Working isn't all that

Take time to pause

If you work for a living, why do you kill yourself working?

By Kate Kallenberger

I loathe the institution of employment. Still, I am proud to say that I am a gainfully employed young person.

            My job is easy, secure and they feed me on a daily basis. Yet, every day I am scheduled to work, I find myself dragging my feet to the car, half-heartedly clocking in and hoping I will become violently sick between the time I park the car and the time I enter the building.

            This trend is somewhat disturbing to me. Why do I detest going to a cushy restaurant job where I serve two tables a night and occasionally get free dessert?

            It is not the work but the job; not the level of difficulty or stress, but the time I must put in. Working at a job you hate can have negative consequences but solace can be found in the little things; infinite time can be passed by finding short, happy moments in the fury of a dinner rush or the hour before a huge presentation. Yes, even in this consumer driven culture, dominated by medicine commercials and working for the weekend, happiness can be found.

But to find these moments, we have to ask ourselves why we work. I work now so I won’t have to later. I swallow my pride and smile as I serve club sandwiches and shrimp scampi to people who don’t make eye contact with me so that some day, I can own the restaurant they dine in; or write the news they read each morning.

            Ultimately, any job you have, whether it is as a waitress or circus freak or nuclear physicist, is just an exchange of money for your time. You choose the levels of difficulty and time commitment and The Man pays you accordingly.

The reasons someone might give for why they work- to pay bills, to support a family, to live comfortably- essentially say the same thing. We work for money so we can buy clothing, food, and Netflix. The basics.

But what if we created new basics? What if we found ways to escape from the shackles of a consumer based economical and social culture? What if the nation suddenly became unemployed and forced into self-sufficiency?

Truthfully, it would be unrealistic to expect Americans to morph into a society that suddenly abandons its long held values of human industry and progress. It would be unrealistic to expect total self-sufficiency; freedom from corporate coffee chains, convenience stores, and Activia commercials.

 But a buy-sell-buy society is what we have created. This is America’s collective bed and now we must rest in it. The benefit of living in a modern society is the ability to connect like never before. This means mass production and importing and exporting goods to every corner of the globe.

But it can also mean working at a job that seems like you’re selling your soul to buy Tupperware. This work-to-buy mentality is what drives Americans to overspend on products no one needs or even necessarily wants. If we work so we can buy things, but we don’t really need or want to buy things, then emotionally taxing employment becomes obsolete.

This is why the concept of the desk job is baffling to me. The thought of staring at a computer screen and a cubicle half-wall and avoiding awkward eye contact with co-workers in the kitchen all day numbs me.

It makes me think of the fifty-plus years I will probably spend in an asylum white office; sipping water-flavored coffee from a mug I bought at Bed, Bath & Beyond in an attempt to define myself through my purchases.

            I think of conference calls, spreadsheets, broken copy machines and answering the telephone without looking up from the Rolling Stone I stowed away inside a manila file folder. I think “Kate, did you finish your expense reports yet?”

I think of the fiery pits of hell.

But even in shadowy abyss of conference calls and endless PowerPoint presentations, happiness can be found in the little things.

Color me crazy, but Post-it notes are a product so simple; so deceptive in their unassuming ubiquity, that we largely take them granted. But in a consumer culture where mediocrity is the new standard, it is refreshing for a product to do what it is supposed to do.

I am so frequently letdown by the tissue paper cheapness of American Eagle clothing or by the brakes of my Prius that I become giddy when a product does what it is supposed to.

And that just isn’t right.

In a world that runs on instant coffee and is constantly seeking immediate gratification, it is easy to get lost in the consumer hoi polloi. Modern life is only properly traversed when we sort through the garbage we are force-fed and learn to recognize quality when we see it.

Maybe it is a stretch, maybe I am grasping for marbles in the dark here, but Post-it notes are the manifestation of my appreciation for the simple things. It just takes a keen eye for quality and reliability to find things to appreciate, even if it is just seeing how many Post-it notes it takes to cover a human body.

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