Work, Work Work…..and funerals?

overworked 2

By Kenneth Justice

A friend of mine was fired last year. After three years on the job as manager of his department he led his division to record sales……upper management let him go in exchange for someone they could give 50% less in salary. My friend was working 60 hours a week for his company…..

Sound familiar?

Being overworked and under-appreciated is not just limited to the vocational setting, how many stay-at-home mom’s and dads are under-appreciated by their loved ones? Spending your whole day with people who’s conversational skills are at the level of a Sesame Street Muppet can be exhausting…..

Western society demands a lot of its workers; employees are expected to ‘sell their soul at the company store’…..and for what?

I think about work quite a bit….

My father was a workaholic. He owned a number of small businesses and had quite a few employees over the years. During my younger years I rarely saw my father unless I was spending the day at the office with him…and even then I was usually hanging out with his employees because he was bouncing from one meeting to the next.

and then one day…… father died.

When we are doing a job we love……we don’t necessarily view it as ‘work’……

But, studies show that less than 10% of people are actually working at a job they love. 

And even for someone like my father…..who was doing something he loved…..what was the end of it all?

My father died with a tremendous amount of unresolved tension between he and my siblings. My oldest sister did not attend his funeral. So did it really matter that he was doing what he loved?

I spent a few years working for a counseling program in the county jail near my house, I worked with the male inmates.

The worst day of the week was Thursday, visiting day……I had to walk through the lobby of the jail, past dozens and dozens of young mom’s and their children who were there to see their incarcerated husbands and boyfriends…it was awful.

These young women are bearing a heavy burden, many of them had to work a 40 hour a week job to stay afloat and on top of it they had to raise their children all-by-themselves…..I made a point to never peak in on their visits because I made the mistake once and saw children crying when their dad’s were taken away from them…..I couldn’t keep my own tears away.

In our society these women are entirely under appreciated…..and what sucks is that in the majority of the cases the women had very little social and peer support; they were on their own.

However….that’s an extreme example. Most people are not in jail…..

For most of us, we go to our jobs, complete our tasks, get back home in time for dinner, we have a good night’s sleep, and then we start the process all over again…..

but what is the end of it all?

Are we doing something we love?

Are we under-appreciating our stay-at-home wives, sisters, and friends?

This post is a different kind of post for me….because the dimensions with regard to work are so varied….there are a million things we discuss….

How about a 25 year old woman who is a barista at one of my regular coffee stops, she makes $12 an hour and wants to go to college, but her family can’t afford to send her. She works very hard….I make quite a bit more than her and I can honestly say she works quite a bit harder than me.

She doesn’t qualify for financial aid because the government says $12 an hour is too much for her to make to qualify……so unless she takes out a loan she is stuck in a cycle that she can’t stop……

How about the unemployed….the people who were laid off and merely want the opportunity to work at a job?

The thread that binds these varied paragraphs together is; work.

Work is a part of life.

Work moves us from one city to the next.

Work can keep us stuck in one city forever.

Too much work can destroy relationships.

Too little work can destroy relationships.

Next to love,  sex, and spirituality, work is perhaps one of the most central components of our lives, it takes up a lot of our time, thoughts, and life…….

So what does it all mean?

I’m not sure…..but I do know that I need another cup of coffee.


Categories: Culture & Society

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41 replies

  1. ah yes, work… such a complicated thing. i’ve been a stay at home mom of five kids and long fought in my own mind, the value of my ‘work’. now i’m about to go to art school, another ‘non’ work pursuit… my husband is a workaholic in denial. my family culture is very work oriented, but i’m the dissenter, in pursuit of happiness. what it all means I don’t know either – but i’m with you on another cup of coffee. 🙂

  2. 1 remarkable piece indeed work work n work brother! Its cold in South Africa so a cup of coffee would do

  3. Yep, having worked in property management,(60 +) hours a week, I learned just how expendible we are! Did you know that the lifespan of any on-site property management position is about two years? And then you move on ONE way or the other! How many times have you seen an apartment complex boast “UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT” on colorful banners. That’s because, you are hired mostly to clean up someone elses mess. At first you are exulted by both owners and tenants, you make promises based on what the owners promise you, and little by little those promises begin to be unkept, causing the honeymoon to eventually end. And whose stuck in the middle? Well of course you are. By then you are so fed-up that you leave OR owners simply begin to undermind you which is almost worse than getting straight out fired. But you see they don’t want to FIRE you because then there is the nasty notion of having to pay out for unemployment. Especially, if they fire you unfairly so instead thay make waves, blame neglect on managers, load you down with extra work and ultimately FORCE you out. So they can hire a new set of dynamic managers to fix the problems, and the BS starts all over again. it’s terrible but it is the way it is! Dang it now I made myself mad all over again! HA!!!!!

