Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
Not working for 'the man'
Jonal entry 1065 | August 20 2008
Friday was my last day as a "permanent full-time" employee in the high technology industry. After finding that my plan to cut back the number of days a week I was on the job as described in last season's Christmas letter wasn't acceptable to the company, I retired, complete with a very nice farewell luncheon with three of the managers in our department and about 10 team-mates and something very like a gold watch presented as a token of appreciation. I was leaving after eight-and-a-half years at my last company, and an aggregated 13 years in all in the industry. It was a good run in a field I didn't think I was qualified for when it was first proposed that I try my hand at technical writing.
I announced that I was going in order to concentrate on my book writing, as I have three book projects underway at present. But in the back of my mind was the nagging suggestion that I might also return to my first love, campus ministry, by going back to the nearby Stanford campus for at least one day a week. And ever since, the "nagging suggestion" has turned into something closer to obsession; ideas keep coming to mind that seem to make it not only attractive but a genuine calling. It would take something like "sponsorship" (not financially, but by formally accepting me as a representative of their group) on the part of members of the Orthodox community at Stanford to make the step a reality, but I don't expect that to be a barrier.
My previous stint at Stanford was the longest period of work on my career in my lifetime11 yearsbut it was as an evangelical Presbyterian-Reformed ordained minister, whereas now I would be there as a lay member of the Orthodox church. And whereas a major component of my previous ministry was raising funds to support my family and the program, this time my Social Security, retirement investments, and book fees or royalties would be the sole support. On the other hand, publishingwhich has always been a central part of my work, and in my previous ministries the most expensivewould be relatively cost-free, because of the development of the Internet and my unusual access to it through the benevolence of an Orthodox colleague (on whose servers the Nanty Glo Home Page and my other web sites have resided since 1997).
My first fulltime job, as editor of the Nanty Glo Journal in 1962-64, may have unrealistically raised my expectations of work, as everything I did in that job was meaningful and also was by my own discretion. True, I was obligated to attend town council meetings that could drag on for hours and not be very exciting to report about, but such reportage was a public service to all concerned, with every report about council having the potential of making Nanty Glo and the Valley better places to live. I was also obligated to be on call 24/7 to cover any disaster or emergency, but that was what made the job exciting, even when I was taking fulltime courses at Pitt. But except for two years at Acme Markets as a part-time clerk before taking the job at the Journal, I didn't have any jobs on which I felt I was "on" or under the scrutiny of management all the time, until leaving the campus ministry when my marriage ended in 1983. My experience with the Journal was mirrored again when I became executive editor of San Jose's community newspaper group from 1989 to '96, with the additional perks that I didn't have to cover meetings and did almost all of the work on my computer, from home.
It wasn't until I came to high tech that I could comprehend what many social critics call "working for the man" (Marxist critics even call it "wage slavery," as though there is no metaphorical "slavery" in Marxist economies). It means spending your paid hours every day doing something that was chosen for you by someone else rather than chosen by yourself (although in high tech there is a lot of latitude to do "this," "that," or "the other thing" on your own discretion much of the time...but in the course of the week all three things have to be done on a reasonable time-table). I often used to answer people who asked how I liked technical writing that "it's better than coal mining," in comparison to my dad's lifetime career.
Don't get me wrong; being a technical writer and editor for 13 years was a great privilege that paid well, even compared with writing and editing for newspapers or other media. But after missing my earlier campus ministry life for some 25 years now, I'm looking forward, Lord willing, to some years of working again, not for "the man," but for the Lord.
Also, my brother Bob and I hope to be in Blacklick Valley by the end of next week, for the Vintondale Homecoming on Saturday and Sunday, August 30-31. We should be in the area for a week, and if you'd like to get together, drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org, or click the "signature" below to launch your system's email application).. I hope to be online at least once a day while back in that area.