Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Would you still work if you didn't have to?

The lady who lives in the apartment downstairs from me was laid off several months ago. I saw her the other day and asked how her job search is coming. “Terrible,” she said, in a voice channeling one of the bailiffs from Night Court. “There’s nothin’ out there. I still got my unemployment and my husband has job security at the cemetery,” she said with a wheezing smoker’s laugh, “but I’m bored out of my mind.”

I slowly shook my head, which she no doubt interpreted as an empathetic gesture. In real life, I was thinking, “You lucky stiff!”

I started my first job back in 1971 at Colonial Cleaners down the street from my house on Lincoln Avenue in Albany, New York. In 110-degree heat from the machines, I tagged and prepared garments for dry cleaning, which often involved the revolting task of pulling dirty Kleenex out of old guys’ pants pockets. From the very first day, I knew that work would be a part of life that was going to suck. I don’t know who came up with the big idea that women have to have a career—I guess it was intended to be a perk of some kind—but 36 years later, I can tell you I’ve never had a day at work that was better than a day at home.

It’s not exactly like I’m toiling in a third-world sweatshop—I have a master’s degree from one of the best technical writing schools in the country, a resume that would knock your socks off, and references that would make you wonder if I paid them handsomely for extolling such high praise. But I repeat: I have never spent a day writing a proposal or some of the other stuff I come up with that was more enjoyable than a day spent cleaning the house and watching Guiding Light. And with a ton of creative projects running through my brain at any given time, I would never, never be bored!

What do you think? If money were no object, would you still work?


Argentine Rocket said...

Interesting question, Linda... I think if I didn't have to work for money, I would get involved in volunteer/non-profit work for a good cause - a lot of charity work involves technical skills: building databases, writing letters that make people want to donate money for that cause, etc... But like you, I'd definitely have to do some sort of "work" to get out of the house or I'd go crazy!

Anonymous said...

I agree--I think it's important to do something significant with your time and volunteering is great. It's odd, but I actually hope to be working into my 80's, doing some sort of public speaking or teaching yoga. But on my terms!