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Why I Work

February 17, 2010

Lately with the job and everything, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I work. Part of this is obviously about necessity: I work because I need to live. It’s easy to get caught up in the paycheck and benefits, the early morning alarm and the five o’clock exit. But lately, as I am excitedly waiting for the results of the fellowship process, I’ve thought about it again. Why am I so excited about the prospect of this particular job? Even when I like my current job?

These are the reasons I work, aside from the obvious:

1. I work because I love the act of creating something for the first time.
2. I work to be part of something bigger than I can be alone.
3. I work to contribute to the society that supports me.
4. I work because I love the search for something better than what is.
5. I work to change the world.
6. I work because the world doesn’t always believe I can.
7. I work because I love the feeling of accomplishing something I didn’t know I could.

And of course, I don’t mean work simply as wage-work! Plenty of people work in ways that they don’t get paid for, or even often recognized for — mothers or caretakers come to mind in particular. And then there are all the types of work that we do and don’t recognize as work. We learn, for instance, to fix our kitchen sinks or mow the lawn, change our car’s oil, knit, write, cook. These, too, are forms of work.

Also, I realize how immensely privileged I am to be able to work, both legally and physically. Not everybody gets that shot. Not everybody gets to have a choice about the kind of work one does, or where, or who one’s boss is. So I feel very blessed that I do get to have those choices in some way. Maybe that’s at the root of it. It is not what I do, but that I have the choice to do it, and that is a feeling for which I am intensely grateful and aware of my privilege.

Why do you work?

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