I mow my own yard, usually weekly. We live on close to an acre of ground, mostly cleared. There is a house, a concrete driveway with a basketball goal, and a fence. I am the yard guy, the gardener, the man that keeps up the place, and I like that. I actually look forward to the weekly mowing duties; I enjoy cutting my own grass.
I wasn’t always that way. I grew up in a similar place: out in the county, 15 minutes to the closest store. My dad always made us kids mow the yard, or at least, the male children. He had two or three push mowers so my brother and I could mow together at the same time so it would get done faster. The third mower was the “no excuses” mower: if one of the others “refused” to start there was a replacement ready to go. You know, the left over one that wasn’t that great, but still would run. Our lot was almost an acre there, too, so it took my brother and I a few hours at least to mow the the whole place. We really resented those mowers, telling ourselves dad was too cheap to buy a good riding mower. The reality of it was that we probably couldn’t afford one since my older twin sisters were both in college at the same time. Once my younger brother entered college dad finally bought that riding mower, and still mows his own grass with one.
Once I married and we bought our first house I bought a push mower, too. The first house we ever bought (the “starter house”) had a little postage stamp yard in the front: 20 minutes back and forth and you were done. The back was a bit bigger: 30 minutes back there. The “starter house” turned into, well, 16 years! However, once the twins were born we knew we needed more space, so when the opportunity came along we bought a bit further out in the country, and mowing an acre with a push mower lasted exactly two weeks. I decided to go shopping, and soon Sears was delivering a beautiful red rider in my driveway. Mowing is fun again.
Why do I like mowing the yard? I guess it’s because when I do it, I know exactly what I’ve done. I can look at the yard and see what has been accomplished, and you can instantly tell if you have done good work or not. My day job is not like that. I manage people and processes, and sometimes the only way you can tell if you have done a good job is by looking at how many people are, or are not, mad at you. I jokingly call that “the zen of management”, but sometimes that’s as good as it gets. The area I cover is sort of on the inside of IS, not visible to the outside hospital, and as long as my teams are doing their job no one else really knows we exist. Mowing a yard is not like that. When you mess it up, the whole neighborhood can see your tracks, your turn marks, and the places where you had to reverse to get back in line. There is immediate feedback: today, you did good work.
There are days I want that at my day job. I want to see that straight line behind me, so everyone can see if I’ve done good work or bad. But at the same time, I want new challenges; mowing doesn’t offer that. You start the mower, you engage the blade, you give it some gas, and you mow. That’s pretty much it; the same steps, every time. The day job is different every day. Some are busy, some less so, some are spent fighting fires, some in meetings. I remind myself that the daily scenery change of activities is a benefit, and usually it is. However, even the “daily differences” are starting to be the same. The same issues, the same people, the same challenges.
Somehow here, I’ve started writing about work, not mowing. I’ve been in the same (or very nearly same) job for 11 years now. Opportunities for change and growth may be coming, so I’m keeping my head down and trying to keep a good attitude while I figure out where we are going and if I want to go there. In the meantime I network with other professionals in my field and keep my eyes open. And I enjoy mowing my own yard.