Tuesday, September 22, 2009

IAm Work

We live in a culture with a distinct and seemingly irrefutable line between work and play.  work is a part of life you put up with so that you can enjoy a few moments of play.  You work all week to play on the weekends.  work is something you are expected to complain about in the evenings and dread as Sunday comes to a close.  And play?  Play, at first glance, is leisure.  Play is good food and drink, conversation, time to sit, time to enjoy recreation, entertainment, literature, music, the occasional jaunt to a new place, new sights and sounds.  Play is learning something you want to know more about.  Play is being spontaneous.  Play is making something.  Yet play is rarely a pure experience, since it is always inevitably coming to a close.  The world of work looms large, always.

I am from the Midwest; thus, every time I turn around, I find myself face to face with the reality of working for a living.  I can't forget the calloused hands of my grandfathers and uncles.  I couldn't ignore the vague scent of manure wafting from the back of the high school classroom as the farm boys spat their chew defiantly into empty soda cans and waited to turn sixteen.  I think of my father working the same office job for nearly two decades to support a family of twelve, a series of identical days that started with the drip of the coffee pot and ended with a cat nap in the rocker.  I think of all the people who have worked to get me where I am today and it nearly stops me in my tracks.  Nearly, but not quite, because the truth is, I am of a new generation and thus it is my time to challenge the way things are.  I am going  to challenge the segregation of work and play because I firmly believe that neither really exist.

A person is considered lucky if they are able to make a career out of "something they are passionate about."   You discover this passion either by being lucky enough to know what you love from a young age (prodigy, anyone?) or by discovering gradually through trial and error and an honest appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses.  You are generally considered passionate when you a) are willing to put in endless time and energy and b) are constantly considering how to improve upon your line of work.

The key, and by this I mean the key, to maintaining passion is to also maintain a focused creative state.  If you could take everyones' passions, throw them in a large pot over a fire, boil off all fear and other lies we feed ourselves on a daily basis, you would be left with the simple and pure desire to create.   Creativity lies at the core, the core, and it's this very core that has become buried under layers and layers of obligations, restrictions, requirements, necessities, societies, economies, politics, religions...the list is huge.  I firmly believe that everyone has a passion that perfectly matches their skill levels.  It's just that somewhere, somehow, it's become the norm to spend a lifetime laboring over someone else's passion, tucking your own interests into the back of your mind.  There's always retirement.

Can you see why we really hate this thing we call "work?"  It's not work at all!  It's simply the expenditure of energy on someone else's idea.  Such a small minority are having ideas and bringing them to fruition.  Everyone else has somehow accepted that they are not good enough, smart enough, rich enough, lucky enough to cultivate an idea on their own.  Of course you are bored, of course you hate your boss...you are merely babysitting the brainchild of someone else!  But you can't know this until you've experienced what I have come to call Work.  Work is when all lines between labor and leisure disappear.  Work is when you have one thing, one problem, one desire, in the back of your mind always.  It thrills you.  It occupies you.  You expend energy from dawn to dusk and you are happy.  You are happy because there is nothing you would rather be doing.    What else is there to do beside create?  Really!  What?  Even relationships and communication are based on creativity.  Without it, both become superficial and fall flat.  What you desperately sought for during your designated leisure times becomes your daily routine: enthusiasm, enjoyment, stress-free productivity, attention to details, meaningful interactions, perspective.

Work is you taking responsibility for your happiness.  Work is creating your life.  Life can be seen as one big creative project, really.

I recognize the complexity of this topic and how many different levels of attainment there are in the Work arena.  Of course you can have moments of Work while employed by someone else.  You can believe in someone else's idea, for sure.  And of course, you can become a workaholic and warp your perspective.  There are always versions, pitfalls, extremes, parallels etc, etc.  But whatever.  Just be creative.  Do Work.  It will change your life.  It will make you successful in the right way at the right time.  It's your responsibility to yourself.

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