Werk: Part II

33 Days of Truth: Day 8

Werk: Part II

One week in the books for my personal growth challenge (33 Days of Truth!). Yay!! So exciting! 

Since I didn’t get to finish going on and on yesterday about every single work experience I’ve ever had (Day 7: Werk)… I will therefore write some more about it, but hopefully with a little better focus on the direction I was meaning to go with it, i.e. my takeaway lessons and personal philosophy about work itself. 

Where I left off with Werk, Part I, was my transition from working at a boutique inn to a big hotel office. On paper it was an upgrade, but emotionally and mentally, it took me down.

I worked in Sales. Overall the team was pretty great, I liked them and one team member in particular became a dear friend and confidante. The group welcomed me on the first day with flowers and cookies and made me feel at home. I was on cloud nine, to start. However, I rediscovered the hard way that for me personally, full time work as an office assistant is a recipe for a slow death of the inner fire. It’s both soul crushing and mind numbing and I swear, never again

The kicker here is “full time”. As I prepared to move from California to Maui, I scaled back my five days per week to only four. It made an incredible difference. No longer was I playing triage on my weekends (What can I do? What should I do? What do I want to do?). A work-life balance ensued as I had never experienced before. I felt more relaxed, more productive, and much, much happier. And weirdly enough, I did better financially, even though I was technically cutting out a full eight hour shift every single week. Huh.

At the time I write this I am at yet another office job, but it’s only three days per week. That I can handle. Except that it starts to wear when I also work another job three additional days per week AND nanny every weekday afternoon, as I have for over a year. Then I’m in the same trap, fire dulled and in a rut. It seems I’m slow to learn the lessons of experience. Sigh. I’m trying. 

I spent the intervening summer between the hotel sales office and moving onto the island doing odd jobs, including gardening (bliss), event setup (meh), and flagging (aww yeah!). 

You know those folks at road construction sites that wear neon vests and hard hats and hold up the stop/slow sign to command the flow of traffic? That was me! Only it was even better, because the construction was for the railroad, and much of the time the track repairs were being done in rural areas, and I was surrounded by nature. My enthusiasm for the 10-12 hour days in the hot sun doing nothing but hold a stick with a stop sign on it, was apparently rather unusual. The crew was definitely amused. 

Flagging was fun. It was just so different from anything I’d ever done, and after sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day every day for two years (and really, the majority of my adult life), I was ecstatic to be outdoors and on my feet. 

I had spent so much of my life with one job at a time, that simply doing a variety things over the summer really opened my mind up to what work could be. A mixed plate of activities. And part-time. I glory in part time. 

Which brings me to some lessons and takeaways from all this work nonsense. 

A full time 5-9 job that’s only there to cover bills and living expenses, just takes up too damn much of life. And, as I found out while working in paradise, even multiple part time jobs are too much, if they take up all the time you have. It’s not sustainable in the long haul of a happier life, and it’s not the thing we are meant to do either – slogging through the majority of our short existences only to enjoy a tiny bit of it on the weekends. It’s kind of bulls*** and I do intent to be part of the resolution of this challenge we face as humans. 

(Perhaps I speak as a highly privileged human, who has the time of day and the full stomach to entertain such thoughts. Ah, the debt-burdened working class of the Western world. Among which I am still far from having a terrible lot in life, and I do want to pause to acknowledge that!)

One really positive work thing I did while on island was to swap out one so-so job for another that was more heart-aligned. I switched from making food at a coffee shop (easy stuff, but it became a numbing routine) to a restaurant that operated as zero waste, plant-based and locally sourced (farm to table to farm again!). That has been another eye opener for me.

I didn’t even go out directly looking for new work; I had simply started to wonder if I could earn money from a “whatever” job that also allowed me to contribute in a meaningful way and be part of something that connected with my values. In this case, it is eating vegan, living a conscious lifestyle and reducing the waste impact on our planet. Voila! Win-win. 

The win-win is important when it comes to work. We need to stay connected not just to passions, but values; to the core of who we are. 

