Saturday, November 21, 2009

Work and not-work

My husband, Bob, and I had lunch with a friend recently. I talked about Rotary International and what I do there. I mentioned that it's a rather low-status job, but I like the lighter workload and the people.

"And that's all right with you?" my husband's friend from work asked.

"The workload?" I asked.

"No, I mean that it's not a high-status job?"

"Oh, yeah. That's fine with me. I mean, sometimes I get tired of being a secretary AGAIN, but I totally don't mind having a low-pressure job where I never work overtime and I'm not in charge of anyone else. Yeah, that part's fine with me."

She said, "Really?"

I said, "Yeah, well I don't like for my job to take a lot of my energy and time because I put that energy into what I do outside of work. I have friends, we have dinner parties, I'm part of a creative writing group. Those are the things that are important to me."

Michelle seemed very surprised by this. She said, "I'm the opposite."

"What do you mean?"

"I was raised to go for it! In my family we take our jobs really seriously. I have just a few friends and that's really all I need."

"Oh. I thought you just said making friends was frustrating."

She then denied that the word "frustrating" had referred to her friend situation.

There were a few seconds of silence while I thought about this. Then I said, "Actually, my parents were very active outside of the their regular jobs. I mean, my dad was a government worker so you know he wasn't advancing or making lots of money. He pushed papers around a desk at the Veterans Administrative Hospital for 30 years, but outside of work my parents were very active in the Mexican American community. They worked to make sure Mexicans weren't being discriminated against in the schools or in housing or by the police. They wanted to make sure they were represented in local politics. And they did all of that outside of work. So, I guess I kind of am following in their footsteps in that way: in focusing on what I do outside of work rather than having the job be my main source of accomplishment."

"Yeah, you are," Bob nodded.

Michelle said, "Well, I've never met anyone like you before." But she didn't say it in an admiring way.


Anonymous said...

It is extremely interesting for me to read that blog. Thanks for it. I like such themes and everything connected to this matter. I would like to read more soon.

TomL said...

Of course, creative writing is worthless. Just ask JK Rowling.

And hey, all that other stuff is worthless too. Who needs social justice? If you aren't being PAID to do it, it doesn't count as "going for it."

What a twit.

Mick said...

High profile jobs arn't everthing, doing something that makes you happy is far more important.

And I'm speaking from experience, through my working career I worked my way up from shop floor to department manager.
Although it increased my salary which was great I got fed up with a lot of the expectations that went with it, time was never my own 24 hours per day.
In the end I was glad to get out and would never put myself in that position again, I think eventually my health may have suffered.

Miss Rachel said...

Wow, that's pretty harsh. I would love to work for a nonprofit, even if the job itself is not high status.

Unfortunately, comments like this person's really push my buttons because I feel bad about my job already since it's not doing anything good for the world. But that's my business. I don't think it's other people's place to judge. I'm just trying to make a living. A couple people (not close friends) have acted surprised and not in a good way, when they find out I work in financial services. Their reactions made me feel like, "OK, I'm going to go home and kill myself now."

There's more to a person than where he or she works.

red rabbit said...

It must have been quite threatening for Michelle to come face to face with a woman who does not define herself either by her job status or her husband's job status. It sounds like her defense mechanism was to put you outside of her comfort zone. I hope the entire dinner wasn't unpleasant.

Regina said...

Anonymous - Are you a real person?
TomL - Yeah, she was really uncomfortable with these ideas.
Mick - I have a couple of friends who definitely stopped liking their jobs after promotions. It's too bad we're under such pressure to keep climbing.
Miss Rachel - Europeans understand that there's much more to who you are than your job and Americans used to. Also, there are definitely ways your job makes people's lives better or your job wouldn't exist. Maybe your improving the lives of people that some would say don't deserve or need more life improvement. That's just an opinion. I'm sorry people make you feel self-conscious about what you do.
Red Rabbit - actually, I didn't realize she was SO far out of her comfort zone until later when my husband told me. I just thought she doesn't talk much when she eats. Turns out, normally she does.