The grass is greener…on both sides of the fence

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David Thompson
  • 110th Bomb Squadron commander
"See there's a big-eyed fish, swimming in the sea,
Oh, how he dreamed to be a bird, Swooping, diving through the breeze.
One day, he caught a big blue wave, up onto the beach,
And now he's dead, you see; a fish's dream should stay in the sea.
Oh God, under the weight of life, things seem brighter on the other side."
--Dave Matthews

Ever wonder what you were meant to do, or feel like you are drowning in what you are doing now? Have you ever found yourself peeking over the fence at something else; sure that life would be much sweeter on the other side? You're not alone. Last year, a survey showed that less than 40 percent of Americans felt satisfied with their jobs - and this during one of the worst economies of our lifetime, where many are unable to find any job.

My dad used to tell me, "David, find something you love to do, and you'll never work a day in your life." Unfortunately, my Dad didn't tell me that he spent most of the 60s in a smoky room wearing a rainbow headband. Work is hard, no matter what job we do. Even for those lucky few that really, really love their job, there's still a reason it's called work.

So what were YOU made to do? You have God-given gifts, talents, personality traits, likes and dislikes. What do those point to?

Like a lot of pilots in the late 90s, I was anxious to leave the military. Every fighter pilot I knew had one goal - finish your Air Force commitment and get an airline job. So approaching the end of my commitment, I set my sights on that goal and reached it. I remember getting ready to finish training and this good old boy captain from Dallas was giving me my final checkride. "David," he said with a big smile and a deep, Texas drawl, "you're gonna love it here. The only people who don't love this job are those guys who don't like being away from home." As Napoleon Dynamite would say... "Dang!"

Many of my decisions while in the military were based, in part, on one thing - the desire to not be away too much from my family! I'd been dreaming of the green grass for so long on this new side of the fence, I never realized it might have been just a different shade of green on the other side.

The reality is we all have jobs to do, right now. For you, that job might be finding a way to get your family back to where you grew up. Or you might have your sights set on a career that you've always dreamed of. How then, can we do and love the job we're in, while either working toward something better or different or making the one you're in last for a whole career?

First - find a way to contribute to, and love, your work. Your enthusiasm for even the most menial tasks will be recognized and rewarded. There is something you can do in the job you're in right now that will set you apart. Figure out what it is and set about doing it.

Second - find a way to serve others. The less I focus on myself and what I'm not getting, and the more I focus on how I can serve someone else, the more I forget the day-to-day difficulties of a job. What does that mean for you? Do you have anyone in your squadron, your church, your neighborhood that is hurting, that just had a baby or needs a word of encouragement? Seek them out and make your job right now to serve their need.

Finally - Make your life about more than your job. Our jobs, as much as we try to make them, can't be everything in our lives. There will be a day when this job is just a memory for you. So recognize and count the blessings each day brings. There are a ton of little things each day that make you and your life unique and amazing. I love when my children jump on me in bed in the morning. I love sharing a laugh with a buddy. I love planning a vacation in a place nicer than Missouri, and I love tucking the children in at night. There's something great in your life, too. Take a moment and be thankful each day for it.

In the end, what we do for a job might not matter as much as what we do while we're in that job. Don't end up being the fish out of water ... find something you love, something you're good at. Assess your priorities, your talents and your future. You might find out you're right where you need to be.