Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BACK TO WORK

Well, the savings account is finally running out and so it is finally time to head back to work. I started at my former job last week, but am only doing 3-4 days a week there, since our billable workload is not all that great right now. (While I was in the woods all summer, it seems the world economy has collapsed...) Part-time is really fine with me - gives me a little more time to finish the kitchen project and can better concentrate on my teaching gig at Penn too. Plus, I’ve become convinced (it wasn’t hard) that we Americans work way too much. Compared to the rest of the developed world, we get the least amount of vacation time and work the longest hours. As a result, we suffer the worst amounts of stress and sickness. I’m not against hard work – I’m all for it actually – but I want to have a life between bouts of intense work. My real complaint is that work takes up way too much time. Not just the 8-10 hours at the job every day, but the hour or two getting ready, and the hour or two afterwards it takes to unwind. And lets be realistic – its hardly necessary. Those of us in office jobs are lucky to get 4 or 5 productive hours each day, with the rest of the time spent distracted by the internet, phone and email interruptions, snack breaks, and conversations amongst the cubes. We even decorate our cubes as a result, trying to bring our lives into the space where we spend most of it. All this time spent at work hasn’t really earned us much either. Thirty years ago, when working-aged women often stayed home, a single salary could buy a house, one or two cars, three or four kids, and a vacation. You are fortunate if you can do that with both parents working today. And technology doesn’t help – despite all that has been invented to make our jobs more productive, the “curse of work” remains unrelieved, despite the promises of its inventers. If anything, new technology just promotes work-creep, as people are spend nights and weekends emailing and laptoping work. A friend of mine once worked for a huge accounting firm that favored this kind of over-work, promoting only those employees who fully gave their lives over to the company. How sad. The worst is that this overwork then ruins your “free” time too. You get home each night, you’re exhausted, and you zombie out in front of the TV. The weekend (all two days and one night) is spent mostly on ignored chores, and if there is time, squeezing in the sleeping, family time, exercise, cooking, dating, sunbathing, learning, drinking, sex, hiking, reading, volunteering, hobbies, worshiping, thinking, doing nothing, and everything else that makes life wonderful. Family time is minimal, and time with extended family is squeezed into the whirlwind holiday tours which are often more stressful than pleasurable. Once or twice a year (when you can fit it in to your work schedule), you squeeze in a vacation, and often these are spent doing some hyper-active travel, sightseeing, and sped-up relaxation. What goes missing is Play. Play is the anti-Work. Play isn’t video games or movies or sitting on your butt. Play can be hard work, but play is never Work. I consider myself an expert on Play, having spent the better part of 7 months at Play this year. I will write more about Play next.

4 comments:

Mom Rairigh said...

You hit the nail on the head about work and play... I agree that play is not just "PLAYING"..it can be doing things you enjoy doing such as work in the yard, house, things for your family, and in my case, doing crafts and creating things...Kim and Daryl are one of the few fortunate families that can make it on one income and truly enjoy their family...Your outlook on life and the way you feel is wonderful....I love you...Mom

Kim said...

Let's say, though it is not "easy" to live off of one income...sharing that one income on many expenses, dividing it up, between the things that are "needed" and the few things that are "wanted"...we've been able to work it where we try not to giving into all those things that most of the competitive world says we should have (from brand-name clothing to the latest of technology to the biggest home)...I'm with Shawn...believing in simple living and teaching the next generation to use their imaginations and creative minds to live more freely and happy and simple as adults (it is almost lost in children today)...storytelling propels that so much. It is an awesome experience to see the joy on children's faces when they listen to an adult tell a story, either from the real-life stories passed down through generations to the made up stories that provide true excitement...they respond to stories with a range of emotions...stories spark conversation, create a sense of value and self worth. I credit my parents and grandparents for instilling a sense of appreciation for the "simple" (and what seem today the little) things in life and the appreciation of stories...

thanks Shawn for these cool deep thoughts!

Kel (L'il Sis) said...

Well because I'm a reading specialist, I will be happy to put MY two cents in....unfortunately, with story-telling having gone by the wayside, a lot (not all) of kids' imaginations and the ability to come up with information on their own has also gone out the window. I just had a parent/teacher conference with a parent who agreed with me when I explained that it seems her daughter has trouble creating an answer for a higher-level abstract question if the answer is not provided in a text. (i.e. Do you think Jackie Robinson is a hero and why or why not?) Deep thoughts and a deep comprehension of things are few and far between anymore....

Steve said...

Shawn,
You are beginning to sound like me. I have felt this way for years - what a clusterf... we live in. I knew this would happen to you. It happened to me and I was in Vermont for two months, sleeping a bed and now i am back in New Haven and wishing I was back in Vermont!! We were there for Thanksgiving and the camp is so different, almost desolate on the lake which had a thin veneer of ice. But this is the American Dream isn't it? This is what it means to be American - to shop, drive, be cool, make money, wear neat fashion, come on get with the program!
I think it sounds like you are doing well. The more I see of men the better I like my dog.
Steve