• I have a job — that’s all it is

    When I was growing up, there was only one value that was repeated over and over. Or at least there is only one my Swiss cheese memory can recall.

    By most standards, I grew up in a fairly, “normal” home. My parents rarely fought and remained the picture of marital bliss until my mother’s death. We took family vacations and celebrated holidays together. Hell, I’d say we were pretty normal for a family that believed confrontation and resolution were cheap substitutes for grudges and denial. But that’s another matter – perhaps another novel.

    So, this one principle that I so vividly remember was a simple one passed on to me by my father: You have to love what you do. It doesn’t matter what it is, so long as you truly love it. You cannot live a life hating your occupation.

    To my father’s credit, he lived this belief with complete conviction. I have never seen anyone love his job more than he did. Every day he went to work happy and enthusiastic. When he came home from work, he left all job-related burdens behind. He maintained an absolute state of separation between his vocational life and his familial existence. From the outside, it looked like bliss.

    During my own professional life, and in an attempt to mimic his example, I’ve pursued a number of vocations. First, I was an art director, then a copywriter in advertising. I tried my hand at furniture design. An attempt at sitcom writing followed and not long after that, I took a stab at starting up my own e-commerce business. I also had my own small ad agency on more than one occasion. Each occupation provided relative satisfaction, but not the proverbial brass ring.

    So, I took up writing books, penning my first novel while unemployed, broke, and in the midst of a bitter divorce. Writing about my life experiences in the hopes of helping others benefit from my triumphs and mishaps has turned out to be the thing I love the most. But it is also the one that has proved most elusive and vexing in terms of success. Take my word for it — shepherding one’s work through the raging torrent of a million other manuscripts is perhaps the most formidable challenge on Earth. Everyone is a writer. You are probably a writer. Add to that the immense challenge of balancing one’s personal happiness with the responsibility of financially and emotionally supporting three children and you have the recipe for a level of frustration that can prove soul-crushing at times.

    With financial stability a very real concern, I returned to advertising, where I finally did land my dream job as a copywriter at a big ad agency. At long last, I had the career my father preached about all my life. Every morning I woke up happy and eager to get to work. I literally smiled during my daily commute and there was never a Monday filled with dread at the prospect of returning to work. My dad was right. It wasn’t work. It was play.

    But then came October of 2008 and the crash of our economy and my dream job fell victim to a round of layoffs. In an instant, it was gone.

    I scraped by for eight months, hoping I’d find the happiness. But like so many others who were out of work, the well was dry. So I did what the experts said and looked outside my comfort zone to find a job where I could weather the storm of our nation’s economic uncertainty. Kids were counting on me.

    What I found was a marketing job in Corporate America. What I lost, I am only beginning to calculate.

    I traded my value system for the relative security of a paycheck. In no uncertain terms, I sold my soul to pay my bills. And now, like so many others out in the workforce, the golden handcuffs are locked tight. I no longer look forward to the workweek. In fact, I dread it. The relentless pressure of having to do whatever is asked, whenever it is asked, because it’s, “part of the job” is sucking the life from me.

    Does this admission provide any solice? Not really. All it does is add guilt that I should loathe my job when so many would kill for it. So why bother saying anything at all? Why look like an ingrate when so many people are looking for work? Because I know of countless people whose reality mirrors mine. If I was the only person who felt this level of unhappiness and dysfunction, I might be inclined to look more introspectively at my own attitude about the job.

    But here’s the unspoken reality — misery is rampant within the walls of my Corporate American environment. Of the people I work with, I know of only a handful of individuals who truly love the job. I do envy those folks for being able to live by my father’s standard. Good for them.

    The rest of us seem stuck with a life unfulfilled or hold desperately to a belief that something better exists. Of course, the latter is preferable. As for me, I am filled with unanswered questions. Why do I keep going back to a job I don’t particularly enjoy?

    For now, I have a job. That’s all it is — a job. It simultaneously suffocates me and reminds me that at any moment I can be replaced. I do believe Corporate America likes wielding that kind of perverted power. Knowing its workforce can be replaced by someone willing to work every holiday, weekend and night must provide a deep level of security that stock prices remain high while personal job satisfaction sinks to the bottom of the ocean. To the beast, my name is not Gary Huerta. It is 436565.

    As 2013 begins rolling down the track, I steel myself for yet another campaign to find the happiness my father told me to find.

    I cling to the hope it is really out there and that my dad’s words of wisdom are more than a mirage in the desert.

    I need to find water soon.

    • I am so sorry to hear this Gary. I hope you find joy outside of work so it make the workday more bearable.

      • Maya North

      • January 22, 2013 at 9:01 pm
      • Reply

      Oh, hon, that's so rough. Perhaps because in the 40 years since my first job at 17, I have *never* (not once) had a job I loved, it has been easier for me to detach from such a deep emotional attachment to work–or perhaps it's because the cultural paradigms women have about work are so different. Work is what I do for 4 ten hour days a week. What gives me joy? Writing my column here (where being on the team means I have achieved one of my biggest life dreams). Being a parent to my grown children and a grandmother to my granddaughter. Being married to a man I love and, even better, still like. Your father gave you an awesome paradigm, but you are far, far more than your job–and your job is not the entirety of your life. Hugs…

      • Chris

      • February 2, 2013 at 12:34 pm
      • Reply

      Your dad is a phenomenon. I don’t remember a single time seeing that man angry. Of course I never saw the aftermath of his reaction to some of your misadventures. He never had a chip on his shoulder. He of course owned his own successful business so there is that. I wonder if he would have the same joy had he been doing something else? Was it the job, or was it his persona. Could he have been a happy ditch digger? I’m gonna venture a guess and say yes.
      There is also a generational thing. He could go to work and support a family on his salary alone. There was peace of mind knowing one spouse could manage all the day to day household and kid issues. As you well know raising a family can easily be a full time job, but we now need two salaries, second jobs, and credit cards to make ends meet. So the standards of living are not comparable.
      That said I agree you should keep looking for your bliss. In the short term what will get you through the day? For me it’s the principal of service. I’ve truly found the most joy in life when I am doing something selfless that brings value to others. Sometimes dealing with the anoyances of tasks, it is bringing home that hard earned cash to support my family that gives me some degree of peace.
      Stay strong my friend

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