Recently a close friend of mine mentioned that she'd started a new job and would only be working part time from now on. In some ways I felt bad. My friend and I met back in 2006. We both worked at the same place. It was my first job after college. My friend graduated a year before me so she had a little more work experience than I did at the time. In our profession, everyone has to "do their time" so to speak in a job that is less than desirable. We are required to have two years of formal supervision by a licensed professional before we can apply for a license to practice independently. Without the license, job opportunities are limited and income is low.
This was the situation both my friend and I were in when we met. Neither of us liked our jobs very much and we were both struggling financially. We'd expected the years immediately after graduation to be difficult but I don't think either of us expected it to be as bad as it was. But we got through it. Eventually she ended up moving back to her home town and completing her licensing requirements there.
After sharing an employer for a few years our occupational paths diverged. We both got licensed as independent practitioners and set out to find better jobs. I found a job with my currently employer doing outpatient psychotherapy. I've been at this job for five and a half years. The time has pased quickly. My friend wasn't able to find her "dream job" right away so she accepted a job she didn't like very much while she continued to search for better opportunities. Except they never came, despite her best efforts. She stayed where she was for about two years. At that point, things were so unpleasant for her that she was willing to work just about anywhere else just to get away. She took another job that was not really what she wanted but it was all that was available at the time. She worked there for another couple of years but became increasingly unhappy with it. In the meantime, she met a great guy and they got married. Now they are getting ready to start a family. With her husband's encouragement, my friend left her job and accepted a part time position with a different company.
As I said before, part of me felt bad for my friend. She's spent her whole career working at places she hates. I know how miserable it is to hate your job. Every morning is a struggle. Sunday nights are filled with dread of the upcoming work week. You want to quit but you can't; you have bills to pay. You feel trapped.
I also feel fortunate. I work at a place where I am valued by my supervisors and coworkers. The workload is managable. I set my own schedule (with guidelines, of course) and the work hours are managable. I don't ever have to be on call; when I leave work I leave work. I have my own little office I can escape to. My salary is set; I always know how much my paycheck will be. My job isn't perfect, but I've got a pretty good deal.
So why do I also feel envious of my friend? I felt kind of bad when my friend told me she was only working part time but I also felt jealous. "Man, I'd love to only work part time," I said to myself. I thought about all the things I could do with the extra hours I'd have every day. "Better still," I thought. "It would be nice not to have to work at all." I'm sure I'm not the only one who has ever had this fantasy. The majority of us spend most of our lives working hard so we can retire and spend our golden years in leisure. So sure, we all dream about not having to work. I just wonder if everyone dreams about it as much as I do...
I got my first "real" job when I was sixteen. The rule was if I wanted to drive I had to pay for gas and for car insurance. That meant I had to get a job. When you have no experience and few marketable skills you basically take whatever job you can get. I took a job cleaning tables, sweeping floors, and washing dishes. I hated it. Immediately. I can still recall the dread that bore down on me before each shift. The days seemed endless. I didn't last very long there. Within two months I found another job and quit.
The new job was at a grocery store, ringing up groceries. This wasn't as bad as sweeping floors but I can't say that I liked it. I worked there for about a year and then got a job waiting tables. I'm clumsy and uncoordinated; I was not a very good waitress. I lasted about nine months and then found a job at a big department store. This was by far the best place I'd ever worked. Still, I dreaded going to work and worked as few hours as I could get away with.
Of course my job now is far better than anything I did before college. I never dread going to work. And yet, I never want to go to work. I spend all week counting the days until the weekend. Each month I check the calendar for holidays. I look forward to things like Columbus Day, Presidents' Day, and Veterans' Day for weeks in advance. I am always aware of the next day I have off. Is this normal?
I wonder why I feel this way about work. I sometimes think I must be lazy but I hate to think of myself that way. What do you think? What is your relationship to work? How do you feel about it?