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Max Roytenberg

Max Roytenberg: Growing Things

by Max Roytenberg , October 2, 2017



I am among the fortunate in the world. Having survived the travails of life in the commercial world, (I opted for the cut and thrust of the marketplace rather than the path to academia,) I gratefully retired to spend, now, almost twenty years, on my own in retirement without adult supervision. I was hustled out of my last employment with a boot in the derriere and a financial settlement. I do not mean to imply that the academic world is devoid of fisticuffs, but they are more overt in the business world. This period of retirement has, nevertheless, been one where I have still had to use my wits to find a way to live off the fat of the land without a weekly paycheque. I am and continue to be grateful.


In this period of relative idleness, I nevertheless continue to do my best to grow things, to leave more in the places where I sojourned than existed before I arrived on the scene. I am not unique. I believe most of us want to accomplish that. And we do those things in different ways.


When we are engaged in an employment, we face a variety of tasks. Usually they are those that had been assigned to, or have been developed by, the individual who filled the job before us. Women who suddenly find themselves running households have more difficult tasks. Many are faced with inventing the job with which they are suddenly confronted without having had substantial training. They have to grow the thing from scratch. They are lucky if they have learned something of this before they left the family home. Given the isolation, it is no wonder women often prefer endeavours outside the home if they get the chance.


I have always found the prospect of a new job exciting, even if fraught with the fear of failure. I changed jobs four times in my work career, and some of those jobs changed radically while I was in them. I was often scared stiff at the beginning, wondering if I would, hoping I could, measure up. Sometimes the job had no previous incumbent, or what had been done before obviously had to change. That was even scarier.


I don’t know how you out there feel, but I loved being in a job. Some people prefer being totally on their own, doing their own thing, working for themselves alone. Not me. I didn’t mind that my efforts would make someone else better off. I loved the challenge of it. I poured myself into it. I could not have worked harder if these affairs had been my very own business with my own money at risk. I could not have it any other way.


Too often it meant that those in my personal life who should have been the focus of my attention, often got less of me. I was possessed of this need to get the very best possible result in my work situation that I could achieve before almost anything else. I was obsessed with growing what I had inherited.

Truth be told, if the people around me were uncommitted to the work at hand, and I couldn’t change things, I was unhappy until I could find a way to get out of there. I felt driven by building the thing I was responsible for into something a little closer to perfection. Was it all ego?


I feel the same way about all the personal relationships in which I am involved. These days they are almost the only show in town. I have left the job world far behind, and my business is the business of getting along with the people that inhabit my world. I accept it that the world I live in is one that cries out for improvement. A lot of those things are way beyond my control. But the people who inhabit my circle are within the reach of my extremities, broadly defined. With today’s technologies, I can reach people around the world, as well as those in my neighbourhood. It may sound arrogant, but I try to be Mr. Fixit. I try to grow positive things around me.


I always hope that if I interact constructively with the people with whom I share my life, I can create worthwhile results. If I can somehow place this story before your eyes, you may be affected in a positive way. (At least, I hope so!) My email, my Facetime, my WhatsApp can reach you, the people I care for, in the wider world, wherever you and they are. If you have an Iphone, and have Facetime, you can even see where the message comes from and I can get your reaction from the look on your face. By writing this I am hoping I am continuing to grow things. I might even nurture a personal relationship from which good things will flow. Our efforts need not be in vain.


In the place where I live, my whole environment is a garden. There are flowering trees, grass lawns, and a flower garden outside almost every building. It cannot fail to be a garden here because it seems to rain here continually. (I am exaggerating: we have a great summer.) At least that’s the way it seems this year. Suffice it to say, I have lived through the season of spring with lots of rain.


I have been taking advantage of the season, filling my balcony full of colourful plants. They are in baskets that hang on the railings, or fill the empty floor spaces not filled by our rocking chairs. On sunny days we can see both the sail boats and the mist-covered mountains. I enjoy the vision and the vista. But my main occupation is stuffing flowering plants into every available space I can find. They are all around us, as we are, fighting for survival.


I like growing things.

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