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Coming out of the closet
Old 02-01-2005, 06:52 PM   #1
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Coming out of the closet

It ocurred to me today like a great insight as to why I don't like working, have been unhappy doing it, can't concentrate on it anymore, and the negative impact it has had on my life. I've been working in the white collar world since I was 21 - I'm now 50. And I feel like I've been a gay person living in the closet in a straight world.

I grew up poor in the Bronx, New York and I never really felt as if I belonged in the white collar world. I never enjoyed it but felt it was a challenge to succeed in that world, what was expected and the family competition and it was good money. So I would have been stupid for not taking the money. I might have been happier doing something I felt was productiive - I don't know what - making something?

The only analogy that seems to fit is that I feel like I'm gay in a straight world and am about to come out of the closet when I retire.

There was an article I read called "Tweener". A "Tweener is a ball that gets hit between the centerfielders in baseball. The writer was saying that he grew up poor in NYC and now was middle class. He didn't feel as if he fit with his old poor world or in his new middle class world.

Sounds crazy I know but that is the way I think and feel about it.

This is another step towards my retirement in June.

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Re: Coming out of the closet
Old 02-02-2005, 04:58 AM   #2
 
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Re: Coming out of the closet

I have empathy. My immediate family was lower middle class, with a couple of branches even lower .

I went on to become President of 4 companies before I
ERed for good in 1998. Thus, I mingled with the
"movers and shakers" or what passes for them here in
the midwest. Now, with my income back to very little,
I am kind of back where I started, even geographically.
Unlike a lot of you, I miss my old life sometimes, but never enough to go back.

JG
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Re: Coming out of the closet
Old 02-02-2005, 05:19 AM   #3
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Re: Coming out of the closet

Yep

I grew up in a milatent( Dad was a Union official) blue collar household - after college worked as a suit and tie engineer for 29 years. I still feel some blue collar - more in between - age makes me more conservative - er ah - 'curmudgeony'.

Jumped at a 'big bucks' temp job after two years 'out'. The money was great - but wierd - the working world seemed to have undergone a paradim shift in my first two years of ER.
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Re: Coming out of the closet
Old 02-02-2005, 06:47 AM   #4
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Re: Coming out of the closet

I might have been happier doing something I felt was productiive - I don't know what - making something?

That's a very interesting post. I had some of those same feelings, but my sense is that mine were not quite as strong as yours. I see some pros and cons to both white-collar work and blue-collar work. I don't think that white-collar work is always better or more important or even more financially rewarding.

I put up a post once at the Motley Fool board comparing the chances of blue-collar and white-collar workers attaining early retirement. There were some arguments made both ways. The thread got pretty intense. There were some people who felt that I was putting them under a microscope by asking the question. That wasn't my intent, but it was more than one who saw it that way.

I tend to think that, when a thread gets intense, there are issues there worth exploring. You don't want to push too hard with something like that. But every now and then I think about that question again. Someday I would like to try to examine it in more depth.
*
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Re: Coming out of the closet
Old 02-02-2005, 09:13 AM   #5
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Re: Coming out of the closet

Quote:
I grew up poor in the Bronx, New York and I never really felt as if I belonged in the white collar world. *I never enjoyed it but felt it was a challenge to succeed in that world, what was expected and the family competition and it was good money. *So I would have been stupid for not taking the money. * I might have been happier doing something I felt was productiive - I don't know what - making something? *

The only analogy that seems to fit is *that I feel like I'm gay in a straight world and am about to come out of the closet when I retire.
This sounds kind of like the imposter syndrome where highly successful people are fearful that others will "find out" that they are a fraud and that they aren't really that smart/hard working/creative/whatever They often discount their own success, feel like a fake, and attribute their success to luck. I wonder if there is more of the imposter syndrome amongst those with a blue collar background in white collar jobs?
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Re: Coming out of the closet
Old 02-02-2005, 09:16 AM   #6
 
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Re: Coming out of the closet

Quote:
I wonder if there is more of the imposter syndrome amongst those with a blue collar background in white collar jobs?
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Re: Coming out of the closet
Old 02-02-2005, 09:20 AM   #7
 
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Re: Coming out of the closet

Quote:
I wonder if there is more of the imposter syndrome amongst those with a blue collar background in white collar jobs?
As far as those with a "Blue Collar" background suffering from an "imposter" syndrome... quite possible. They are far less likely than the "insider class" to be raised and imbued with a sense of entitlement regarding success.


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Re: Coming out of the closet
Old 02-02-2005, 11:13 AM   #8
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Re: Coming out of the closet

A lot of women also apparently have "imposter syndrome" also, or so I've read.

My Dad, who was not from a blue collar family, was a lawyer. During his off time he did carpentry. Cabinents, chairs, shelves, bookcases, and boats. The man built boats by the, er, boatload. Even a kayak.

