Millennial Mishegas

Steven Chaitman

Steven Chaitman shares what's on his Millennial mind and brings some re-Jew-venating perspective to contemporary issues in our rapidly evolving world.

The Kvetching Intellectual

One year

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This week I celebrated my first work-iversary at JUF. There was no public recognition in the office, no certificates, no cupcakes - just a nice email from HR. And that was just fine with me. Many of my colleagues have been here for decades, and I've been here for just one year.

But it's not "just one year." Not to me.

If you read my first blog (or know me well enough), you know this job didn't fall into my lap. It took me nearly four years after graduating to be hired for full-time employment. I spent those first few years reeling in various part-time jobs both paid and unpaid, while occasionally interviewing for the big fish. So the day I filled out my paperwork to receive a salary and benefits was truly momentous.

One year later, I am overcome with gratitude. Even though I've gotten used to my new routine, my weekly responsibilities and the monotony of daily commuting, it was little more than "just one year" ago that I used to contemplate how I had no idea what my future would look like. Now, those days seem distant.

In truth, I've accomplished a lot in "just one year."

Technically, one year is always 365 (or 366) days, or, for the Broadway fans among us, 525,600 minutes. But when we measure a year within a span of time, its value becomes dynamic; for every additional year that we do anything, a year becomes less and less statistically significant.

For example, I am 27, so for me, 27 years is "a lifetime." My grandparents, however, have lived three times as long. A year constitutes a significantly larger portion of my life than it does theirs. However, do the math, and the difference seems tiny: a year is 3.7 percent of my life, and about 1.2 percent of theirs.

I know - the writer is trying to do math. Apologies. The point is that the first year we do anything, that year represents 100 percent of our experience (as measured in years). As soon as we complete a second year, that decreases by half. As time goes on, this value decreases even more, but by less and less each time. So when we experience our first year - of life, a job, marriage, being a parent - we are experiencing it at its highest concentration. When we do something for the first time, it is never more potent. Just think of what a baby accomplishes developmentally in its first year of life. We never match that growth rate again in our lifetime.

Still, we value the accumulation of years in our world. There's a certain seniority to the way society works, one that says the more you've lived or the more you've done anything, the more qualified you are, the more credibility you have, the more respect you deserve. And there are good reasons for that. Our knowledge, skill, etc. unquestionably grows with every additional year - it's the rate of that growth that declines.

If I were to update my resume with all the new skills and experiences I've accrued in my first year with JUF, I would have a lot to add. A year from now, however, if I went to update it again, I would likely add or tweak a few sentences at the most. I will have twice the amount of experience, but not nearly the same amount of growth. Me in March 2015, however, is a more attractive hire than me right now. That's just how it is, and there's no faulting an employer who believes that years of experience equate to a greater knowledge and refined skills. What this does, however, is inadvertently send a message that one year of something is insignificant or unremarkable. One year means you're still a rookie, still in a honeymoon phase - still naïve. You haven't "been around the block."

All that might be true, but one year is the highest hurdle. After the first year of something, the second becomes easier, and then the third even smoother, and so on. Things start being taken for granted. The sheen wears off. The only thing that keeps us from dismissing one year of anything completely is the occasional heightened awareness that we're only given so many years, and how we choose to spend them is everything.

I worked hard and waited a number of my years to get to this point, when I can be fortunate enough to celebrate my first work-iversary. It seems small. It seems like just the beginning. It definitely doesn't seem cupcake-worthy. But just because it's a quite milestone doesn't diminish what it signifies.

You can always find reasons to celebrate. There's something worthy of special appreciation every day, but there's only one first anniversary, only one first time for everything, and "just one year" is gone before you know it.

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