Apr 25, 2013

Fear Keeps You in Line

Note: This is the second and final piece I wrote in 2011 for a different blog I had started on work and worth (which I have since abandoned), with some edits. I wrote this about eight months before I quit my job to focus on finishing a career-changing grad program, but it is clear i was already contemplating it. I think that it is good for us to question why we hold the guilts and fears and beliefs we do - especially about work, and especially when that work has ceased to benefit us for whatever reason. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

I have a family member who drives over an hour each way to work a nine hour day in construction. Today is his birthday. He left for work at 4:30 a.m., and was almost home by 7:30 p.m. When I asked him if he still liked his job, he said, “I’m glad I have a job.”
And I understand that. It’s been drilled into our heads our entire lives. Americans are hard workers. We must take pride in what we do. We are valued by our dedication to our jobs. There is no other option.
So we go to work. Some, like my family member, for fifteen hour days. And we go again tomorrow. But what else are we going to do? We’ve been successfully frightened to death by the inevitable financial ruin that would come from something like *gasp* quitting your job. What an unbelievably huge leap that would take.
But let’s look for a minute at the actual financial state of the two-income household.
Since we’re barely home, we have to buy pre-made meals (which are not cheap). Since we’re barely home, we have to pay other people to do work on our houses and cars (again, not cheap). Since we’re barely home, it’s more likely we’ll just replace something that is broken or torn rather than fix it. And so all of that hard earned money is spent on stuff that it doesn’t need to be spent on, because we don’t have the time or energy for it, because we’re working so much to pay for the stuff…
What a vicious cycle. And the worst part? Between the hours spent focusing on work and the stress caused by work, we’re not even enjoying the precious minutes we have on this earth. Which, if you think about it, is probably the main point of being alive.
It takes a lot of courage to step off the wheel, because people like my hardworking family member might see it as an irresponsible, ungrateful act. And based on his way of thinking, he’d be right.
But based on my way of thinking, there is so much more to value of a human being than their contribution to someone else’s bottom line. There’s a whole life to live out there.

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