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Never work a day in your life

By MIMI BECKER

Coffee with Mimi

Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life. Though paraphrased, this advice has been attributed to Confucius, Marc Anthony and a host of other philosophical sages through the ages. It is often cited at graduations and by life counselors when a person is faced with a moment encouragement is needed. 

Some modern commentators argue the advice is bad. There is no wisdom in doing what you like. A youngster writing somewhere reflected on the remembrance that he had wanted to be a bird. Where was the paycheck in that? We know what happened to one young fellow who tried that a few centuries back.

The beauty of being older and no longer younger, is we know a little bit and are willing to learn. 

When I retired from teaching, I took a job in a world in which I had no experience and needed tools, which completely intimidated me. My skill set was the ability to organize, plan and execute. I was the “field trip queen” as a teacher. Give me a topic and I could find a place, a speaker, schedule a bus and locate a lunch stop within the time and budget allotted, all before you had time to say, “Well…”

As a teacher, I had books and knew how to research. I attended workshops and found opportunities to talk to people who were experts. I was good at finding stuff out from other people.  What I needed to know was right there and I could organize it and present it, or better yet, get my students to find it and organize it and present it. I loved my job.

The day came when the classroom was left behind for a new job. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I was pretty sure I had found a place which would let me organize, plan and execute.  And I could walk to work, setting my own schedule.

Fairly soon I discovered my new job required skills I had been able to work around in my previous life. Before, in good conscience, I could ignore social media. As a teacher, I wanted no footprint on the Internet. I could safely say it was not in my professional best interest to develop a profile and share tidbits of my travels, or experiences outside the confines of the school house.

I developed a simplistic website on which I could post class materials lists, field trip schedules and instructions for a research unit. There were no bells and whistles, or cute emojis. I learned how to insert a link to Monticello for the Lewis and Clark unit and considered myself pretty adept.

What a neophyte.

I roll to the new office on my own two feet around mid-morning and discover the complexities of a website, a newsletter and, horror of horrors, a Facebook page. Grant applications require on-line submission with multitudes of documents uploaded after being downloaded from an outside source and filled in.  No system is remotely similar to any other system. People wanted me to provide images via email, attached to the original email and in a format which was appropriate for reproduction. 

The list of things I do not know how to do is endless. And this is a job I love? At the beginning, it was torture. Three years later, I’ve learned a couple things.

First, there are some people who can do all that and there are a lot of people who, just like me, can’t. Furthermore, I have discovered technology can be my friend. It is an adventure to figure out how to use it to my advantage. 

Given the fact that I am behind the curve in nearly every aspect of things technological, I have swallowed my pride and began many conversations and workshops, with the admission that I have no idea what I am doing. So, please speak slowly, using words which are preferably single syllable and have been in the dictionary for more than a couple years.

All the while you are talking, I am making detailed notes the old fashioned way, using a pencil and a legal pad of paper.  I file these pages for future reference in real file folders, labeled the old fashioned way, with penciled names on the tabs for all tasks such as website, Facebook, mailing lists, etc.   

The single most important lesson I have learned is that I need to determine what I am doing and for what reason. As my kids used to say, “I am the boss of me.” I am the boss of technology. 

I have a plan. First, figure out how it works. Second, ask myself is this really what I want people to remember. Third, double-check it before I hit that publish button. People will catch the mistakes, resulting in the need to edit. I do have notes on how to do that. Fourth, try the next thing, it’s not work any more.      

A funny thing happened recently, a much younger person said she would come to me for technology advice. I will speak slowly and use simple words.