So maybe pursuing a hobby that will follow you into retirement wouldn't be a bad idea. Being able to see a positive result of your labors really makes you feel better. One of the reasons I raise orphaned birds. I get to watch them fly away to freedom.

Hyperborea - your avatar is frightening.

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Re: Coming out of the closet
Old 02-02-2005, 11:28 AM   #9
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Re: Coming out of the closet

Hi dex,

Nice thread you started here.

My father was a coal miner and my mother stayed home and took care of my brothers and I. Prior and during college, I worked in the mines, drove a truck, shoveled rock on a road crew, and held several other manual labor jobs. I don't think we were poor, and certainly for the area we lived in, we were middle class. But when I started advancing through corporate ranks I had a similar experience with what you describe.

I recall as early as graduate school realizing that I was surrounded by people who grew up in families that were wealthy beyond my imagination. It took me several years in industry to realize that I didn't really like the vast majority of the executives I spent my days with. Also, with each promotion, my job had become increasingly less rewarding in every way but monetarily. I came to miss doing manual labor that seemed more honest. I think I developed a global imposter syndrome. It wasn't that I thought that I alone was an imposter, it was that I thought that all of the executive ranks in the company were imposters.
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Re: Coming out of the closet
Old 02-02-2005, 12:54 PM   #10
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Re: Coming out of the closet

Yes, this is an interesting thread. My story is similar. I was raised on an Iowa farm - 240 acres. The biggest adjustment to a white collar job had to do with the way work was viewed in an office setting.

On the farm everyone pitched in. It would have been unthinkable for the "boss" to remain idle while others did the work. On the farm, the boss always worked side by side with the help. Old men worked with children - everyone carried their weight. Bosses were one of us. There was no "sir" or "Mr.". Working kids were on a first name basis with adults who were throwing bales beside them. Working conditions impacted the bosses and workers alike, so problems were quickly fixed. On the farm, the focus was on results - not process. Hard work was the measure of one's character, and this applied to bosses and workers alike. So I always viewed my white collar bosses as slackers who weren't deserving of respect. Co-workers who sucked up to them were viewed as weak. It was the "work" that mattered to me. I had no interest in advancement and viewed the system as broken and inefficient - still do.

I still believe that large organizations would be much more efficient if they operated like a farm in the 50s and 60s; if management actually did the work and called the shots from their positions on the front lines, instead of from their plush offices in some far away city. Work on the farm was strenuous, dangerous, and dirty, but I'd take it any day over the crap one must endure in today's white-collar company/agency/school.

I hadn't really thought any of this through until I saw this thread, but my background had much to do with my desire to ER. Good thread dex.
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Re: Coming out of the closet
Old 02-02-2005, 01:38 PM   #11
 
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Re: Coming out of the closet

When people ask you what do you want to be when you grow up? - *

When I was small, I used to try and think of something that I wanted to do for a living. But being raised in a Farm Town of about 10,000 people, I really could not see myself enjoying any job I saw being done. :-/

So when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I was actually thinking I wanted to be a Trout Fisherman. But I couldn't say it, because it didn't pay anything. * - I did not want to be a guide, I just wanted to be a trout fisherman.

After 30 years of corporate bullshit, I never did see anything that I wanted to do for actual money.

When I sat in performance reviews, my bosses would actually ask me, what I wanted to be doing in 5 or 10 years. Again, I was thinking - I want to be a Trout Fisherman - But, I couldn't say it! - I would look like a slacker. - So I would say something that sounded good at the time. Like Director of Technical Support! - Too bad I actually did end up being - Director of Technical Support

So now, I am officially out of the closet. When people ask me what I do now. I proudly say I'm a Trout Fisherman 8)
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Re: Coming out of the closet
Old 02-02-2005, 01:56 PM   #12
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Re: Coming out of the closet

[quote]After 30 years of corporate bullshit, I never did see anything that I wanted to do for actual money.

quote]

Ditto. Can you imagine asking a kid what he/she wants to be when he/she grows up and getting this reply? "I wanna work in a cube, push around insane paperwork, and conduct meaningless meetings.
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Re: Coming out of the closet
Old 02-02-2005, 02:05 PM   #13
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Re: Coming out of the closet

At my daughter's very first job interview, she was asked what her goals were. She said to retire. Luckily these guys were engineers and thought it was pretty funny. She's been working at that company for 5 years.