  4. I wonder what would happen if we ALL understood that we are selling bits of our time on Earth at our jobs, and ponder what makes someone else’s time on Earth any more (or less) valuable than mine? No amount of skills or education enhances the value of one human life over another, in my opinion. They are, however, excellent forms of expression and tools for contributing to individual and collective well-being. I frequently remind my husband that the rest-room attendant in a public space, who makes sure that the facilities are kept clean and pleasant for everyone, offers a far greater contribution to my personal well-being than the head of a corporation. Yet the attendant is grossly underpaid, the services are taken for granted, and we can’t wait to get out of there and forget about her/him. A paradigm shift is in order, one where we are each equally valued for our contributions and gifts while acknowledging that it is the diversity in expressing that equality that benefits us all. How about another cup of coffee? I’ll make mine a decaf! xoM

    • Margarita,

      wow….good point…yes, people who perform functions in society such as cleaning public bathrooms are entirely undervalued

      and decaf sounds good….I drink regular until noon…decaf the rest of the day 🙂

    • Ma’am, I just want to hug you right now. There are too many people that don’t bother to take notice of those who work such jobs. Thank you.

    • Sadly, there are too many people who don’t appreciate the value of the service they provide. Too many people who do not appreciate the value and beauty of a Life. As I look at what’s going on in the world, I’m hopeful the tide is turning.

  5. Ah work…

    There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t regret choosing my husband more wisely so that I could be at home with my kid(s). I miss out on ALOT of events because I have to work. But working for me is not an option. If I don’t earn money and work, we are homeless and starve.

    Hence, I work. And to be honest. I hate it. I wished I could roam the country taking photographs which is what I really love to do.

    But I work and have since I was 17 years old. The only time I wasn’t working was when I was out of state in college but when I was home, I worked. Once I worked 2 jobs and went to community college full time.

    My father has worked since he was 8 years old to provide for his parents and 3 siblings. He doesn’t know anything else. He has been 2 years retired but the last years at the company he workd 38 years for were devastating to him as they pretty much treated him like shit. He is now dealing with alot of mental and speech issues that borderline Alzheimer’s.

  6. I do love my freelance work, but don’t have enough time for it due to my son.
    Sometimes, when my work keeps me from my son, I feel guilty.
    Balance helps.
    These past few days, I do my work until the middle of the night until yesterday I was down with fever. This afternoon then the fever subsides. It’s good to have the balance

  7. What a great, thought-provoking post. This one hit close to home for me. My father is retired military, receiving a nice pension. He currently owns two businesses and travels the world. He makes a great income.

    He had his first heart attack at age 49 and had become estranged from us kids and lives much of his life separately from his wife. He has started to attempt to make amends, but I know he wishes he would’ve prioritized sooner.

    I wouldn’t call this “living”.

    Not at all.

  8. Oh, how I love this topic. I made a decision to do only what I really want to do, AND make a living at it years ago. I have been self employed for a long time now, and though there are a few times I take a job doing something I’d rather not, for the most part – I am doing what I love.

    I discovered this video on Facebook that really sums up what I believe –

    I hope you all enjoy it.

