When did the notion of work turn from well, work, into some deep, philosophical, fulfilling adventure? Whenever I talk to friends about work, I notice we can all sound a little entitled while talking about our work lives. We instinctively complain before pointing out the positive parts of our jobs. We want our work to be satisfying, tolerable, and, when possible, fun. We want what we do from 8 AM to 5 PM to be rewarding, fulfilling, and to yield a solid paycheck. But in reality, I don’t have an open-and-shut 9-to-5, I have 6:30 AM emails and 10 PM problem solving. At the end of the day, work is work.
As more disheartened workers are falling victim to quitting their jobs to pursue their travel dreams, we are forgetting that by making that decision, we may be derailing our career in the short and long term. As an HR representative, I see employees so often get upset because work feels like “work” rather than constant “fun.” And to me, it seems a shame to be involved in a great opportunity and wonder what’s wrong because you’re not having riotous all-agency parties like the rest of your professional friends seem to be having. We are made to think that when we find the right job, it won’t be “work,” it will be so much more than that. But here’s the reality: all work — even a dream job — requires hard work.
Fun is relative. I don’t find chamber meetings fun. I don’t find going to board meetings fun. I don’t find the new project I am working on fun. Yet every single one of those insipid tasks is giving me an opportunity to shine, another line on my resumé, the time to learn something new, and the potential for a promotion or a raise. Every time I choose to tackle a responsibility, even one that isn’t “fun,” I take a step forward.
Work has come a long way from what our great-grandparents used to do. We are given laptops and office spaces that we can decorate as our own. We have breakrooms and coworkers who can try our patience sometimes, but are really good cooks or bakers, and like to share. I get free parking and the flexibility to get coffee or a drink from the coke freestyle machine at any time during the day. I also get to order my favorite pens and colored sticky notes and new scissors when mine break, all at no cost to me. And most of all, I get paid to show up and share my ideas, use my experiences and intuition, spend time with other professionals that are much farther along in their career than I am. To top it off, I am challenged and encouraged (or allowed) to contribute to the business, which is a privilege.
When you change your perspective, you change your results. I have to be honest: when I sat down to write this, I did not expect to come out with renewed positivity. But I sat down and forced myself to think of all the positives that come with my job, despite the 40-minute commute each way and a corporate office full of politics, whiners, unfairness, and cattiness. And it worked. This might need to be a weekly exercise because it was well worth going through.
Very few people are so lucky to love every second of what they do and get paid for it. Football players have ridiculous workouts and have to be away from their families. Supermodels must follow strict diets and deal with the media scrutinizing every dimple on their thighs. Baristas have to deal with orders like “grande, nonfat, half-caff, three-pump with whip mocha.” (Yes, I have to admit that sometimes that is my order, but in my defense, even free office coffee loses its flavor when you’ve been drinking it for four days straight.)
For every job, there are ups and there are downs. But work isn’t supposed to be easy or fun all the time. It’s not supposed to be difficult or miserable all the time either. If it is, it is definitely time for a new job. But there is a reason that work is not called “fun and games,” and we need to stop expecting that. I realized that if I manage my expectations and reel them in a little closer to reality, my work life is not bad at all. The definition of work is “mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result and/or as a means of earning income; employment.” That definition does not point to “endless fun,” but it does show that work has purpose, and that gives me hope.
Tania is a compensation and HR professional, mother, wife, and cupcake lover. She’s getting the hang of Twitter, and loves traveling and writing.
Image via Unsplash