ambition didn’t like the sound of that, wouldn’t stand for it. I’d be updating my resume, again.