Sunday, August 30, 2009

When the Whistle Blows...

So the question was raised, recently, "Why do you work?"

My first response, instinctively, was, "Because I have to." But something about that answer wouldn't really settle in, and it has continued to nag at me for the last several weeks. I just kept thinking: there has to be more to it. And I have concluded that there is. So here goes.

I do not have to work. I choose to work. Most people, upon hearing that, would automatically assume: trust fund, inheritance, independent wealth, etc. But none of those things are the reasons why I do not have to work. See, if I chose not to work, I could probably collect enough public assistance to survive. I could get food stamps, housing vouchers and welfare benefits. I could shop at Goodwill. I could solicit much-needed items in the name of charity. I could actually probably have all of my basic needs met and then some. So I don't work because I have to work. I work because I want to work. Perhaps a better question would be: why do I want to work?

Simply put, to have a better life. There are several areas of my life that are made better, or enriched, because I work. Because I work, I am able to afford my vehicle - a vehicle that suits our needs, that is reliable, but also that I like. Because I work, I am able to afford my house - a house that I am completely in love with, a house that is an investment. Because I work, I am able to afford cute clothes for Livi (and myself), the food that we want to eat, the things that we want to do, the books that we want to read, et cetera, et cetera.

My work enriches my sense of accomplishment, of usefulness. I enjoy what I do. I love being in leadership, I love innovating, analyzing, creating, producing. Love it. I get to do that in a relatively low-stress setting, working for two men that I respect, who in turn respect me and treat me well. I do not feel as though I am being held against my will 40+ hours a week, even if I would occasionally like to be elsewhere (that, by the way, is completely normal).

My work teaches me. It grows me, stretches me, shows me where I am lacking and ideally will provide me with the means to fill in the gaps. I am extremely fortunate to be working for a very pro-training, pro-development organization. Since starting work there 9 months ago, I have already put in over 120 hours of professional development. And I've been given the freedom to provide access to these same resources for my employees. I know about things now that I was oblivious to this time last year. Things like enterprise architecture and continuity of operations planning and how to write a SQL query that will actually return real, valid results without having to run a user interface that will (maybe) do it for me or spend massive amounts of money paying developers to spend their time writing queries that I can write myself (see: one of my greatest accomplishments this year).

So the benefits of work, for me, surpass mere survival. I work to have a better life in as many ways as work will provide a better life. Maybe that is one reason why my generation is and will continue to be such a mobile workforce. I will choose work that suits my goals for a better life for myself and my daughter. And even within the broad spectrum of what constitutes a 'better life', I will rate the individual elements: money, satisfaction, growth, and base my choices on how I rate those elements. I did just that 9 months ago, and I have to say...I made the right choice.

I am now much more satisfied with my answer to this question. But I would love to know...why do you work?

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