    Rhan Wilson

  9. ironic that i sit here trying to get caught up on work as i read your post. there are many great points and many great comments on this topic. it is amazing how we get lost in our work. i do thank God that i happen to be among the lucky that i love what i do (darn good thing too because i sure as heck don’t get paid enough haha). some of it is tied up in survival but some i supposed is tied up in that elusive american dream – which varies from person to person. americans really are amongst the most stressed out because of those long work days/weeks. we’re so uptight about things and europeans just aren’t (well at least they don’t appear to be). they take weeks off at a time constantly. seems to me we have it backwards – they work to live and we live to work. its a shame. that’s why i myself, even though i love my job, am trying to branch out; trying to find balance in my life again because it was in that rut of living to work – it’s not healthy. if we can’t get appreciation from others then we should find it for ourselves through other outlets. its not always easy and there are situations where people have more than their fair share of responsibility, but there needs to be a way to de-stress, breathe, etc. i know i decided i needed to treat myself to a meal so i went to the new bubba gump shrimp company last sunday (way expensive and i wouldn’t do that often but hey i felt i needed to pamper myself just once) and it was worth it. even the small things can help bring balance, we just can’t afford to be appreciative even of ourselves on occasion. so i’d say i’d have another cup of coffee but to be honest, i hate coffee haha, and it’s too early for a shot of jack daniels so i guess i’ll stick to some orange juice. 🙂

    • Jen,

      Bubba gump shrimp company??? Like from Forest Gump? Ha….wish they put one of those in around here!

      And you are right on….Americans are one of THE most stressed people groups in the world…..we are up their with the Chinese employees who work for FoxCon and who are jumping off the top of their building they are so stressed out!

      btw….your 3 years younger than me so you still have a few years to grow up and join us adults for a cup of coffee 😉

    • yes there are bubba gump shrimp company restaurants as in the movie forest gump – fabulous place! yeah i have heard about the chinese. that’s scary. i remember when there were all those jokes about going “postal” because of the rash of postal workers well going postal and there were shootings – crazy. they always say stress is a killer but this is an instance where it happens a bit more immediate. as for coffee um yeah i highly doubt that’ll come around but coffee houses tend to serve tea so i can do that 🙂

  10. Reading this at work lol. Trying to find the right balance & perspective for work is one of my great struggles, hopefully one day I’ll figure it out.

  11. Work, when i look at what I do i know I am “in love” with what i do. I am a chef and work everyday with food. I’m artsy by nature, love creating food, writing stories and poetry.

    My supervisor comes to me the other day and hands me an entry form dealing with an eassy about our job. The contest winner wins a trophy and fantastic prize package. She knows I love to write and has read my fiction and my poetry.

    Now the problem is something i love that isn’t my job just became a job. Now something i love is something i “have” to do.

    I think no matter what we love once it becomes work it no longer becomes fun. We don’t want to work we have to. I love my job but i hate working.
    For what its worth.

    • Hughie,

      I am jealous…..I always wanted to be a chef….I love cooking and I’m addicted to every single show Gordon Ramsey produces.

      You make a great point though; I have worked in a number of settings that fit my personality perfectly and that I really loved, but there were definitive moments when I realized that it had turned into ‘work’ because as you said,

      “once it becomes work it no longer becomes fun”….

      well spoken

    • Ken, its not all glitz and glamor! I wish it were, but it is exciting.

  12. Good blog. The work thing is really tricky to balance. Most of us work because we have to and not because we want to.

  13. Work: a means to an end? A life’s work? A work of art? So many meanings. In my line of work (social services meets education meets … ? I sum it up in the phrase “youth-work”), although staff are paid, and they have families to support and bills to pay – the mission of the organization almost supersedes all else. Fortunately, having achieved the level I have now, I can help balance that mentality – “None of us works for a paycheck, although if we couldn’t get paid for this work that we love we couldn’t be happy outside of it. Take time to love and be loved off the clock. If you don’t, you will be no good to our clients or your team.” Still – that took a decade and a half for me to realize.

    I wonder how many people ever get that. Your dad, for example – loved his work as well as his family. Anyone who has ever played one of those games or puzzles where you have an old fashioned scale with little numbered (or unmarked) weights and have to balance the scales by placing various combinations on each of the scales platforms … knows how difficult balancing can be. Frustrating at times, when the worker wants to give a little weight to the work, a little weight to the family and loved ones, and still wants to have a little bit left over for him/herself.

    I think the answer is blogging. Just sayin. LOL

  14. Thoughtful post…sadly I relate oh too. well to the girl at the coffee shop

  15. I enjoyed the read very thought provoking. My Dad was a shift worker, we rarely saw him as we were growing up. He finishing working due to illness at 58 and died at 60. Two years of retirement after a lifetime of work

  16. Good catalyst for some self-reflection. It can be all to easy to make work/career/job a “god” and allow it take a place of importance in our lives that it does not deserve.

