For me, high school was a prison, except that at least in prison you don’t have homework.
My high school even looked like a prison. It was a solid, brick of a building, with small windows and cement block walls painted in muted hues. Some of its doors were even locked throughout the day for the sake of “student safety”. All that were missing were the barbed wire fences and watchtowers. You weren’t even trusted to use the bathroom without permission.
I hoped that when I graduated, started to work for a living, I would at least be like an inmate on parole. Free as long as I kept my nose clean.
My first job out of college I realized how wrong I was. While I enjoyed the work, the place was a case study in dysfunction. It was rife with infighting and lack of trust. Interdepartmental communication was non-existent. New ideas were squashed. Management refused to recognize and adjust to the changing business landscape. Employees were not recognized for results. They were not trusted. A lot of time was wasted through inefficiencies and spending time on tasks that did not meet organizational goals.
The place went out of business shortly after I left.
One of the most important lessons I learned from that experience was that the old adage is true: Work is just high school with money.
I’ve done extensive research on the origins of that adage (meaning I did both a Google and Bing search) and haven’t been able to attribute it to any one person. It’s been attributed to everything from show business to politics, but examples can be found in almost every industry.
I realize that everyone did not loathe high school as much as I did. I have a friend who told me it was the best time of his life. He was a basketball star in a small town school. For him, it was four years of fun.
I’m happy for him. Today, he has a good job, a great family. He’s funny, smart, and by all appearances, seems well adjusted.
Then again, so do I.
Now, let’s get two important aspects of the Work is Just High School with Money premise straight. First, I in no way blame my teachers for my experience. Like any profession, some were better than others, but most of them were dedicated to pounding some knowledge into my tiny teenage mind, saturated as it was with thoughts of girls and the desperate need to fit in. They did a great job, considering what they had to work with. And unlike what some people think, they did not live in the lap of luxury with their summers off and healthy pension plans. They worked long hours for less pay than they deserved out of a dedication to their craft.
And unlike the students, they don’t just have a four year sentence. They’re in for life.
Second, while I didn’t see it this way at the time, I know that as bad as the institution of high school was, I did not do anything to make it better. I was self absorbed, rebellious, a smart Alec who thought he knew everything. Looking back, I missed a lot of opportunities to make a bad situation, if not great, at least good.
So I’ve started this blog to examine how work is just high school with money, what lessons can be taken away from this idea, and what we as individuals can do about it. Not all posts are going to directly relate to this premise, of course. That would get tedious. To quote David Bowie, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but i promise it won’t be boring.”