Tonawanda News

January 24, 2014

ADAMCZYK: Off-balance is the new balance

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — With the possible exception of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and his ability to parallel-park a camera-assisted Buick (that’s him in those television commercials), I am not someone with a lot of envy in him. It bothers me sometimes that, at age 37 and the grand old man of football, Manning could be my son, but that’s another story, with no envy in it.

You may not grow wise as you grow old, but like it or not, you gain perspective, and despite being parked on Buffalo’s northern border all my life, instead of wandering the world looking for SMERSH agents or something, I’ve somehow obtained my share.

I watch the generation or two younger than I, in search of opportunity, and smile blessedly. They think they’re worthy of opportunity, first of all, and will exhaust many methods of obtaining it. (Somehow I feel like much of my formal schooling was dedicated to simply making me employable on Buffalo’s northern border. Never being one to allow school to interfere with my education, I’m convinced you gotta fight for your right to learn things.)

Having a full-time job was something of a status symbol where I came from. Show up on time, do the work, walk away, come back tomorrow. Steady, predictable stuff. I didn’t starve, but rarely heard the knock of any opportunity.

The employed and semi-employed with whom I consort these days do not live like that. Three part-time projects are preferable to one retirement-track job, as well as more interesting, less by-the-book and more likely to provide a “big break,” as they say. They tend not to be able to tell success from failure, triumph from disaster and “tend to treat those two imposters just the same,” as Kipling wrote.

They’ve taken resume-writing classes that teach how to spin a success story from failure, and they’re steeped in enough irony so that anything can sound like something else, what the old timers considered “silver linings.”

Except perhaps for a wedding day, no one expects anything to run perfectly. Home telephones have a former luxury feature, the speakerphone, so the phone owner can accomplish something while he or she is on hold. You’re expected to work, or at least devote brainpower, to the job even when not at work, which is why a few minutes dedicated to personal matters while on the job tends to be acceptable.

You make connections. You carry a copy of your resume in your pocket at all times.

Drop or get dropped today, pick up something new tomorrow, or maybe later today. You do not work for (insert company name here), you work for yourself and hire your skills out to (insert soon-to-be-taken-over company here), and you reside in a society that expects constant upgrades to your capabilities.

Furthermore, like in sports or the arts, someone’s always coming up younger faster cheaper, so you stay on your toes, with your mind and eyes open. Take a day off if you’re tired, then get back into the mix.

It can be a hectic, frantic, tightrope-walk of a way to get through life, but many these days find it attractive, or at least preferable, to what they saw their parents or grandparents do. While I arrive on the battlefield with a few advantages, like a paid-up college education, and some liabilities, like a gray beard and no understanding of why people think Will Ferrell funny, I can see the attraction in this sort of lifestyle.

Someone must be teaching self-confidence, or the workforce is obtaining it behind doors that were formerly closed to me. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and those armed with it seem to love prowling the terrain, regarded as dangerous.

We better understand, these days, the precarious nature of everything in life, the entropy of it all (sooner or later, everything slows down or falls apart).

This newspaper has recently been the scene a changing of, if not the guard, the troops. People come and go, as do the employment positions they fill, and that’s the way it should be (seniority is overrated). Each example of the come/go has been motivated by the coming/going party, and again, that’s how it should be.

I’m relatively new to this way of looking at things, being formerly the kind of guy who crossed off dates on a calendar until a project ended or I qualified for retirement. While many look at life not as a ladder but as a spiral, and do so from elementary school on, I stumbled into this late in life. I like it.

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.