Thursday, August 19, 2021

Obituaries

 While I no longer generally attempt to contact people whom I used to know, I still look some of them up occasionally to see what they're up to. Since I've never had many friends over the years, these are usually people whom I knew through work. What I'm finding now is that a lot of them are dead, and they now appear in obituaries. Most of the people whom I knew in the Chicago area, where I lived from 1998 to 2011, are still alive and working, but before that, when I lived in Dixon, Illinois, Louisville, Kentucky, Indianapolis, Indiana and Terre Haute, Indiana, most of them are dead. Since I still have vivid memories of them, it is a little jarring to think that they died so soon. On the other hand, this provides a broad perspective on people's lives which can only be accrued over many years.

The main feeling that I have now is that the work environment for most people is completely haphazard. They are thrown into groups of other people with whom they have little in common, and everyone pretends to fit the mold set by the management. As an independent person, I always found the pressure to conform grating, and as a perceptive person I was annoyed by the disingenuous behavior of others who were attempting to sustain or advance their careers. Another thing that I've noticed over many years is that some companies are conspicuously better managed than others, and that some have incompetent employees at high levels. Thinking about my supervisors, some were indelibly affected by their military experiences, and they used a primitive chain-of-command methodology throughout their working years. Thus, they spent more time on homage and fealty to their superiors and maintaining the status quo than on solving problems and ensuring higher productivity or improving the quality of work. In my experience, the military style failed, and the companies that followed it were more likely to go out of business. Interestingly, military thinking also fails inside its original settings, thus the conspicuous mismanagement of the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan and the disastrous psychological and medical consequences for veterans.

In some ways it seems remarkable that I survived in the workplace for so many years, but a lot of that may simply have had to do with changing jobs and moving. Certainly I never came remotely close to finding an ideal job, thus, I am happier than ever to be retired now. I feel sorry for those I knew who still have to work: I don't see how they could be enjoying themselves.

As for my former superiors, some were better than others. Larry, the president of the company where I worked in Dixon, often said "life is short." It was for him: he died at the age of 79 from Alzheimer's disease in 2015. Another boss, Fred, from Indianapolis, immigrated from England in 1972 and was far less talented. He died at the age of 81, leaving seven grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. Although Fred never achieved much, I guess you could say that he succeeded biologically. I think that he took early retirement when the company where he worked was sold. Several of my coworkers have also died, and some of them have changed fields. One became a bus driver, and another switched from printing to orthopedic products. Some have changed jobs several times since I last saw them. As far as I know, none have died from COVID-19.

One thing I'm thankful for is that I retired before I had to post an obligatory profile on LinkedIn. I would have found that completely degrading, because it would have been about as far from how I see myself as is possible. I think that this blog comes much closer to saying who I am and what I represent. So, if you would like to consider hiring me for a job, please read the blog carefully.

The obituaries themselves usually supply only the most basic information. However, you can sometimes tell how important that person was to others in the comments they write – if there are any. After reading many obituaries, an individual's life, in the greater scheme of things, does not seem to have much significance. As I've said, it's only a matter of time before everyone is forgotten. As for myself, I don't intend to have an obituary.

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