Although I’m actually supposed to be working on something for school, I really want to talk about the value of work. About the value that comes of having to do things like pay bills and be scared about how that’s going to get done. I know sometimes we like to imagine a world where things are easy, where we get things handed to us, where (unlike MOST but not ALL of us) we don’t have to face the consequences of bad actions, or try to free ourselves from the ropy sinews of regret. What is this world like? Are we laying around in togas eating grapes? Is this what Marx would have us do? I bring up Marx because I think these questions about the value of work implicate everything: religion, capitalism, on and on and on. I often also make a distinction in my mind between “good” work and “bad” work. I guess I mean by that mostly work I enjoy or don’t enjoy. I know sometimes I posit “authentic” work (work where there is a product at the end, like food, or lit lamps, or written stories, or less suffering) against work that feels “inauthentic” (like work where you cater to assholes, or clean up garbage, or send emails repeatedly and fill out forms).
But lately I’m getting the feeling that I’m wrong about types of work. I’m thinking that living out a life where I’ve been scared about money, where I’ve worked hard nearly every day on one thing or another, has made me better able to be authentic, to not shy away from being enthusiastic about what I love, to really not take anything in my life for granted. I am so grateful to be in school and I am not about to waste it, posture like I’m not grateful, or slide passively into choices that others make for me.
I think when one doesn’t have to face the fear of work, the dread of work, the power of boredom in the everyday, not to mention the joy of a job well done and co-worker friendships in the midst of all this nonsense, one misses out on knowing that their choices are well-informed, that leisure should be savored like a rare wine, and might miss out, too, on that simple competent feeling of being an adult well-taken care of, by one’s own self.
This is truly a rambly and perhaps too vague post, but I got to thinking about this hearing from a few people lately devaluing work as a good experience in their lives. Sure, it’s crappy a lot of the time, but its also survival, which is a human experience that I embrace inhabiting.

2 thoughts on “work

  1. Hey Rachel – I love this bloggy blog. It is a miracle, rarely recognized that so many of us somehow manage to study and work our ways through life. I marvel at it most nights when I pull a sheet over me; that I have pulled off over a half century without getting eaten, crushed or otherwise lost in the universe, and work is the core of it. Our millions of unglorified hours of work are the key to our survivability. I wish I could describe it as well as you. Keep on writing!

    1. Thanks, Liz…I love that…”Our millions of unglorified hours of work are the key to our survivability!” I must keep that in mind. Hope to see you soon!

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