On Work

The saying goes, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I used to believe this could be true, but I can’t say that I do today. For a good eleven or so years I’ve had a very happy and fulfilling job. For the most part I’ve been fortunate to have coworkers whose company I enjoy, and some of them I consider good friends. The work is oftentimes rewarding and frequently inspiring. The benefits are quite comfortable and the atmosphere relatively accommodating. In short, it’s a job many would love to have. But it’s still work. It’s still work and every Sunday night I lament the fact that the weekend is over.

I think the idea behind that saying is that if you love your job, it doesn’t really feel like a job in the end. I’m sure there are people who can say they get paid for doing something they love doing, something they might be doing anyway, for free even. That appears to not be the case with me at all. Last year I got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to devote the entirety of my work hours to a project I absolutely loved. For six months I was immersed in activities, research, interviews, travel and events of my own choosing, on a topic and subject matter I love. And it still felt like work. Really hard work, actually. Yes, my deadlines and objectives were self-imposed, but they were still deadlines and I had to make them. Of course, I’d much rather still be working on that project and managing my own time. But that doesn’t change the fact that there were many times when what would have otherwise felt like a fun pastime ended up feeling like an arduous chore.

Even writing this entry is something I’ve been putting off for a few hours. Why? I love the idea of writing a short blog post every Sunday night. I actually look forward to it every week. But then, when the time comes and I’m up against my (self-imposed) deadline, I start to dread it and it turns into work. I don’t even have to do this, the two people following this blog won’t call me up tomorrow and ask why I didn’t write. I’m writing because I’m convinced I enjoy it and because I believe that although I may not enjoy the process, I will enjoy having done it.

Maybe that’s the difference…there are things I do that I don’t like doing, but then I’m happy I did them anyway. Going to the gym is one of those. As I think of it, I wonder if that happens with work, too. I am often able to say I’m proud of my work and I’ve done a good job, even when I don’t enjoy doing it. But then I don’t really get the feeling that I’m happy to have done it. It’s more like, “Yep. I did it and it’s good. But, given the chance, I’d rather have done something else with that time. Or perhaps I’d rather have done nothing at all.”

That’s another thing about work. It seems so much value and worth is attached to work. When we talk about someone in a flattering way, it is common to say things such as, “she’s a hardworking, productive, upstanding citizen who contributes to society.” We place so much value on producing, on working, on contributing. In fact, the only time we say someone doesn’t produce, or doesn’t contribute to society, it is meant as criticism and not flattery. So, it turns out that we place value on doing, on making. And that poses a problem for someone who’d rather be than do. Could it be any other way?

This is something I don’t talk about much, mostly because I feel so misunderstood. “What you need is to win the lottery.” Well, yeah, who wouldn’t like to win the lottery? But that’s not it. What I want is to not work. I want to not have the feeling that I’m working. “You’re just being lazy.” I don’t see the connection between not wanting to work and being lazy. Not wanting to get out of bed…that’s lazy. Not wanting to feel obligated to pay to live…what does that have to do with being lazy? I remain optimistic, perhaps something will make me change my mind about this. But that’s how I feel about work for the time being.

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