Thoughts on Teamwork

If you’re like me, you’ve undoubtedly heard somebody who used to play on an athletic team make a statement like this: Everyone ought to participate in organized sports as a teen. Learning to work with others is important and being on a team is a great way to do that.

That makes sense, even though the closest I came to being a team member was in disorganized backyard baseball as a pre-teen. I probably wouldn’t have been permitted to play if the backyard hadn’t been mine. I was equally unsuited for team play in junior high and high school gym class.

Not because I was uncooperative. Not because I didn’t try hard. But because I was a terrible athlete, no matter what the sport. Age hasn’t improved things any.

As an adult, teamwork didn’t seem overly relevant in my first two careers. As a secondary school English teacher, I interacted with fellow faculty, but what I did or failed to do didn’t affect them any more than their activities affected me.

As a counselor/interviewer for the Maryland State Job Service, I was one of several people doing the same job in the same office. How I did my job affected my clients, though. Not fellow staff.  Or so I thought until the very end of my working there.

I was scheduled to move away and begin work in Virginia as a computer programmer, and I managed to leave a huge amount of paperwork undone. Paperwork I had always detested doing. I’ll never forget the look of disappointment on my supervisor’s face when he saw it. He didn’t have to say anything. I’d thoughtlessly let the people I’d never thought of as a team down.

I enjoyed a certain amount of solitude in my programming. Solitude and independence. I don’t think I really appreciated the effect my work had on other members of my team until the time I faced such a major deadline that my inability to get my part done actually gave me anxiety attacks. The pressure was too great, and I went home the day before everything needed to be completed, pretending to myself as well as to everyone else that I’d finished my part.

I hadn’t. I deserved to be fired.

Instead, I watched my job performance go further downhill until my company needed to do some downsizing. I didn’t have to wonder whether I would be laid off. It only made sense. If I couldn’t be a functional part of the team, I didn’t deserve to be there.

I spent three years on the register at Target, awaiting the time I could retire early. Thank goodness I’d finally learned my lesson about teamwork. I just wish I’d learned it years earlier. Organized athletics wouldn’t have done it for me, but surely something would have.

Who are you? Are you a team player or more like the way I was for too long? How about leaving a comment?

I’ll have more to say on this on Sunday. Please come back again if you’re interested.


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A Time for Downsizing

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[NOTE: Last Wednesday was an unsaved post. Today’s problem was Internet speed. Sorry this is late.]

When my first wife and I decided to divorce, I was faced with a decision. Many of them, actually. But the one I’m talking about now was where to live. And not just where, but how.

We planned to sell our less than ten-years-old 2100 square-foot house. I had no idea whether I would ever marry again, but our daughter was going to live with her mom and visit me as often as she could. So I wouldn’t need but so much space. I certainly didn’t need a house or a mortgage.

At the same time, I didn’t want to throw my money away each month on an apartment that might  not even provide the kind of peaceful atmosphere I longed for.

My ex- and I had once lived in a mobile home. Yes, there are “trailers” out there, but please don’t label all mobile homes that way. We’d lived in such a well-kept park that we got notices from the front office if we failed to cut the grass when it needed it. But at least the home had been ours, and it had provided every advantage we needed at the time.

And living in a house–even a new one–sometimes left me missing the kind of compact living I’d once been used to.

So a mobile home seemed to be a natural solution. Because my ex- and I were on good speaking terms, I let her join me on my home-shopping expeditions. In fact, I followed her advice about which of two homes to buy, and I’m glad I did.

My new home had close to 1200 square feet of space, and–considering how compactly mobile homes are designed–I probably had more usable space than I would’ve had in an apartment of comparable size.

My share from the sale of the house didn’t quite cover the complete cost of my new home, but I borrowed from an annuity to pay cash for the balance. Paying my annuity back was a pleasure. Less so my monthly land rent.

I was thrilled with my purchase. I designated one of the three bedrooms as my daughter’s and turned the third bedroom into a music room, where I could record and listen to music to my heart’s content.

I moved into the mobile home years before I was old enough to retire. My wife (yes, I did remarry) and I agreed that this would be all we needed. Neither of us is much interested in things. Especially useless things that just sit around and collect dust.

So this kind of lifestyle–with its limited space–has kept us well-motivated to be careful about buying only things we really need–and a few of the things we want as well.

But when one of us dies, at least the surviving spouse won’t face what my ex- and I did when my mother died a year after my father. Their attic was full of more stuff than we could figure out what to do with, and it took months for us to go through enough of the important papers to conclude that my mother must not have had life insurance.

So we highly recommend downsizing when the time comes.

Have you faced anything similar? Please leave a comment.


I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”check it out here. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list here.

Best regards,