Monday, May 12, 2008

Work Matters

I lead a good life, valuable, entertaining. I share it with lovely people and adorable animals; I spend it trying to enrich myself with every book I read, place I visit, even food I eat. It may be a small life to some, but I think it's a good one still. Yet, there is something that bothers me about it, and bothers me all the time, incessantly, and has done so for many years already. I really dislike my job.

I am no idiot and know well that without a job there would be no life as such. Without a job I couldn't have a place where to live, food to eat, clothes to wear, car to drive, horse to have fun with and so on and so forth, but as I am now in my late twenties, I have started to reflect upon this dislike more and more. I do not believe in those people that say 'it's only a job' when I get upset by it, or when I am so bored that I fear I may die of it. I don't believe in those people because I have rapidly calculated that, even though 'it's only a job', I actually spend more time at work or working than anywhere else or doing anything else. There are 120 hours to the working week. On average, I spend 45 of these 120 at the office or in front of the office laptop doing office work. If you consider that out of the remaining 75 hours, I sleep for 50, this leaves only 25 hours a week for something other than sleep or work. I can get more precise (and depressing, if you will) than that. I spend 3 hours a day getting ready for work and travelling to and from the office. That's another 15 hours that can be added to the working time tally. So, in a working week, I spend 41% of my time sleeping and 50% of my time working. If you consider that, no matter what life brings, I would still sleep for 41% of the working week because I need to (and because I'll never have kids), and can therefore take that 41% out of the equation, 85% of my time is taken up by work. No other activity occupies me more or more often than work, not even sleep. Now you can see why, when someone blurts out 'it's only a job' or 'it's only work', I usually grind my teeth and smile feebly, as that oft-calculated 85% flashes before my eyes in incremental neon lights like
S T A R D U S T on the Las Vegas skyline. If 85% of my week is spent at work, how can I kid myself with 'it's only a job, nothing worth thinking about'?

Others that tick me off are those who reduce my wish for a different direction to a desire for a new challenge. Why do most people always equate one with the other? And why do so many think that work is about challenge? I am not suggesting that it should be mind-numbing (hey, this is the reason why I want to change my direction in the first place!), but neither am I seeking something that is supposed to make me break into the sweat of uncertainty every morning. In fact, working in the area of my PhD seems to me like the ideal deal, since I am an expert and feel and know that I can make a difference to the field.

I think work is always worth thinking about because it always matters, it is part of us, of our emotional and intellectual well-being. I started working hard from primary school onwards, continued throughout college, university and beyond and haven't stopped since. I have almost finished my PhD now and it is fair to say that the only item that cost me more than secondary education is just my house. Yet, I certainly represent the greatest personality/job mismatch I know of. I am a creative person with a deep interest in the arts and humanities, a degree in literature, a PhD in cultural studies on its way; what on earth am I doing in IT? How did I come to be this person sat in a corner, reading atrociously written documents about pieces of code and testing and data and technical solutions? Honestly, it is about as intellectually challenging as translating Japanese without a dictionary (or knowledge of Japanese!). I am desperate to be out of it and have been desperate since the very first day, yet, I do not know which way to turn. There is only one thing I truly want to do, to write, and I have already started on this path. What I am certain of, however, is that publication is extremely unlikely to secure a future, for either myself or my family. I have nothing hot off the press to sell. I have not been on Big Brother to get my tits out. I am not married to a footballer. I am not a talentless git who dabs in all drugs known to mankind and makes the papers every morning. I am certain that I would fast-track to a multi-billion-pound deal if I had neglected my child while on holiday and now cried crocodile tears on every television channel there is. Such is life I suppose. Meanwhile, I can continue to while away 85% of my waking hours with a deep sense of hopelessness and anxiety, fearful of the passing of time, doing something I have no interest in, nor passion for. So much for degrees and common sense.
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