The dreams of making living and fulfillment through our jobs have faded into the reality of professional politics, burnout, boredom and intense competition.
Today many working people, however, from people who love their work to those who barely tolerate their jobs, there seems to be no real choice between their money and their lives. What they do for money dominates their waking hours, and life is what can be fit into the scant remaining time.
Consider the average worker in almost any urban industrialized city. The alarm rings at 6:45 and our working man or woman is up and running. Shower. Dress in the professional uniform—suits or dresses for some, coveralls for others, whites for the medical professionals, jeans and flannel shirts for construction workers. Breakfast, if there’s time. Grab commuter mug and briefcase (or lunch box). Hop in the car for the daily punishment called rush hour or on a bus or train packed crushingly tight.
On the job from nine to five. Deal with the boss. Deal with the coworker sent by the devil to rub you the wrong way. Deal with suppliers. Deal with clients/customers/patients. Act busy. Hide mistakes. Smile when handed impossible deadlines.
Give a sigh of relief when the ax known as “restructuring” or “downsizing”—or just plain getting laid off—falls on other heads. Shoulder the added workload. Watch the clock. Argue with your conscience but agree with the boss. Smile again. Five o’clock. Back in the car and onto the freeway or into the bus or train for the evening commute. Home. Act human with mates, kids or roommates. Eat. Watch TV. Bed. Eight hours of blessed oblivion.
And they call this making a living? Think about it.
How many people have you seen who are more alive at the end of the workday than they were at the beginning?
Do we come home from our “making a living” activity with more life?
Do we bound through the door, refreshed and energized, ready for a great evening with the family?
Where’s all the life we supposedly made at work?
For many of us, isn’t the truth of it closer to “making a dying”?
Aren’t we killing ourselves—our health, our relationships, our sense of joy and wonder—for our jobs?
We are sacrificing our lives for money, but it’s happening so slowly that we barely notice. Graying temples and thickening middles along with dubious signs of progress like a corner office, a private secretary or tenure are the only landmarks of the passage of time.
Eventually we may have all the comforts and even luxuries we could ever want, but inertia itself keeps us locked into the nine-to-five pattern.
After all, if we didn’t work, what would we do with our time?
The dreams we had of finding meaning and fulfillment through our jobs have faded into the reality of professional politics, burnout, boredom and intense competition.
Even those of us who like our jobs and feel we’re making a contribution can recognize that there is a larger arena we could enjoy, one that is beyond the world of nine-to-five: the fulfillment that would come from doing work we love with no limitations or restraints—and no fear of getting fired and joining the ranks of the unemployed.
How many times do we think or say, “I would do it this way if I could, but the board members/Zilch Foundation want it done their way”?
How much have we had to compromise our dreams in order to keep our funding or our job?