Work and life, part I

This is a live exercise! I’m thinking about work.

One of the things I know, but constantly forget, is that there should be no difference between my life’s work and the rest of life. I shouldn’t ever say, “Uhhgh ohhhgghh, I have to work today.” I should go about my business, work or leisure, in a relatively pleased and comfortable way no matter what the activity, because, whatever activity I’m engaged in should have something I value at its center.

If I wash the car on the weekend, it shouldn’t be because I worry about what the neighbors think, but because I value a clean car, or believe I’m taking care of it so it will last longer and I value conservation, etc. When I go to my job, it should be for similarly thought-through reasons.

Really, but it’s hard to get my head around.

I misunderstood work for years. Sometimes in the past I took jobs only because of decent money, dreaming about the “lifestyle” the money might provide (projecting a single image of a sweetassed living room and a big window over-looking a perfect, neat neighborhood… I am wearing nice shoes that indicate something about me… I’m not sure what… good taste maybe). And then, I struggle at doing the job, the tasks, hate the work, spend much of my time with a headache, forgetting completely why it is I took the job, feeling trapped, angry, eyes burning, and then I go home too worn out and depressed to enjoy anything or anybody.

I’ve also gone the other direction: taken work because it sounds the opposite of materialistic (projecting a single image of a simple living room with an old window over-looking a quaint neighborhood… I’m wearing comfortable shoes… maybe second hand shoes… that indicate something about me… I’m not materialistic but still have good taste, maybe). And of course, I still don’t like the tasks, the work, and I’m poor, feeling trapped, angry, eyes burning and then I go home to not that living room too worn out and depressed to enjoy anything or anybody.

The two former paragraphs are about the work/life split, where the work has nothing to do with my values. It is entirely separate from what I love, has nothing to do with it. Work is some kind of weird application, an easy solution to get to some ill-defined end, a lifestyle. “I will do these tasks, even if I don’t know why, because doing them will give me a way to demonstrate who I am to others via job title and fancy living room or, conversely, the lack thereof.” This is artificial, because there is no such thing as lifestyle (that which we see on TV, etc.) but only life, which includes work and leisure (a lot of work).

During the last few years, I’ve written a couple of books and I’ve gotten an advance. The book money gave me a really wonderful time-out. I did really interesting stuff and did some good thinking.

Can I just keep writing books for a living. Nope. Truly, the kind of fiction writing I do isn’t likely to be sustaining (I can’t count on much income, although some, perhaps). So? Now, I get to consider the other work I will do to earn enough to survive. What are the options?

Whatever, the tasks have to be part and parcel of Herbach and the decision to do the work cannot be based on any projection about what life will look like outside of understanding those tasks and loving them (no fancy pants living room thoughts). And, I’d like whatever I do to be work that sustains me for the rest of my work life (and connects me to my continuing activities in the arts)

Oh, and… Must be mentioned… Yes, I have had some bourgie advantages that others might not have had and that means I can really choose a livelihood when others maybe can’t (context forces them into something). Bourgie advantage is my context (no Yale spoon in my mouth that provides outsized advantage, though, just midwestern middle class). So, this: As a person who has been given certain smarts, educational opportunities and good health it is my absolute responsibility to make conscious choices about my actions… RESPONSIBILITY! HEYO! REALLY.

So, here’s the starting point: I’ve had a time out because of the book. During the time out I’ve thought a lot and I know that work and life are not separate and that there is no such thing as lifestyle (there is only life). And, because of the advantages I’ve received (and worked for, of course), I have a responsibility to make conscious choices, sound choices (not knee jerk) (I might also have a responsibility to help others, that’s true, but not the starting point). That’s the context.

Next, then, consideration of the options, which, I suppose, will include an unabashed and perhaps annoying revelation of values. Right on. Woop.


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I am…

Geoff Herbach. I am the author of Stupid Fast and Nothing Special, among a bunch of other stuff. When I'm not writing, I teach writing at Minnesota State, Mankato.

Stupid Fast

Nothing Special

I’m With Stupid

Fat Boy (Gabe Johnson Takes Over)

PowderKeg Stage

Herbach's favorite store

My Bizzle

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