Something my sister said in a recent conversation absolutely blew my mind, and I think it may be the secret to fulfilling our destinies as human beings who are meant to work (because I still think that work can be meaningful and purposeful), but not in the way society sets us up for.

It goes like this: 

Work for others in service of self. 

Or,

Work for self in service of others. 

BOOM. Read that again. Soak it up. Let it sink in.

Work for others in service of self. Or work for self in service of others.

Work for others in service of self: Follow society’s version of fitting yourself to other people’s plans, doing other people’s projects, having someone else dictate when you work, where you work, and who with; and then getting paid for that; going for whatever gets you the bucks (job or career) so you can keep a roof over your head and food in your mouth and have a little vacation every now and then. (So selfish of you, right?)

OR. Or. 

Work for self in service of others: Your version of creating your own plan, doing your own projects, choosing when you work, where you work, and who with; and get fulfilled by it; fueling your passions, matching your talents, aligning with your values, doing what makes your soul sing; going for whatever makes you feel the most alive so that you can offer true value to the world while energizing your very being. To give not of your time and piddly skills sets, but to give of your entire being, from your deep heart.

THAT is the greatest service you can provide.  

If I could go back to my 17 year old self, as she contemplated the many possible work roads in front of her, I would have given her the following life advice and personal guidance. This is based on my very personal experience of work, what I learned and what I might have done differently given what I know now (which I wouldn’t know if I hadn’t gone down the road I did, so who is to know which is the better way?).

  • Stop using your head to figure out what to do. Listen to your heart. It knows the way. Trust it.
  • The direction that scares and intimidates you is probably right.
  • That means write. 
  • If I may suggest, go to art school instead of film school, to get even more hands on in dealing with your creative blocks, ASAP. (Then again, that could make it worse…! This will be your majority challenge, regardless.)
  • Travel ASAP, to realize sooner how much you love discovering and exploring new places, and just seeing more of what’s out there. You can make this a stronger focus, so that rather than have a few dream trips and still be longing for the world in your thirties, you’ve been there.
  • Consider what your values are, and connect with those.
  • Consider too what value you have to offer, that you can give of right now. Offer it, in any way you can, authentically and from the heart. (That means write.)
  • The grand visions you have for what you will do with your life are all well and good, but you can’t keep them off in the distant future or they’ll be like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow that moves away from you with every move you make. Keep your feet to the path.
  • Trust your feelings. They know what’s up. Hint: That’s the real gold.
  • Nobody told you that you would still have to earn something to pay bills. I’m telling you that now. You may not end up having a career, but only a series of jobs. And the experience you get from those jobs will lead to more of the same experience, becoming your professional experience (and will take up the majority of your life). Please, if you don’t like what you’re doing, try something else, and quickly, like your life depends on it. Because it does. 
  • Don’t get stuck in a routine or job that sucks. Variety is the spice of life.
  • Experiment with the lifestyle aspect of working. Instead of pursuing what interests you topically, think about the many different factors involved in a particular line of work. The hours, the location, the kinds of people you’ll be engaged with every day. These things matter.
  • I know you never cared about the money part of your career plans; without hesitation you turned down an offer to get a full ride through college if you became a doctor or lawyer. You weren’t afraid of the starving artist thing. But girl, you starved your inner artist. 
  • Please feed that inner artist! Create things. Write. 
  • For the love of god do not let bills and debt keep you from your creativity, from being curious and exploring more of who you are. The money thing is waiting to trap you like it does so many others. Don’t give it that power. Make it work for you. If you refuse to let it get in the way, it will get out of your way. Maybe even support you along the way…
  • I suspect, although I have yet to fully test this, that if you work for yourself in service of others (i.e. give everything you’ve got), the money thing will work itself out.
  • It is very possible that you may chicken out, and invent a ruse to keep you from your true path. Be brave, young me. Go forth and do the real work of living your life, and being yourself, and giving from your heart, with love. 

“Work is love made visible.” – Kahlil Gibran 

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