When it comes to stress, I am really moving up in the world. More than 20 years ago I was working for a radiology lab in California as a medical records technician. One day I happened to catch a news report that listed the least stressful jobs in America and medical records technician came in a close second to musical instrument repairman. When I heard the news I felt my blood pressure drop 25 points and watched the life line on the palm of my hand grow by an inch and a half. Kicking stress to the curb had me feeling groovy.
Jump ahead to last week and stress was fighting back. It started when I clicked a link on a photography website and found an article that listed photojournalist as one of the most stressful jobs in America. It was right there at number four, honest. I showed the article to my editor hoping for some sympathy and he laughed and said Addison County is not Afghanistan. I told him he had obviously never covered senior week at Middlebury College. My editor was even less impressed when he saw the rest of the list.
Right above me at number three was senior corporate executive. These are guys (mostly) get multi-million-dollar bonus packages even when their companies lose money. My bonus package is a free pizza lunch twice a year, and I’ve won awards. Another head-scratcher on the list is newscaster. I know it is not as easy as it looks, but I remember a newscaster back in my hometown whose job description included eating fried chicken live on the air every Friday. The greasy meal might have killed him, but not stress.
Architects, real estate agents, and public relations officers also made the list, as did my co-workers in our advertising department. This explains why they are always so grumpy (just kidding guys, you’re the greatest!). Emergency medical technicians come in way too low at number nine and stock brokers should probably be higher than number eight given their current position on the list of the most-hated people in America (right below senior corporate executives).
And the number one most stressful job in America (drum roll, please) is commercial pilot. I can sort of understand this, although I am reminded of a story I heard recently about a little boy who walked onto a plane, looked at the two pilots standing outside the cockpit and asked, “Which one of you is the autopilot?” And weren’t there two pilots last year who flew well beyond their destination because they were kicking back, surfing the web? Maybe flight attendants should be on the list instead of pilots. Remember the one who went berserk on a JetBlue flight last summer?
Despite the fact that the list made little sense, my stress-o-meter was beginning to bounce into the danger zone. It got pegged on red when I mentioned to some co-workers that I was taking a little personal time to drop my son off for his first college experience (a summer semester at Berklee in Boston) and then four days later to attend my oldest daughter’s graduation from college (UNH). Someone remarked that, combined with my pending marriage later this summer, I was hitting some real high-stress points in a person’s life in quick succession and that maybe I should start drinking.
I definitely felt some tensioning of the old life line on the palm of my hand, but chemical dependency did not seem like a viable prescription. Instead of taking a drink I took a deep breath. Sure, having my son move away had me feeling a little anxious, but he will be in an exciting city studying something he loves. And my daughter already has a job and a place to live that is not her old bedroom down the hall from me. As for my pending marriage, nothing conquers stress like the love of a wonderful woman.
I think I am starting to get my groove back and if my interview at the musical repair shop goes well I should be back to my old self.