html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Not free yet.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Not free yet.

My father works. It is what he does. He works professionally until he gets tired, then does yardwork. A few hours of yardwork, then housework until it is time to make dinner. After dinner, he works. I’m not sure where that came from. My Mom claims his Puritan work ethic is a remnant of growing up in New England. My Dad says that ceaseless toil is our heritage as Russian peasants, required by the eternal threats of winter, wolves and Cossacks.

My father didn’t want to work alone, so as kids, we worked. Not like farm kids or anything, but lots more than most urban kids. I’m mostly grateful for that. I am glad that I know how to settle into the rhythms of a chore and like the dirt and physicality of it. It would be twice as hard to do work if I resented it. I’m glad I can put a lot of effort into something and then live in a world that shows the results of my efforts. In sad or lonely times, I’ve turned to work as a friend who will never vary or leave me.

On the other hand, it is not so fun to have internalized a tireless driver who believes I should be working for every instant that I haven’t chosen to do something else. There’s a reason my New Year’s resolutions are for things I’d enjoy; a self-flagellating belief that I should be working harder is my default state, not an annual exception. Not working is a conscious choice for me; the chore list only goes away when I am fully engaged in fun.

A side effect of the belief that I should always be at work is that I never count the work involved in a project. If you should be working all the time, there is no cost for new work. It is simply time diverted from other work. It might even be funner work. So I dismiss almost all considerations of work. I dread emotionally laden work, like moving from an apartment after a break-up, and I’m scared of work I don’t know how to do, like handy-work around the house. But if those components aren’t there, if it is just planning, labor and doing, I’ll do any amount of work to get the fun.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to mention the procrastination value of doing work to avoid doing other work.

s.

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This video game review summarizes my work ethic.

I highly recommend reading the rest, they're very funny.

Justin

5:28 PM  
Anonymous justus said...

I've always believed that people take their own personal circumstances, convince themselves that they "like" them, and then go the additional step of elevating to moral absolutism. In my experience, most of those who talk about "work ethic" simply aren't smart enough to get a job that allows them leisure time.

7:22 PM  
Blogger jens said...

Justin, I think I love you.

In a totally straight, non-gay, way.

Not that there would be anything wrong otherwise.

I AM SO SORRY Old Man Murray died...or pretty much died.

How can you beat:
Starting at the airport, where I bought a copy Daniel Evans' novel "Glory Hole" thinking it was a tale of bravery in the trenches during World War 1, E3 turned out to be four days of constant surprises. The big shock this year? Glory Hole is not a military term. But like the novel "Glory Hole", E3 turned out to still be pretty good. Well, I guess I've talked enough about Glory Holes for one update, so I'll sit here quietly and just think about them while you read E3 2000 Part 2: E3 2001!

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your father sounds like mine-except we never indulged him! (please do tell more about the stories of Russia).

As a Kashmiri, I have to plug my guru here: Bertrand Russell's 'In praise of Idleness'.

2:37 AM  
Anonymous yoyo said...

While everything i have is envious of you, my gut says i end up happier. I'm not sure which is the superior.

11:31 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Yoyo:
I have a lot of respect for happy people, however they get there.

7:14 AM  

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