  17. This is such a poignant article for me. The company I work for (my full time, bill paying day job), has been going through a reorganization. I’ve had to re-apply for my own job and I won’t know until April 30 whether or not I will have a job past May 4. I have been doing a *lot* of thinking about work lately. I keep thinking about trying to start my own business or focus on my artwork and try to make an honest, real go at it… but, then, there is the need to be able to pay bills and *survive*, which my passions cannot guarantee.

    If you are one of the lucky few that enjoy your work, like your father, then I don’t view it as a waste. Of course, perhaps a workaholic shouldn’t have had children, but, ::shrug::, is there ever really an ideal time or arrangement for raising children? My boyfriend is a bit of a workaholic and I think about these things too, how that might look down the road.

  18. I spent all night in PICU and just got home from a tough evening. I’m salaried, so I don’t get paid to work extra or take call, but that is of little importance when I successfully got a critically ill child on a dialysis circuit, he’s doing well and the PICU staff love me. So I cant even call tonight “work”.
    My husband is also salaried. And abused like nothing I have ever seen. On call for one week at a time with HUNDREDS of pages a night, no sleep other then a few minutes here and there, and absolutely no gratitude for what he does, only complaints. He is grey colored by the time he is done. And he doesn’t get one cent extra for it.
    My experience tonight shows that a little appreciation both ways with the satisfaction that the job you do is a vital part of the workflow, no matter who you are, would make the workplace much easier for everyone.
    I think the most important workers are the ones who have a huge impact on our lives. The utility workers who work 20 hour shifts when the grid goes off in bad weather are my #1 heroes. They should top everyone’s list in my opinion. And I agree with the other comment, thank GOD for the people who keep the toilet paper, soap and towels full in public bathrooms!

  19. Working through indiffrence is hard. The great in it is you are not responsible. You could possibly be? Let the law take care of who is reponsible and find peace of mind that trust will bring one day. The law has forsaken many but that is changing. keep an eye on it, learn to trust that it is not your fault. Corruption simply abused public trust and gained. It doesn’t now.

  20. I totally agree with you and with the comments on here.

    Work and issues around work, take up too much of my time too. For me, it’s not so much the “work” per se, but more about my working relationships with my managers and my colleagues. It’s about relationship building.

    Having said this, I am very much aware of the varying dynamics I seem to have going on with my managers, and by this I mean, that my managers are highly ambitious and very ego driven. They will say and do a multitude of things to showcase themselves to their own managers, providing to them all their deliverables and hard work (at the cost of their subordinates – me) in order for them to look good.

    From my perspective, some of the managers I’ve had the pleasure to work for, have proven nothing more than the fact that they are a bunch of morons, who use their own hierarchical positions as a means to define who they are. Yet, if you remove these morons from their work and meet them outside work (gawd help me), then suddenly I’m confronted by an expert chameleon projecting themselves to me in a different light!.

    Now honestly, who needs that rubbish?

    In my view, and as far as I am concerned, I don’t give a rats a$$ about what positions people hold and what their work status is. What I care about is the type of person they are, and what kind of human being I’m having to deal with each day. I’m not interested about what stuck up notion people have of themselves as managers. It’s that simple.

    I bet you must be loving my notes by now… lol

  21. I have been a work a holic, I resigned from my job of 7 years and was actually able to spend a Christmas wirh my family, it was awesome.

  22. It’s strange I would stumble across, well not stumble across, but have the time to read your posts tonight. Normally I am in bed before the chickens and up before the rooster. I am a workaholic. Not because I want to be but because I must be. And I found the story of your dad very sad because of my present situation. I pray that will not be my fate. Great post, again!

  23. I can relate to too much work…
    People usually don’t realize what they have until it’s gone…
    I get really conflicted on the thought of how much people need to work to make enough to live and move forward… there are people in all sort of economic levels who are happy
    there is a minimum you need…to have a place to live, clothes, food, broaden your horizon…
    but beyond that… it’s all about choices and priority


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