Sunday, January 9, 2011

What Not to Be

Via Google Images
This morning an interesting article was posted by a fellow, and fabulous, blogger Michelle from Bleeding Espresso. The author of said article compares how Americans view work verses what she was used to from her native country Serbia. Mind you, I'm not here to go on a rant about how horrible the workaholic mentality in America is, or start pointing fingers at how lazy other countries are compared to the US. The article sparked my interest because last night Jon and I were talking exactly about American society's general expectation for us to be career minded hardworking young adults verses the fact that we are just beginning to see what our talents and weakness are in the working world and unsure as to how to utilize these AND find something we would both enjoy doing. So, here I am to muse and discuss my thoughts as doing this adult in the real world thing has brought up many things, like working, to ponder.
I went to college 'late' as a 22 year old, so, I guess maybe I'm a bit delayed in my thinking or maybe going to school later has given me a different perspective on things. I'm not entirely sure. While I want to be productive and I love doing things and helping people I do not want to get stuck in the 'Live to Work' mentality. I don't want to have my career path set, I don't have ambitions (though I can be ambitious) to be 'at the top'. As I've bee rather persistent with this attitude, I've begun finding it difficult to stick to my 'Work to Live' philosophy at times. For example, my brother over Christmas break was miffed when I told him that I was 'figuring it out' as far as what I wanted to do with my life as if that thought was something quite 'irresponsible'. Even though, I wish I could cut my private piano student load in half, I'm biting the bullet to save money for my summer trip to Europe and for the summer income famine (I only get paid for hours worked). A little more free time sounds wonderful. That said, I do not have to deal with nearly 60 hour work weeks and I'm very grateful for that.
Anywho, back to my main idea. I work, I like to work actually. But, I like there to be a limit on how much I have to work. I haven't had a real get away from it all vacation in nine years as being a poor college student with no insurance did not help me to travel around much at all. I think there needs to be a balance struck between work and having a life outside of work and taking time to find a good place/vocation to work. In America we work, a LOT. I like that we have a 'can do', 'work hard' mentality. However, there seems to be an obsession with work, position, pay, and what you have, as if it is tied to our self worth or something. I'm no socialologist, so I'm not going to into any in-depth analysis here. I will say though that I wish I could experience guarantees that some countries do have in terms of work and 'play' (ie vacation). To have an environment that respects that balance. [Keep in mind, I know it's not as simple as that, and there are exceptions]
Wouldn't it be nice to learn how to take a break and enjoy the world around us? I was horrified over Christmas break when I was actually going stir crazy as I didn't have 'anything to do'. I quickly realized how I needed to learn to relax and enjoy not having to do so much. Is there something wrong with wanting that? I know many Americans who wouldn't disagree with me wanting that, yet many of them will turn around and continue to work long hard hours. Sigh.
And wouldn't it be nice to be an adult my age and no one coming down on you for working hard, but, not be so obsessed with a career and making lots of dough? Wouldn't it be great if we could appreciate all thoughts on how to live our lives? I know I'm not the only American out there who thinks this way, but, sometimes I feel rather alone and difficult to keep my head above the water. Because, it seems by the standard society has set (ie being a mother and/or having status in the workplace) I am not succeeding, not by a long shot.
And I just can't wrap my head around that.


Sara Louise said...

Great post! Unless you have a career/ job that you truly love, living to work is not the way to be. Life is too short!

Habebi said...

Sara Louise- Thank you! I agree, if someone has a job that they are passionate about then by all means work away. It's the work to have, have, have, have more (stuff, status, etc) that I really disklike. There's too much out there in the world to enjoy, and the best of that stuff isn't material goods.

Caitie said...

The American mentality of 'live to work' can also be viewed as the Canadian mentality. There are people who won't take their annual *paid* holidays because they have some martyrish fear that the professional world will collapse if they aren't there to hold it up.

Today, it can't be denied that a lot of people judge their worth by their job. It gives them a measure of pride that they are so dedicated they work evenings/weekends/birthdays. I do not understand this line of thinking, and I often times find *myself* being critically cross-examined because because I'm not on board with the whole 'I don't have a life, I HAVE A CAREER' persona. Obviously a person needs to do a job they find satisfying and that can support them, but the key is that today people aren't looking for jobs they're looking for 'careers' because a 'career' and 'life satisfaction' are now one and the same.

In Switzerland, people work very hard, they work long hours, but they also play hard too. People here have jobs, they have careers, and it's not a big deal which you choose. From the people I have met, and Dan's family, my current observation is that the Swiss mentality is 'work to live'.

Sorry for this novel of a response, but it was a great post :-)

Habebi said...

Caitie- Thank you for this! I would kill right now to have a friggin' paid vacation to turn down. Though, I'd like to think I wouldn't be that crazy!

I'm not entirely sure what to do with how I think versus the predominent mentality here. I know I wanna live abroad and experience something else because I don't want to accept my self-worth as a person to equate to a career, marriage, and/or being a mother. As a single woman, working hard doing something she enjoys while still deciding what to pursue vocationally, I feel overwhelmed by how much I work and how pitiful it is measured by some corners of this culture. I am desperately seeking a balance.

I guess, in a nutshell, I think there is a lot more to being human, and my self worth, and all that than what's being pushed as the way to get it.