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.
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.