Am I Responsible or Risk Averse?

Today, again, I ask my self why I’m still doing what I do professionally. From outward appearances, my career is successful; I am well respected in my professional enclave; I have influence over large things; I am plenty far up the food chain within my organization; I’m recognized as an expert among a field of very highly educated and trained people; and I have had a series of projects that have successfully accomplished something to be proud of. I should be happy. I’m not. Not really.

Why aren’t I happy? Some of it could be because I have ideological differences with my customer. I feel like a lot of what we do is wasted, and think there are better uses of the money. Some of it could be that my customer is the one end of the business that doesn’t seem to trust or respect me. Some of it could be that the nature of my customer means that I put up with some of the same stupid that taught me to hate the military and it’s unconcerned way of treating individuals as consumable quantities. Those don’t seem like particularly strong reasons given my current situation.

Ultimately, I’m not really sure why I’m so unhappy with what I do during the day. I suppose it just isn’t what I want to do. I don’t really want to be responsible for keeping a team of people gainfully employed and shouldering the burden when things I can’t control result in people losing their jobs. I don’t really want to be in charge of trying to complete a complex task that depends on things that are outside my control. It’s rewarding when I make it work, but the struggle it takes to make it work costs more than the reward I get in return.

To a large degree, I guess I’m just a control freak who would rather be in a position where the things I’m supposed to control are things that actually are in my control… And the only thing I’m actually in control of is myself, mostly, most of the time. I don’t get a “thrill” out of perceived control over others or being in charge. Prestige, for me, is a burden. I don’t understand the kind of people who deliberately seek out leadership positions. There are times when I feel compelled to accept leadership when I’m in a position where I can do the most good, but every time I end up in that position, it takes a toll on me. The end results have generally been good, but I would have been just as happy (if not happier) if someone else had been put in that position and succeeded.

All that is to lead up to the conclusion that I really would rather work for myself. To be my own master, and master of nothing more. The sad part is that I have a path that would provide that. I believe I know what I want to do. I have the skills to do it. I have a business plan that makes it look feasible. But there are no certainties, and that’s where things get complicated.

Stepping off into the unknown is very difficult to do. Where I am now, I have the financial latitude to pay for the alternative medicine and organic foods Liz believes are the key to controlling her medical issues. I can support the alternative treatments she’s pursuing for Michael. I can support the activities that help Isaac feel like he’s not just a third wheel as we focus on the chaos that is Michael’s health. I can afford to work on the projects that are intended to make this house our home. I have a path to building a workshop for me to retreat to when I need my own space. I can save money so that Liz isn’t destitute when my retirement and disability dry up after I pass. My ability to do any of these things is questionable at best if I commit to self employment. Self employment comes with sacrifices. I’m not convinced that they are worth it. In a best case scenario, I’d need to be able to absorb several months without income to get the business started. This isn’t a good time to try that. I’m not sure there ever will be a good time.

So… to my original question. Am I being responsible, or just a chicken?

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