Monday Musings…. Working Hard or Hardly Working?

"Find a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life."

This was the sentiment written by a few students on a recent assessment. I had to smile when I read it. It’s been quite a few years since this saying has come to my attention - a testament to the fact that we more often hear people complaining about their jobs and the amount of work they have to do. But what really brought a grin to my face was the fact that many college students haven’t even held a part-time job yet, as all of their needs have been and continued to be covered by their parents or the government. No wonder they think they can extend this love-fest!

So, it got me thinking – what did they really mean when they parroted this quote? Are they banking on following their passion into a fulfilling career where work is easy and enjoyable and pays all the bills? Or is the motivation to avoid the responsibilities and demands of work but still reap the monetary rewards? It sounds to me like they have become intoxicated with the whine of ‘follow your dreams’ and ‘anything is possible’.

When they wake up from the hangover of optimism, to the reality of student debt, a lagging job market, and increased housing costs, their head will begin to hurt, but they won’t know how to find the antidote. But if they do, they definitely won’t want to swallow it. Who wants to settle for a minimum wage job? In their minds, that’s work that leads to nothing. The lament will be: That’s not how I figured life would turn out! And they’re right! It’s the very opposite of the promise they believed would be possible for them.

Where did young adults taste this elixir in the first place? Parents, older adults, and educators need to realize their role in providing the sippy cup that threatens to handicap this generation of hopeful graduates. How many have ‘protected’ their children from hard work, from failure, from responsibility? We now have ‘lawnmower’ parents who cut down the obstacles in a child’s path so they don’t have to deal with challenges life throws their way. Many parents offer multiple options for meals and acquiesce when the child doesn’t finish their food. Some do the science fair project for the child, ensuring the child gets a good grade. Parents close the door to their child’s messy room not wanting to be harsh by asking them to clean it up before visitors come, whether those visitors be of the human, rodent, or insect variety. Youth are given whatever brand name clothing or technology they want, no matter the financial hardship it may cost the family. Schools repeatedly allow for exceptions or extensions beyond required deadlines. Many get passed on to the next level without ever having acquired the skills of the previous one. And I could go on and on.

We’ve neglected our duty to teach the fundamentals of hard work, and the pride that comes from an honest day’s work. It is no wonder that they think they can have it all while doing very little to deserve it.

But let’s go one step further because all of us are cogs in the wheel of the society we live in. Our automated culture feeds into this idealism of easy believe-ism. Everything is readily available at our fingertips -we hardly have to ‘work’ to do anything – from preparing food, to washing our cars, to making coffee. We are being hoodwinked by the life hacks and convenience Mac’s that make us believe that everything that is easy makes us happy. And so, the expectation is that work should be the same. If we are honest, most of us older adults aspire to the same sentiment of the quote, we’ve only been jaded by the truth.

The truth-teller behind the quote is Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain). Some have also attributed the proverb to Confucius. The latter was a philosopher, the former an author; both seemingly had the freedom and respect of their time to pursue their passion, or so we would like to believe. Clemens grew up as the sickly sixth child of John and Jane Clemens. His father, by all accounts, was a stern man who regularly walked the tightrope of financial ruin due to repeated business failures. At one point, to escape his mounting debts, John Clemens moved the family to Tennessee where he told his children that this newly acquired homestead would make then prosperous. This optimism was soon met with realism, and as Samuel commented later in life, the idealism he was taught became a curse. Neither father nor son found life or work easy. Samuel Clemens would spend the days of his life working as a typesetter, then a columnist for newspapers, an itinerant labourer, and a pilot of a riverboat. He knew the reality of hard work and wrote many novels about it. His quote in fact is a satirical statement emphasizing that labour brings forth pain, so we best grin and bear it! It’s after a hard day’s work that we feel the reward of our efforts! And choosing to take humour along with hard work, as he readily displayed in his novels, is the best antidote for anyone to have a love-fest with their school work or place of employment.

Oh, and did I mention how much I love my job? I’ve got a ton of work waiting for me this morning and I can’t wait to get at it 😉

This week's song is "Keep Movin' On" by Stillman. Work is a necessary part of life, so no matter your role is in this world, put a smile on your face and be grateful for the job that has been entrusted to you! You are an important cog in the wheel of society!


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