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Re: Coming out of the closet
Old 02-02-2005, 02:45 PM   #14
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Re: Coming out of the closet

Quote:
Hyperborea - your avatar is frightening.
Yeah, I suppose though I got a little tired of Opus (the penguin from Bloom County that I was using for a while). I did try to use this one:



However, it kept breaking and I really think that it is scarier. Besides I am an alien (or at least in the US I'm classified as one).
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Re: Coming out of the closet
Old 02-02-2005, 02:58 PM   #15
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Re: Coming out of the closet

Dex-
When I started teaching back in the 1970's I was not out of the closet yet, and I was confused about my sexuality. I just knew I loved teaching. After I realized that I was gay, I looked at it just like a straight person would. As a gay teacher you might be attracted to males, but as a straight teacher you are attracted to females. So what? Being the professional a good teacher is, you do your job and try to inspire students to do their best.
However, it is so hard. We do indeed live in a straight world, and that is just a fact. My life would be a hell of a lot easier if I did not have to put on a continuous act. I'm good at it, but it is rough. I suspect anyone, including you, has had to do that your whole life, and you look forward to a time (retirement) that you can truly "come out" and not give a damn what the rest of the world thinks.
This affect how you work, how you focus on your job and loving your work. I feel like you. I totally understand.

single teacher in NY
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Re: Coming out of the closet
Old 02-02-2005, 05:52 PM   #16
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Re: Coming out of the closet

Quote:
Yeah, I suppose though I got a little tired of Opus (the penguin from Bloom County that I was using for a while). I did try to use this one:
Yikes! :P OK, Hyperborea. You win. Uncle - anything. Make it go away.

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Re: Coming out of the closet
Old 02-03-2005, 03:46 AM   #17
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Re: Coming out of the closet


I definatly have aspects of the imposter syndrome that Hyperborea mentions. I can not deny that. People would look at where I came from and what I have done and say I was successful. In my own mind I do not feel successful but in comparision with those I grew up with I am the most sussessful - careerwise. The guys I grew up with became postmen, police, fireman etc.

I am a VP in the finance and accounting field. That is part of the dissatisfaction with work. It tends to focus on the negative and the people in it tend not to be much fun. There is a strong culture to conform. Again, this makes it difficult for me to feel part of the group. My early retirement will be shocking to most .

My "coming out the closet" felt like a zen moment when I fully understood the full implication of my unhappiness at work on all aspects of my life - interpersonal, physical etc.

Recently there was a position available that challenged my commitment to retire early. The position was a promotion, more money, higher title, and a larger staff. All the things I have been working towards. I even had one interview. But I took myself out of the running when I saw the effect just thinking about the position had on me. I can only describe it as a mini depression.

So the concept of retiring early challenges many aspects of my life.
- Challenges the early life conditioning to succeed in business
- Challenges the idea of what is success
- Challenges the concept of security
- Challenges fear of poverty - I don't live in the Bronx anymore but I still carry around the fear of being poor as if it could happen tomorrow.
- Challenges the idea that life is really short and you need to enjoy it when you can.
So in my mind I am "Just Doing It" and "Jumping and the net will appear". This may lead me to realizing true success in life - I hope.

I didn't expect any respones to my original post. I just put it out there because it was a revelation to me.

Please don't think this is a all about negative thoughts. I do appreciate where I came from and what I did. I also appreciate the opportunities I have that the vast majority of the people of the world do not.

Thank you for all the posts.
I wish I was giving my notice today.
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Re: Coming out of the closet
Old 02-03-2005, 06:55 AM   #18
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Re: Coming out of the closet

Recently there was a position available that challenged my commitment to retire early. *The position was a promotion, more money, higher title, and a larger staff. *All the things I have been working towards. *I even had one interview. *But I took myself out of the running when I saw the effect just thinking about the position had on me. I can only describe it as a mini depression.

I spent nine years at a job that I was not too crazy about. I would go on these long walks with my wife and tell her "I think I can stick it out for six more months, and then I just have to make a switch." Then they would give me another raise, and I would say "It just doesn't make sense to leave, they are paying me so much! If I could only figure out a way to get them to stop paying me so much maybe I could do something useful with my life!" They were not bad people, but they were not too careful with how they spent their money, in my view.
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Re: Coming out of the closet
Old 02-03-2005, 07:59 AM   #19
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Re: Coming out of the closet

*****, you could be my identical twin. I feel exactly the same. But I have set 12/31/06 as my retirement date no matter how much I'm making. It's gonna be golf golf golf and more golf for me. Some traveling out west too. Here I go dreaming about the future. Better get back to bean counting before the boss walks in.
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Re: Coming out of the closet
Old 02-03-2005, 10:53 AM   #20
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Re: Coming out of the closet

Quote:
...
So the concept of retiring early challenges many aspects of my life.
- Challenges the early life conditioning to succeed in business
- Challenges the idea of what is success
- Challenges the concept of security
- Challenges fear of poverty - *I don't live in the Bronx anymore but I still carry around the fear of being poor as if it could happen tomorrow.
- Challenges the idea that life is really short and you need to enjoy it when you can.
So in my mind I am "Just Doing It" and "Jumping and the net will appear". *This may lead me to realizing true success in life - I hope. *
Wow. *I wholeheartedly agree. *I struggle with this... a lot. *It's hard to undo the very thing my environment has instilled. *But alas, I keep plugging away.

I, too, wish I was giving notice today.


Great post, by the way...
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