This content was published first in The Sunday Letters Journal: https://sundayletters.larrygmaguire.com/p/a-monday-to-friday-sort-of-dying-5c28e04584c6 by Larry G. Maguire on Sun, 26 Feb 2023 16:43:00 GMT
Facebook throws up memories on my feed, things I shared from the last few years. And today, a note I wrote to my timeline a while ago popped up.
This day ten years ago, I sat outside an office building on the Grand Canal in Dublin waiting to go into a meeting. For about 20 mins, I watched dozens or even hundreds of people scramble along the footpath to their jobs. Blank stares blinkers on, oblivious to their surroundings.
How many of these people had a 5:30 or earlier rise just to get their kids to creche or some other form of child-minding? How many of these parents wouldn’t collect their kids until 6:00 pm or 7:00 pm and endure the slog every single day?
On the opposite side of the road, there were three lads laughing, joking and having fun. Maybe they were still drunk from the night before…
Whether or not they were was incidental, because the contrast was stark.
I thought, why do we work this way, sacrificing our lives and happiness for the grind of daily work?
Why does daily work represent such a negative aspect of life experience for so many?
“It is about a search too,… for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying – Studs Terkel, Historian
It was the start of my exploration into the nature and value of work, and here I am today, still writing on this topic. I wrote a thesis on the subject in 2020 and the results found at least 42% of respondents are at odds with their work.
53% of respondents said they had a positive relationship with work, but on a recent review of the data, this figure seems to be much less. Only a very small percentage of responses were what I could regard as representative of engaging and fulfilling work. Something seems wrong with that picture.
Historian Studs Terkel said about daily work in his 1972 book Working ;
“to survive the day is triumph enough for the walking wounded among the great many of us”.
Regarding daily work, Terkel continued…
“It is about a search too, for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying”.
As we, albeit forcibly, take the time allocated to us in this strange period of existence, to reconsider our lives…we must ask ourselves, how should we proceed?
Will you die from Monday to Friday, only to live on Saturday and on Sunday dreading the coming of Monday?
Or will you engage in work that makes you smile?
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Very interesting subject. In response;
“why do we work this way, sacrificing our lives and happiness for the grind of daily work?” Much of the time people do not have a choice or feel they don’t have a choice. Whether it is from lack of self-confidence to do other or simply because we have to make our budget because we have a large family we have to support, we feel it is a sacrifice. We did not decide on a path that would get us to what we now want in our career now. That was our choice, as is supporting a large family. We chose this. Sure, luck and making our “luck” has a lot to do with what many consider career “success”. People need to do their best to create that “luck”
Why does daily work represent such a negative aspect of life experience for so many? Because we do not take pride in ourselves and see that we are important to others and the company we are working with as a whole. Unfortunately, there is also the unspoken social shaming aspect that what we do is not good enough. Many people will internalize this and believe it to the point of feeling their working position in life is not worthy somehow. That is also something we decide to internalize.
Will you die from Monday to Friday, only to live on Saturday and on Sunday dreading the coming of Monday? The only time in my life I dreaded days was when I was in school. I actually dreaded Friday because I knew Monday would eventually come. The “freedom” of a weekend didn’t exist for me because Monday was always looming.
Or will you engage in work that makes you smile?
You should not expect that work should be what makes you smile. Who you are as a wonderful person should make you smile. For instance, if you are a realtor and you make a $20,000 commission on a house you helped a family buy, you should be smiling because you were able to work hard to get the family the house of their dreams and that will help them. It will help the family (or even single person or couple) live their dreams and grow in a healthy way with a roof over their heads. If you are custodial at a popular coffee shop and are sweeping the floor, cleaning the bathrooms and cleaning up after others, you should have a smile because you are keeping a place clean for people, you are cleaning up after the single mom or dad with a baby because the sitter didn’t show, that had to go so fast for her dream job interview that she couldn’t clean up after herself or their child, the elderly couple who did not have the energy to carry the heavy tray to the trash themselves. The pride in your helping people should make you smile. That you are writing what others might take to heart should make you smile.
I was not able to read your thesis but what I have noticed in the past few years seemed hopeful at first. So many people I knew, read or heard about, quit their jobs. They felt like their jobs were failing them and they wanted to dream bigger by starting their own businesses or working for a cause that they enjoyed. Many people also just became redundant or made themselves redundant so that they could collect on Covid government “free” money and use the Covid eviction and rental moratorium to not have to pay rent any more or they would do a combination and get paid “under the table” while collecting government money. Many of them also felt like they were worth much more than they were getting paid. Good for this last group to have this confidence.
