As a grad school student, nay MBA candidate, a huge proportion of my time revolves around not only training for future work (much of my yet unearned money as well), but also around THINKING about work. Trying to figure out how it all fits together, meaning of life, mission, goals, lifestyle, money, networking, keeping up to date, qualifications, etc. Though many professionals spend 12 hours a day working, I would daresay that on many days, i spend just as much if not more mental energy on school work, various career related events and seminars, and jus THINKING about my career all the time. This really can’t be healthy.
I think some of us (I’m talking about me here) sell ourselves the lie that we have to find happiness at work. That work is one of the few worthy endeavors of human kind, and we should like working and like our work and be devoted to it, all the more so if single and childless. When you think of work as the main source of meaning and fulfillment in life, it does get blown out of proportion inded. Especially when so much ego is tied up in your job and career prospects, and money is the ultimate American scoreboard. It’s the protestant work ethic (even though I’m Catholic) plus “live your passion” plus make money plus post-recession generation dilemma. Maybe it’s just an age old dilemma, but I don’t think so. I think in the past people were just happy to have enough money and not hate their jobs. Well, some people anyway. My parents, at least, didn’t need to be fast track stars to feel fulfilled or worthy. Work is such a tricky, weighty subject, and our perspections of it are certainly influenced by our environment and upbringing. Ambition is a quality society highly encourages, but the question remains, Ambitious to do what? And WHY? And once this questioning hits, the confusion over work reaches an even greater level.
Existential questioning about work is tiring. And largely irrelevant, at leaast compared to actually taking concrete steps towards your goals. And you know, the tombstone test. How many tombstones read: “He was a hard worker” “She went to Harvard” “She was a CEO” or even “She worked for Save the Whales”? Is that how you want to be remembered, or what you want to be remembered for?
Today, I went to the French Pantheon. Interred there are great luminaries, patriots, statesman and military men. Diderot, Voltaire, Rousseau, Dumas to name a few.
I was kind of horrified at the cult of great men in France. They are but men after all. Napoleon’s Tomb at Les Invalides is Though of course we in America have our Lincoln Memorial and such, I find the fact that a men in such recent memory, well after the Declaration des droits de l’homme and quite a long time after the age of the pharoahs thought to be living gods, are so worshipped to be slightly off-putting. Fanfare to the Common Man notwithstanding, I think the fact that I don’t know where Washington and all our Founding Fathers are buried, that is to say, probably in their respective family plots, much more dignfied. Inspiring humility in comparison- their deeds certainly live on even if people aren’t taking pictures of their tombs. Even if I ever do anything so great, I don’t think I would want to be put on display like that in my final rest.
Thanks, mortality, for putting it all into perspective. There’s a big difference between humility and accepting mediocrity, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with aspiring to be great and putting in all the elbow grease to get there. That said, maybe we can focus on doing our life’s work a day at a time; a penny in a beggar’s cup, smiling at a child who crosses your path, doing the best you can on this step of the journey.