There are few other words that polarize our thoughts and emotions than work. Ask as many people as you like, but responses usually swing between the following themes:
- It is a necessary evil — something more negative in sentiment.
- It is a necessity — something more positive.
- Work is a playground.
The layman commonly swings between the first two, while the third concept is a utopia at best, a general perception of the young, self-made millionaires. But I am not here to talk about them or to ~inspire~ people to be like them — there are other places for that, and besides, we are on our own journeys, and we are our own selves.
What I am here is to share about my recent realization over how I feel about work — and this is timely, as I have recently started with a new company and with an involvement with something more out of the box, after a period of being unemployed.
When I started working, I only had one reason as to why I do what I do: money, duty, and recognition. After 12 years, I found that those three were not enough to make me stay in a company, and definitely not enough to get me up from bed in the morning.
During my “vacation”, I definitely was not idle in looking for employment. I needed the money, and I will not deny that; but I realized that my need far over-weighed a greater need. I thought that I did not want to take a certain job because of the schedule (time for myself, family volunteering…), or because of its location. Those were excuses, at best, and they are everyday issues that can be solved in time, and with proper management. What I had been looking for was work that would adopt to me — but I was wrong.
Work is love made visible…
It is such an abstract statement, but once I got around to thinking about it in terms of a relationship, it made more sense. A relationship is not just one way — it is not about what a person can bring to me, but what we both can bring, and how we can benefit from each other.
I have just finished my two-week training at my new workplace, and the quote has been made alive for me in several ways. For instance, while the company needs me for my skills (that I am very much eager to provide), the training has pushed me, and reminded me, that I needed to be excellent. It is not a chore, it is not a favor. Whenever we enter into an employment contract, we are adults who understand what is expected of us. I am not going to sign up for a Quality Analyst position, and expect to fill the role of Bum Extraordinaire.
Of course, nothing less than our best is expected at work. Skills can be taught, knowledge can easily be changed for something else; but what needs the most honing is the element that your mentors and superiors will look into when all else fails: your character.
I have come across the kindest and most compassionate employers. At my worst (read: at a time when I was suffering from burnout leading to depression), not only my supervisor stood up for me, but my manager and human resources stood up for me as well. They wanted to save my butt. They have known me as hard-working and dedicated, and they were willing to forgive my poor performance and gross violations for a certain period — but I had already given up on myself. To follow the quote, I was already begging for alms in my mind.
I learned that changing jobs did not help fill the void. While there were things that made my happy about the second workplace (office friends, choir, art group, parties, bonuses…), I realize that they are fleeting and can be taken away at any time. If I anchored my happiness to things that easily change, I will be off to another burnout, and I just do not want to have to face work-related depression all over again.
Gradually, in my relationship with Jesus, I learned that there is a thing such as joy, and how it differs from happiness: happiness depends on happenings — fleeting, changing things; but joy, is something more resilient. Joy comes hand in hand with faith, peace, and love that only God can provide. As I transitioned from a season of unemployment to that of having to work, I prayed that God would take away the scales from my eyes, so that I will see as to why He has put me where I am. I wanted to see His hands at work.
I saw that my character needed evolution. I now find myself waaaaay out of my comfort zone: in a business with currently unsure return-on-investment? Check! Graveyard shift? Check! BPO dealing with finances (GASP!) instead of IT or back-office support? Check! Having to work with people who will treat me like an exhibit at a museum or a circus freak? Freaking check!
Thing is, I had to see beyond my discomfort — not to fool my brain into comfort, but to see the gems underneath the dirt. The business I am in, for instance, has me do things that I am passionate about: writing, education, culture, history, arts! I have come to enjoy the perks of the graveyard shift. Dealing with the financial industry has me learn the heart and the character behind businesses and the art of negotiation (which, as you may guess, is also beneficial to the business I am now into). Dealing with people I will not necessarily like on the get-go tests my heart — am I truly the follower of Jesus that I have claimed myself to be?
It is alright to say that you do not love your job, but it is quite something to work with joy, and with love. With that kind of perspective, I believe that I can take on any job, or leave without regret.
I have long thought that after my challenges in my professional life, I would just carry my wounds with me. But wounds heal — and scars take on odd, but different shapes as well. I can get up from my position of taking alms, even if (if not especially) it were just in my mind, and get up and embrace working with love.
ETA [28 March 2016]: This work is also featured on The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf’s Brew Your Best Year campaign website 😀 .