Workin’ for a Livin’

“Create a life you actually want for yourself,” poet David Whyte says in his Footsteps: a Writing Life CD set. And I think, “Yes!” Who can disagree with that fabulous Yorkshire accent, much less the sentiment?

“Isn’t there something we can do besides working?” a friend and colleague says. “Yes!” I reply and then spend roughly half my waking hours doing just that.

Work offers definite benefits beyond the simply monetary. Some people practice professions they enjoy. Offices or factories provide forced community, teaching us how to live alongside those we might not invite to dinner. I’ve developed skills at work I may never have discovered otherwise. Couldn’t all that happen outside of work, though? Absolutely.

If you take a look at the vast scope of human history, the majority of the population has spent most of its time growing, killing, and cooking food. And cleaning. I’d much rather write novels than the accreditation reports my work demands, but I’d much rather write accreditation reports than beat dirty clothes against rocks in the river.

As a species, we’ve just begun this diversification of tasks, and perhaps we haven’t chosen as wisely as we could have thus far. Perhaps we’re going through a stage, like adolescence, but tell a teenager she’s miserable because she’s a teenager and see how much comfort you’ve conveyed.

So how does one persist in work that is tolerable but not that which one actually wants for oneself? If you have a fabulous answer, please leave it in the comments below.

I try the following, which sometimes help and sometimes don’t: vacation; gratitude for not having the myriad of jobs I don’t have, like bus driver or president; lots of potlucks; sunshine breaks; gratitude for the things work has given me, such as a car, a house, friends, perspective.

And as often as possible, I remember a time when I was sticking small labels on tabs, a task whose eventual obsolescence no one will mourn. One moment life consisted of a mindless routine, and the next I felt I was in exactly the right place doing exactly the right thing. I didn’t even mind that the right thing was affixing small pieces of gummy, flexible plastic.

I’ve never felt that way again, but I choose to think it’s always true. That doesn’t mean I don’t hope and pray my job description will read well-paid novelist before the next accreditation report rolls around, but it opens up the possibility that this work we sometimes resist and often don’t understand can place us, against all our expectations, where we need to be.

7 thoughts on “Workin’ for a Livin’

  1. Urg. That’s a hard one. I’ve never felt that I was in exactly the right place at work, though I’ve heard tell it’s possible, and even probable. And I don’t “sometimes” resist, I always resist. Congratulations to you!

  2. I have been lucky enough to have had some exciting and interesting jobs. I enjoy being in a place where each day I know something different will happen. I think I must have ADD.

    Speaking of forced community, I can’t wait for our potluck tomorrow!

    • I think work can be fun if one has a passion for something, like medicine or engineering, that’s well supported by our societal structures, or if, perhaps like you, one is flexible in what s/he’s doing as long as it’s intellectually engaging and varied enough to satisfy one’s ADD tendencies. The variety is one of the things I like about my job, actually. Potlucks are another!

      There may also be the same temptation with dreaming of other work as there is with dreaming of marriage when single, that is, if only it happened, all my problems would go away. Perhaps the flexible types have gotten over the if onlys.

  3. I’ve spent many hours wishing I was somewhere else, doing nearly *anything* else. I’ve been working on adopting your Grattitude (that’s not a typo, it’s Gratitude + Attitude) for the past few weeks. It was an especially sobering thing when serving on a hiring committee recently to see what other people’s jobs require of them and the salaries being paid throughout the area. It makes me appreciate my clean, quiet office with a window and beautiful view, as well as the fabulous people I get to see every day. Especially the ones who make such marvelous baked goods. 🙂 Bud’s Mom’s fudgy brownies rock!

  4. I hope and pray that your job description will read well-paid novelist before the next accreditation report rolls around too!!!

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