In search of the undefined dream
Disclaimer and warning: This essay is very different from my usual theological discourse. It describes a somewhat personal and difficult problem for me. It is written from a male ‘blue’ point of view. I suspect that it is not something with which my readers of the fairer sex will sympathize. I post this essay in much fear and trepidation as I am revealing a problem without a solution, at least not one that I have been able to discover.
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When I was a young man, I used to dream about being the best computer tech support person in the world. I knew what I wanted and knew the path to get it. I was confident in what I was seeking. I had a plan and I could see myself in the position that I wanted. It was my goal to have the kind of job where I knew all the answers and could be paid to dispense knowledge.
I knew I wanted to study and work in computers. I was passionate about them. I knew that I would be using them all my life and wanted to be an expert. So I became one. I kept moving up the ladder until I now have a dream job as an IT Manager, a technical support guru. I am well paid to be the answer man for all technical problems at a very profitable company.
I achieved the dream. I accomplished what I set out to do. Now what? In earlier days I would seek for a better job, which invariably would include a better salary. I would find it, negotiate for it and land the job. But I can’t do that now because I already have the ultimate job for a techie like me. What do you do when you have accomplished and realized your dream?
The highest need in a man
Emerson Eggerichs identified the problem well for me when he postulated that the highest need in a man is the need for conquest. He identifies conquest as the desire to work and to achieve. He also teaches that men desire respect and honor more than anything else. I fully identify with that. In my experience, such thinking has been totally foreign to the women in my life.
The first time men meet each other in a social setting, invariably one will say to the other, “So, what do you do?” That implies of course, what the other man does for a living. It’s how men identify themselves – by their work. It’s as if they are saying to one another, “So, what have you accomplished with your life?” Most men want others to respond with respect.
I’m at that age where I want to be able to say that I’ve done more with my life than that I became an alpha geek. Sure, there are others who are geekier than me and many who are paid more than I am for the same kind of work, but it’s not about the money. Frankly, the technology is boring. I’m more excited by the challenge of helping others feel comfortable with technology.
Men do what they do for admiration
Before I was married, the formation of my dreams and aspirations were motivated by the love of one woman – my mother. I wanted to please her. I wanted her to admire and respect what I had become. A big part of my early success in my life and career I attribute to my mother. I could tell that she was proud of me and my chosen line of work. She told me so many times.
I used to change jobs very often when I was single. I used my jobs as stepping stones to get experience for better jobs. I wasn’t interested in longevity or long-term commitments. I sought the jobs that were a little bit of a stretch for me, won them and then discarded them after I had conquered them. My need for conquest was being met big time early in my career.
Once I married, I could no longer manage my life in this selfish manner. I had to learn to think for two instead of one. The first time I quit a job after we were married, I quickly realized that things were different. Health insurance had never been a concern. As we were expecting our first child, it became evident that I had made a very costly and a very selfish mistake.
Responsibility requires sacrifice
I still quit jobs in search of new challenges. But over time, I have stayed with jobs longer and longer, mainly to provide a sense of stability for my family. I think I have become responsible and reliable. I hope I provide my wife some foundation of security. I know that’s important to her. I don’t have that need. I have very little attachment to the material things of this life.
In order to provide security and stability I have had to suppress my need for conquest. I usually can master a new job within the first few months. It doesn’t take long to accomplish most of the objectives outlined in the job interview. Once that is done, the job becomes maintenance work and that’s not something I enjoy. I need the thrill of mastering something difficult.
About six months into every new job, I experience a crisis as the urge to move on comes upon me once again. But being the responsible man that I have become, I stick it out and keep trying to come up with new ideas to make the job interesting and exciting. It is a sacrifice to stick with the unfulfilling job in order to provide something better – the security that our family needs.
Defining the undefined dream
I have reached the pinnacle of my career. I have a cushy job that most men envy. I get to work from home most of the time and can set my own hours. In a sense I am self-employed yet I have the security of a steady paycheck, great health insurance as well as a regular bonus and a raise each year. What more could a man ask? I should be very happy and contented, right? Wrong.
There is something nagging at me. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I call it the undefined dream. There is this deep sense that there is something I am supposed to do with my life and that I am not yet doing it. I sense that it is waiting there for me, just out of reach, beckoning me and making its presence known. I haven’t yet been able to identify it or discover what it is.
I ponder about it. I pray about it. I go to the temple and ask the Lord to reveal it to me. I think about it constantly. I dream about it. I write about it. I wonder what it is. I ask myself why I can’t define it. I think about connecting the dots of all the things that have brought me to this place in my life. Surely the Lord had a hand in all this. I am not where I am just by chance.
Summary and conclusion
If you have been a regular reader of my essays you know that I am very formulaic. I like to write in sections of three paragraphs each. I like my sentences short. I like my paragraphs to be only four of five sentences. And I always have a summary and conclusion. Today, I can summarize but I have not come to a conclusion. I am stuck and am in need of wisdom from others.
Am I the only man who has experienced this kind of mid-life crisis? Carol calls it my mid-year crisis. Do you see the problem? Have I identified it clearly? I know I am blessed beyond measure compared to most people in this world. Yet I struggle to find fulfillment. Am I just being selfish? Do I just need to forget about me and lose myself in the service of others?
Lest you get the wrong impression, let me clarify that this is not about my service in the kingdom or my testimony. That is very rewarding and fulfilling. It is about my day-to-day work, which is where I spend the majority of my time. Perhaps I should look elsewhere for fulfillment and see the job for what it is – just a way to pay the bills. What would you do in my situation?