You are not your Job
I’ve been sorting through a lot of old things lately and came across a series of essays from 2003-2004. I thought they deserved to see the light.
Work is not the name of the nine-to-five job I don’t hold. Nor is it the after-school drudgery behind some lost and forgotten counter earning minimum wage. I do not work to earn money. I work to build my character, to comprehend, to question, to venture into the unknown and return with the untold riches of a greater knowledge and a broader mind. Work is often used as a term describing unpleasant, burdensome tasks, but work can be a joy and an adventure when looked at in the right context.
Each day when I awaken, I pray for five more minutes of sleep, of stillness, of dreamland. My work while I am sleeping is to renew myself for the day to come, to purge myself of yesterday’s shortcomings. Most Americans don’t seep enough, or don’t sleep well. The truth is, sleep isn’t valued. Its role in our well being, however significant, is often overlooked. My work when I sleep is to dream, to create a utopia, to arrive subconsciously at answers to questions my conscious brain could not comprehend, to hope for the future, to remember the past, and to visit the people of my life in the comfort of my own sheets. Those in my dreams say what I want them to say, behave as I ask, and let me life out my world of “let’s-pretend” without much as a peep of protest.
The most important, thought often overlooked job of every child is seeking out an education. I am ultimately responsible for my own education. Currently, that means making my way to the bed and worst edifice in existence. Each student must somehow manage to find a path to the other side. Some meticulously trace the predetermined path carefully and methodically, never taking their eyes off the ground. Other look for loopholes, and are known to climb the walls to observe others’ progress just to reassure themselves that they are solving the puzzle in the right way. What we so often forget is our work is not about the product, but rather, the process. We insist we are only successful in school if our answers match those printed in the back of the book. The content of what we write doesn’t matter as long as the commas are all in the right places. Everyone is brought down to the lowest common denominator and then told they’re not working to their potential. My work at school is to engage my mind, and to familiarize myself with the world outside my frame of reference. However difficult it may be, my job is to ignore the pressure to “just get and A” and instead, learn for the intrinsic value knowledge has.
I cannot say I have never searched the back of the book for the answers, but then again, my work doesn’t end at 3:05. Outside the classroom, my work includes directing the school play and helping to construct an realistic set. My work is participating in discussions with people I don’t agree with and listening to their views. It’s my job to create art, compose music, and sing as I go about the business of my life. Reading picture books reminds me of the wonders of the printed word. Reading the classics introduces me to characters that will never exist outside the pages of a novel. It’s also my job to edit the work of other in the student forum. From the time school ends to the time I go to bed, I keep my mind moving, working to improve myself, and the world around me.
My work is living while I’m still young enough to think I know everything, but foolish enough to make mistakes and continue anyway. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “Youth is wasted on the young. The wise would like to take their wisdom back to their childhood, but Emily Webb of Our Town has taught us that the “if I knew then what I know now” philosophy of life doesn’t play out as nicely on paper as it does in our heads. Working for the future doesn’t bring contentment in the present. It’s best to work and well as live, in the present. Savoring the task at hand give it purpose and meaning.
It is my work to discover people, befriend my enemies, and love my friends. It is my job to love while I am still ignorant of heartache. My work includes helping people and listening to them, gaining knowledge as I go. It’s my work to dream big and strive to reach my potential. Work doesn’t have to be a pain; it should be rewarding. Regardless my future career, it will be my work to better the world while I am in it.