Happy Labor Day! Today we celebrate the American Worker. Or mourn the end of summer. Or shop for great deals.
One of the podcasts I subscribe to is Backstory with the American History Guys. If you’re interested in American History, I highly recommend signing up.
This week’s show talks about the work ethic in America. All my life I’ve heard the adage that if you just work hard, you’ll succeed. And, the corollary: if you don’t succeed, it’s because you didn’t work hard.
I am a hard worker. When I go to my job, I work. I work the allotted amount of time I’m paid for. I work diligently and I complete tasks assigned to me to the best of my ability. I thought that was what you were supposed to do. You work hard on the job, then come home and work hard to keep up the looks of your home.
But where has it gotten me?
As a child I was taught that God expects hard work from his children. And I wanted to be a good little girl, so I worked hard in school.
Then I went to college and promptly flunked out, because I wanted to play and not work hard. But after working menial labor jobs for a couple of years I decided I’d rather go back to college, and I got my degree. So now I continue to work hard, but I don’t necessarily have to get my hands dirty. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve spent a great deal of time this summer driving from place to place and standing in the heat, and I smelled pretty bad at the end of the day. But I didn’t smell like chicken grease or sour mops, and for that I am grateful.
I often hear that the reason poor people are poor is because they don’t work hard. I don’t believe that. There is a thriving underground economy among the poor, from taxi services to hair styling to child care. It’s the only way some could make a living, so they went with it, but they don’t pay taxes on the income and I know that pisses some middle class folks off. As for the middle class, many became poor after the economic downturn in 2008. People lost their jobs, their homes, and their retirement savings. And while the “numbers” tell us the economy is improving, it’s the rich that continue to prosper while the middle class works just as hard, if not harder, for less money and fewer benefits. When we complain, we’re told to be grateful we even have a job.
It’s funny to me how we extol the virtues of hard work, while working so much is killing us. We’re stressed out. We’re in bad health. We don’t take the vacation time we’re given. And when we are at home or on leave, we’re still checking our email.
One of the things I like about the job I have now is I don’t think about work when I’m not there. This has been a relaxing weekend for me and I haven’t once worried about what awaits me tomorrow. That certainly wasn’t the case in my last job, and you know how they repaid me for my efforts.
Personally, I think this whole notion of hard work is bogus. After all, if you can file bankruptcy numerous times and still be considered a good businessman and viable presidential candidate, why kill myself to make what little money I’m making?
I say it’s time to give up the notion that hard work is going to get you anything but tired. I’m not saying don’t work. You need to survive. Keep a roof over your head. Buy food for yourself and your family. But if you for one moment think your working 80 hours a week is going to get you anything but a heart attack, you’re mistaken. Most folks I see stay in one place their whole lives get those little promotions that bring in a few thousand more dollars a year, but they were also handed a lot more responsibility with that promotion along with a salary that doesn’t provide for overtime.
So do your work, but also enjoy your life.
Or don’t. The choice is yours. But is that job you have now really worth all you’re giving up for it?