The Rest You Must Invent


Just trying to keep it in perspective. (Salt mines, Czech Republic) 


You think the world owes you
It don’t owe you a thing.
When it’s given all it can
The rest you must invent.

–Morees Bickman, “Rosebush Inside”

Especially here in America, we think that we deserve the good life. Isn’t it is our birthright? Isn’t it in the constitution? Isn’t it written somewhere?

Even if it is, I would like to know who exactly can honor that contract. Natural disasters, accidents, villains, and just plain chance intervene in our otherwise glorious destiny and sometimes, bad things are going to happen. The good life is not something we should expect; it’s something we have to work for. And even when we do, there are no guarantees.

We are spoiled.

I mention this because it relates to the general conception of what a healthy work life really is. What kinds of demands and expectations can we reasonably place on our work lives?

I personally have a certain criteria, or I never would have bailed on the nine-to-five experience. I’m not looking back. But lately I have been battling a sense of entitlement, one that sometimes lures me into thinking my work (conditions, assignments, schedules, etc.) must be just so. I’m all for self-advocacy, but that’s not always a good thing. I don’t want to get precious about this freelancing thing. At the end of the day, I still want to be a hardworking, contributing member of society who doesn’t bitch when there’s a tough job to be done.

I know this is all very vague. Stay with me–I’m trying to cultivate a little gratitude, here.

The absurdity of my own entitlement recently struck me as I worked on a writing assignment for which I needed to research the corporate steel industry. As I gathered information about the world’s largest steel company, I learned that multiple blasts in the mines in Central Kazakhstan have killed over a hundred workers in the past few years—most of whom have been women. Interestingly, these women have considered themselves lucky to have won a job, and along with it, a bit of independence.

And I have been complaining about having spent too many consecutive days working in my isolated suburban home? At least I know the roof won’t cave in.

I know that’s a dramatic example, but it really touched me. I first read about those Kazakh workers in a pre-blast article that appeared in the company magazine—opposite a health and safety feature. The spirit of these workers reminded me of what an absolute gift it is to have such freedom in my professional life, and made me know it’s all the more important that I not squander that freedom.

I started this blog with an outlook that was (and is) critical of the modern American workplace. But I want to keep that in perspective. In a lot of ways, we’ve got it super-easy.

Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.

Sam Ewing

3 thoughts on “The Rest You Must Invent

  1. Meghan says:

    I’m glad Amy’s head has been removed so that I can have those little reminders to check out the musings of an escaped artist. Thanks!


  2. Amanda says:

    This is a really thoughtful and well-articulated piece. I’m a fellow freelancer, and I often evangelize (on my blog and with my friends) the power of living “off script” – not just following the mainstream expectation of how life is “supposed” be lived, but carving your own path.

    You’re right to point out that even contemplating such a way of life is an incredible, incredible privilege, one deserving of tremendous gratitude. But don’t you think that no matter your circumstances, it is possible to carve your own path? Haven’t artists been doing that since the dawn of time?

    I guess I don’t believe that anyone is doomed to be a victim, but in saying that, I also don’t want to minimize the awesome challenges that people living in cultures of poverty face.

    Anyway, thanks for the thought-provoking piece.

    *Would you consider including the full text of your posts in your RSS feed? I love your writing but the power of RSS is that you don’t have to click into a bunch of separate websites versus reading everything in one place…


  3. Eliza Amos says:

    Yes and Yes!

    To a great extent, I do believe that “no matter your circumstances, it’s possible to carve your own path.” But … I’m not convinced that I am 100% in control of my own destiny; luck and grace factor in as well. My job is to make the very best out of what I am given.

    We are all given different circumstances in this life. In this essay, I wanted to sort of highlight that. I look mostly at office-based discontent, but what about other types of work issues?

    And yes, I’ll fix the RSS doo-hickey.

    Thanks for such a thoughtful comment.


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