Write On Wednesday – Hard Labor

I haven’t been loving my work lately, so it has indeed been hard labor.  Of course I know that’s all relative, and my Puritan genes have been pinching me in displeasure for even begrudging one moment of having a relatively good paying job in this economy.

But.

I’m as human as the next girl, and I would really like to find my work at least moderately rewarding.  For the past several months, it’s been just a big pain in the you know where.  And I mean that quite literally too, because for most of my day I’m stuck in a chair staring at a computer screen and clicking my way through infinite varieties of electronic files and folders.

Part of my dissatisfaction stems from changes that were thrust on me willy nilly without any warning.  I was upset enough at the time to raise a mini ruckus about the whole thing.  Alas, my foot stomping was mostly in vain, because my boss (like the benevolent dictator she is) listened politely and then effectively said, “Well, that’s all very nice dear, but we’re doing it my way anyway.”

Right.

On our way out to dinner last night, we found ourselves quoting lines from an old movie that’s quite a favorite in our family.  Office Space is one of those satirical, sort of frat-house takes on life as an office worker.  Anyone who’s ever spent their days ensconced in a cubicle can’t help but laugh out loud at the incessant memos about the cover sheets on TPS reports, Melvin’s mission to hang on to his Swingline stapler, and (the classic) line from Lumberg, the boss, who ends all his edicts with the phrase, “That would be greaaaat.”   When we got home, we popped the DVD in the player and relived a few of our favorite moments.  At least it’s comforting to know I”m not alone.

Working in American has taken a whole new twist, hasn’t it?  Used to be we thought we could have it all – a good paying job,  security for the future, even something called personal fulfillment.    But the rules have all changed, and sometimes it’s hard to play along without feeling as if you’re being taken advantage of.   I was raised to work hard and be honest, to fulfill my responsibilities, to make personal sacrifices if necessary in order to get the job done.  My dad owned  a small business for almost 30 years, and I watched him working nights and weekends, rarely taking vacations, doing whatever it took to make sure his customers were satisfied.

So while I’ve been here in Florida enjoying some sunshine and celebrating my son’s birthday, I’ve also been working, doing my equivalent of putting cover sheets on TPS reports.  My husband looks askance at me, as he takes his lemonade out to the lanai and I sit here typing furiously away.  Right now, he’s feeling (understandably) less than loyal to the idea of working all out for the good of the company.  “It gets you nowhere,” he says somewhat bitterly.  “I’m here to tell you, nobody appreciates it in the end.” 

One of the hardest things about labor for me is finding the right balance.  I know I tend to go overboard with my work – whether it’s music or writing or stupid “TPS” reports, I toil away past the point where others would throw in the towel and take some time for themselves.  Maybe I do work too hard for my own good, and so the feelings of oppression I end up feeling are largely of my own making.  Keeping a balance between work, family, and personal time to do the things I love – that’s the key to staying sane in the modern world.

It’s hard work, but I’m trying to make that happen in my life.

How about you?  What’s your work life like these days?  Has it changed in the current economy? 

12 thoughts on “Write On Wednesday – Hard Labor

  1. Well, I’m putting off preparing a talk (that I will deliver for free) out of town (so it will actually cost me money) and reading blogs instead. When I worked for someone else I was extremely focused… why can’t I be as dedicated to my own bottom line? I LOVE Office Space. We watched it again a couple of weeks ago and the laugh out loud ridiculous humor did me good!

      • I have really been exploring that question because it’s exactly where I am lately. ps- I’m linking to you in a post I’m about to write… I’m giving a shout out to some of my favorite writers.

  2. The work environment definitely has changed. Gone are the days when employees planned on putting in 20 or 30 years at one place, then comfortably retiring! But you do sound very dedicated to your work and other interests too, which is an admirable quality. It’s a fine line we walk, balancing it all.

    Clicked over from Angie’s, enjoyed browsing here …

  3. I’mnot sure you want to hear about my work life lately, other than to say I feel like a juggler on Ed Sullivan with so many balls in the air, I’m not sure how to track them all. My benevolent dictator boss was laid off and while it was a good decision, he was at least another body to do the work that seems to be pressing on us. I go home, I stop. Just stop. And this isn’t good, because the house is looking none too spiffy and sooner or later I need to do laundry. OR, I go home and pile it on like a crazy woman and then end up exhausted. It just feels discouraging. And yet — as we all say around here every day, over and over — “I’m glad I have a job. I’m glad I have a job. I’m glad I have a job.”

    • Wow, sounds a lot like my office. Fewer people, and more work. I hear that story so many times lately. I think employers have on occasion used the recession to their advantage, knowing we’re all too worried about losing our jobs to complain overmuch.

      Like you, I have less and less time or energy to do the things I want to do, not to mention less quality time for my family (including the canine members!) Not liking it. There’s a part of me that’s itching to rebel, and I feel it coming closer and closer to the surface.

  4. I’m in a different situation, of course – running my own business and being dependent on weather is just crazy sometimes.

    When I first started, I worked 60 hour weeks. It was that or starve. This year, I’ve hardly worked since mid-December because of the terrible cold and rain. That has to stop – like, now – because the savings meant to get me through the winter are gone and I need to go back to the 60 hour weeks as soon as I can to get caught up.

    But twenty years have passed, I don’t want to work 60 hour weeks – and yet I have to, because the market decimated my IRA, and the little pension I thought I could count on to help ease me into retirement has been cut by 50%. Like some of my friends, I’m contemplating the thought that I may never be able to stop working. That’s the downside of stepping off the 8:15, I suppose – although I do have the blessing of still liking my work!

    • Being your own boss is no picnic either. I know, because I watched my dad for years. You’re always picking up someone’s slack – even if it’s just your own!

      Congratulations to you, Linda, for keeping that going for 20 years! I hope you can slow down to a more comfortable pace for the next 20 :)

  5. Interesting post. And you read my blog, Becca, so you know my views of the work/life balance here in America! I am in my late 40s and have been working more or less full-time without breaks for the last 25 years, and I can honestly say that I have never worked as hard as I do now.

    What I begrudge is not so much the work itself, although I remain a reluctant manager who dislikes the responsibilities, but the lack of free time. And my boss’ attitude that spending a minimum of 50 hours at my workplace per week is perfectly fine and comes with being salaried. Hello! I have been salaried all of my life, it’s how we get paid in Germany or England, and they never had the expectation that my 40-hour week is only an empty phrase in my contract. I even remember times when I got paid for over-time, imagine that!

    The truth is that I am feeling my age. I had a lot more stamina for irregular and long hours in my 20s. I want to slow down but that’s not going to happen with my current job. Alas, like you I feel ungrateful when I talk this way because at least I have a relatively secure job for the time being.

    I hope you catch up with your own little mountain soon! Enjoying your posts :)

    Kerstin

  6. Kerstin, like you it isn’t the work I mind as much as the loss of time (and energy!) to pursue the things that make like meaningful for me. At age fifty-almost-four I no longer have the stamina to do it all!

  7. I’m not impacted at all by the crisis neither is my husband or my sister. Plenty of work to do, although not always the type of work I’d like or the management I appreciate. It’s hard to know when to stay or not.

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