Why I want a job: do you really want one too?

When unemployed, author grows beard and develops pirate tendancies.
When unemployed, author grows beard and develops pirate tendencies.

I probably could travel forever.

Traveling can be cheap. That’s something I relearned early on the European backpacking trip from which I just returned. I could freelance a bit, and continue out in the world.

But I’m not. I came home and am on the prowl for more permanent work. I still had money in my back account, places I wanted to see and people I wanted to meet. Why did I come home? Why are you working?

It is good to parse what you want and what you are supposed to want. If ever they are the same, it becomes even more difficult to decide how influenced you have been by the world. Everyone who ever wrote on this matter in the United States like to reference the Protestant work ethic. Apparently more Americans work themselves to death than anywhere else. I have no proof of that.

I do know that other English speakers I met while traveling – from former British colonies themselves – recognized this trait in me. My desire to return home and work. To prosper. To be a good citizen. The Australian girls told me to go enjoy the beach. The Canadians told me to relax and have a beer.

Whenever this conversation comes up, I think of a cartoon I posted while travel blogging at WeDontSpeaktheLanguage.com.

Animation probably shouldn’t make me think so seriously about the great decisions of my life, but I suppose anything that makes us think is good.

Sometimes I do get caught up in a race with a destination not worth reaching. As exciting and sexy as we make travel, does anyone else like the thought of some stability? A home to make our own. A career at which we can succeed. Money, yes, money, so I can have some independence to do what I want and pass on to my children. I worry less than my parents did at my age. They, certainly, worried less than their Depression-era parents. I want to do the same for my kids, though financial outlook is bleak at the moment.

So, in my mind, I want a job. The trick is to get one I actually enjoy doing. …I am terrified that some people would label that an idealistic notion. …Just to enjoy what I do 40 hours or more a week. To get there, I am willing to promote myself silly. You should be, too.

Authors and newspaper columnists make money writing on these subjects. That goes for Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle:

It’s a bitter duality: We scowl at those who decide to chuck it all and who choose to explore something radical and new and independent, something more attuned with their passions, even as we secretly envy them and even as our inner voices scream and applaud and throw confetti.

Our culture allows almost no room for creative breaks. There is little tolerance for seeking out a different kind of “work” that doesn’t somehow involve cubicles and widening butts and sour middle managers monitoring your e-mail and checking your Web site logs to see if you’ve wasted a precious 37 seconds of company time browsing blowfish.com or reading up on the gay marriage apocalypse” [Source]

So maybe we cut folks down who are doing something different because that takes balls we don’t have. I try to tell myself that if it makes someone happy and isn’t hurting someone else, God bless them. It gets trickier than that, I suppose. Our society has a lot of guilt and responsibility to pass out.

I feel crummy for doing anything but being efficient.

In writing this, I found a commentary piece written for Law.com. The piece is directed towards lawyers, but I took something out of it.

“Why do we work?” Samuel Johnson supplied an obvious answer when he famously observed, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” But I am not being paid to write this article, and instead of labeling myself a blockhead, let me refer to the insight of eminent psychologist Theodor Reik: “Work and love — these are the basics. Without them there is neurosis.” Why do we work? For money, but also for sanity. We expect and need to be compensated in nonmonetary ways.” [Source]

He identified five things we should get out of work other than money. Reasons to work other than in a trade for the means to be happy outside of work.

  1. PROFESSIONAL IDENTITY
  2. PERSONAL PRIDE
  3. IDEALISM
  4. RECOGNITION
  5. INSTITUTIONAL PRIDE

I do want to establish a reputation in a field. I like competition – Americans like competition, yes? So through work, I can develop another identity – one respected for high quality, intelligence and creativity. I can have pride in that and feel the gleam of recognition for it. Don’t be confused. While it’s important to do what do for us, there is nothing wrong, I’d say, in taking a little glow from admiration. Society may be a cruel metric, but it does have some reflection on what we’ve done.

I also would like to think my work is important. …Yeah, well very little of anything we do is important, but, to me, telling stories serves plenty of noble causes. Any position that has great history behind it – like writing – has been time tested.

When looking at jobs, I hope they meet these ends for me. But, I am not silly enough to not recognize I want monetary benefits too. I want health insurance. There are too many dangers, and I like to play too much to not have some safety net – other than building my own crutches for that broken leg.

Without fully comprehending what it all meant, I took on massive debt as I studied at Temple University for four years. This month I begin paying it all back – principal and interest, my friends. My parents have done enough for me. The bills I already have, like the housing and accommodations that make me happy and allow me to be near to other people and things that make me happy, need to be paid, too.

Money is important. I have to incorporate this prism into any career decision I make to know that the aggravation of any job isn’t near to what I get out of the work I do there.