The outcome from my perspective has been that most of those that tried to start their new business or think they are worth more than they are have failed. They had great dreams, goals and missions but didn’t educate themselves in the nuances that it takes to run a business…. Things like you actually can’t pay most staff what they think they deserve because then you can’t pay for overhead, taxes, costs for a CPA, licensing etc..The ones that started a cause they enjoyed…Like one artist I know took out loans and borrowed money left and right and PAID to have art exhibitions and content creators. He thought that he would be famous because he had paid for what many artists spend their life to work hard and eventually achieve, if they ever do. He did not educate himself or face the fact that you actually need to be an artist that people will buy your work to be a successful artist. He didn’t consider that you may actually need to be a good artist to be successful. It doesn’t matter how many pictures you drew as a kid that your parent(s) adored and gave you accolades for that would make it up to the refrigerator …… that does not make one a good artist.
The people who used the Covid rent/eviction moratorium to stop paying rent almost three years ago and either refused to get a job or do something “under the table”, not paying rent, are getting evicted now and they can not find housing because their landlord supported them for so many years, to the tune of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Landlords are having to sell their houses to make their budgets and just to get out of the red. Plus, what landlord is going to want to keep a tenant that didn’t pay their rent? Mom and pop landlords are having to drastically increase the rent for a NEW tenant to make up for this.Sure, these folks chased their dream by having to not pay rent so it left them with time to find their “dream job”, but I don’t know of a single one who actually did that. And now they face being unhoused because they now likely have an eviction on their record. The folks with enough confidence to believe they are worth more money than they were getting paid, with a few that worked for a little while. One guy I know with no college degree found himself an Admin. Of a large construction business in California. He went from minimum wage to over $100k a year, very impressive! The boss took a chance on him. He’s 25 and quit within 5 months because he “ didn’t like that my supervisor would tell me I needed to do things like take out my trash. That’s for a janitor and I’m sensitive to the smell.” I’m surprised they kept him on for as long as they did.
Meanwhile,many service workers refuse to make anything below a living wage, which I can totally agree with. But, that causes the small businesses to either shut down or work with a very small staff. Businesses working with a very small staff are still surviving but many of the staff aren’t smiling because they want to be paid more. Well, we all want to be paid more and if it’s only more money that’s going to make you smile that’s your problem. You should be smiling because you are helping the small business stay afloat and have enough to pay you and your coworkers and keep customers coming in an uncertain economy. You are providing joy and respite to strangers with hardships in their lives after a tumultuous 3 years. That is something to smile about. And that is why in these past three year, I took on 2 more jobs that others refused to be responsible for. Hard jobs, risky jobs. I did this because I legally had to support a family of 11 when there was only 2 on the lease and there was nothing I could do about it and no money I could get because of the Covid eviction/rental moratorium. Where I live utilities are very high so they cost me an extra $2,000 a month in utilities alone. I had to evict and eventually sell the house because of them and the government laws. The other two jobs I took (when no one else would do them) put me in a good Administration position with great benefits. And why? I didn’t ever expect to smile at work, that’s up to me. I took jobs and risks that others wouldn’t take because I ignored how sensitive I actually am and powered through anyway. I showed up every day and on time. I didn’t demand more money than I am worth. I educated myself and got much certification online so I could prove to my bosses that I will be more qualified than anyone else. I made them need me. Yes, I took advantage of the privilege I had when others dropped out of the system to chase their dreams. My dream was to help others at my jobs, make businesses survive and insure that those paying me could have confidence in me and want me to work with them, not just for them. My dream during hard times is to be determined to pull as many people through as I could on my own strength, not to pussy-foot around and quiet quit. Those who did that are suffering now and I have real empathy for them. I don’t understand why they couldn’t figure out that they are worthy and have a moral obligation to think of society, of everyone’s survival not just theirs. And when I think of how I stepped in and helped when others wouldn’t and so saved businesses and others jobs and opportunities I do smile. But it is not because of my job(s), it’s because I helped others and there is value in that.
And, no, I never ever believed “ If you do what you love you will never work a day in your life.” I believe that if you do what you love every day of your life it will turn into work and whether you like work or not is entirely up to you. And, yes, I love my life.