She had hope in her voice when she asked how I liked my job. I was tempted to lie. She knew how challenging things were at the last place. I hated to disappoint her. “It’s ok, ” I responded. I couldn’t lie. She was disappointed. “Just ok?,” she continued. “Yeah, just okay. I’m grateful for it,” I said and smiled. She looked confused. “It’s a job Ash. And for that I am grateful but it’s there’s work that I love to do and sometimes that happens at my job, most of the time it doesn’t. That’s okay. I didn’t expect my job to be the place I did my most fulfilling work. But then again I see a job and work as two different things.” She looked mildly satisfied with my response.
Work and jobs are not one in the same. Work, you will do until you cease to be or cease to be capable. If you are fortunate you may have a job that allows you to do work that you love. If you’re not so fortunate then be grateful for the job, see it for what it is, and make room for the work you want to do that would yield similar benefits to a job (i.e. steady income, ability to cover health insurance, etc.)
The things that matter to us are the things we work with, towards, for, and out. Work is not a desk, a shift of 8, 14, 24, or 36 hours. It is not a destination, doesn’t have a 20 or 60 minute commute. There is no 10 year or 25 year anniversary and no retirement. That’s a job.I think, at least in the U.S. we have made jobs work and this when we leave or finish a job, we think that our work is complete too. Wrong.
When I tell people I don’t love my job but I love my work they look puzzled. I smile and wait patiently hoping they get it. Usually they don’t. So I tell them that I love being creative, helping people, having hard but necessary conversations that offer insight, hope, and empowerment. I love creating spaces for people to explore, create, and recreate themselves. I get great joy from providing tools to help people work at relationships. I love allowing people to be courageous in telling their story or changing their story. I even love calling out ignorant and privileged administrators who sprinkle their ill informed ideas with microaggressions and exclusive commentary. However, I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT LOVE my job.
I do not love the constraints of a schedule, the questioning of my authority or expertise often because of the color of my skin, gender, or age. I do not love meetings or antiquated systems that were never designed to help or support the people I love to partner and work with. I do not love spaces that I can’t feng shui on a whim, or being able to freely choose to work in my home, Starbucks, or the library if that’s what I deem necessary to be productive and effective. I do love not being able to plan travel when I desire because of an event to help staff. I do enjoy being effective in 4 hours but having to stick around for another four because that’s part of my job. I don’t enjoy being surrounded by a majority of folks who can spell change but have not desire or concept of what that looks like. I loathe being placated and politics that are more times than not self serving and maintain a crabs in the bucket culture. See, ewww , I do not love my job. And I don’t just mean the current one. I haven’t loved a job in a long time. I’ve loved the work, the clients, the students, some of my team, and some of my supervisors. My jobs have been tolerable because I can insert work I love.
When I am not at my job I still work. The creativity, conversations, supporting, space creating, writing, all continue. This blog is work I adore, not a job. Speaking at the Black Girl Project Conference in October, work, not a job. All the conferences and workshops I’ve been privileged to o in the past three years have been wonderful hard yet victorious work. My relationships, the familial, friend, and other are work. Yes, you have been fooled again if you think relationships aren’t work. They are. May you choose to relate with those who view you as worthy of that work and vice versa.
This week may you reconsider your perspective of that which you deem work and that which you see as a job. May you find liberty in knowing your job can be just that, a job, and you can still work at, on, with, for that which you are called and created to do. It’s not an either of, but a both and. May you find new energy and strength for your work (work ain’t always easy) and your job, especially if your job supports you (i.e. helps you keep a roof over your head, food in the fridge, bills paid on time, clothe for the kids, etc.) but doesn’t necessarily make room for you to do work that brings you joy. May you find courage and wisdom to work at the relationships that are hard work and express gratitude for the relationships that aren’t hard work ( I heart the ones where we just get each other, but that’s not to be taken for granted). May you fund time to create a plan that allows you to do more work and less job. And finally, may you you have a great week at your job and a great week working!