Friday, 8 April 2011

¿A qué te dedicas?

This week I am staying with the Grandparents at their house on the south coast of Spain.  They’ve lived here for almost seven years now, they love it but they miss the grandchildren, so I try to visit them at least once a year.  My Grandfather is a smart man, a retired businessman with a strong mind.  We usually engage in debates about something or other as we sit under the stars on the porch, his traditional conservatism contrasting with my postmodern liberalism.  It’s a great bonding tool.  A topic that seems to have dominated our conversation this week is the topic of careers.  ‘What do you want to do with your life when you leave university?

The truth is I have absolutely no idea what I want to do…  Here in Spain the recession has hit harder than most places, surprisingly even worse than in the UK.  People are running around looking for any kind of work they can lay their hands on, men even walking the main roads clutching hand written signs, offering to clean your car inside and out for a mere €3.  The desperation is shocking.  A person’s job is often central to their life.  In most cases people would argue that their job is their life, financial income being their source of food, housing and health care.  As well as bringing such security, our jobs seem to play a huge part in our identity and our social life.  When we introduce ourselves to people we often say our name, age, and what we do for a living.  When we make friends, we are more inclined toward those who have interesting careers, keeping useful contacts to boost our social framework.  It is so easy to judge a persons entire personality based on what they do for a living.

So those of us who are holding that pin, where do we want to place ourselves upon the map of socioeconomic institutes that make up the working world?  At the moment I don’t want to do anything.  But simultaneously I don’t want to do nothing.  So where do I go?  I’ve been discussing various careers with my Grandfather and he has been suggesting areas of work that pay well, careers that haven’t been threatened by the recession.  I feel I suit none of his suggestions.  I find myself considering these jobs merely out of necessity rather than real interest.  But then I think: why should I do something that has no real worth?  After all, what is money gained when precious time is spent?  I’m with Morrissey on this one: I was looking for a job and then I found a job, and heaven knows I’m miserable now… in my life, why do I give valuable time, to people who don’t care if I live or I die?

So does having a job mean sacrificing your spirit?  Too many people today are doing jobs because they ‘have’ to, the stress and competitiveness of the work place driving people insane.  People have forgotten about the things they really love.  How many people have you heard uttering phrases such as ‘I always wanted to do this but…’ and ‘I wish I’d have tried this when I was younger’?  The pressure of finding a career smothers any real flame of passion that might have burned within us, many of us going for life roles that bring us the greatest financial gain or the strongest sense of security.  Following this comes the death of spontaneity.

I’m not saying that this is the case for everyone.  I’m sure that there are many people that love their job and are quite happy to work hard in a career for the majority of their lives.  I’m simply saying that perhaps we should question the system: how do we know it’s right?  I’m no economist, but it seems to work economically (most of the time), but how does it work for the soul of the individual?  We are not inclined to ask such questions because we are all born into this system, and we are taught from a young age to live and work for our future.  We go to school to learn the basics to then move up to secondary school, then we work hard to attain enough GCSE’s to get into a good college or sixth form, work even more to get sufficient A Levels to get into a good university, and then get lost somewhere between 1st class degrees, masters degrees and PhD’s.  Then you compete to get into a career, work your ass off, retire and die.  The idea is that you can’t have fun until you retire, but then only during the time between hip replacement operations and queuing for your pension to pay for your TV license before (heaven forbid) you can no longer watch Corrie and Strictly Come Dancing!

It’s depressing to even think about let alone to live it out!  To me it seems clear that the system is all wrong.  Working nine till five in one job doing one thing, day after day after day, is the most torturous idea I can imagine.  Where is the freedom, the passion, the spontaneity.  Where is the living in ‘making a living’?  I know what you’re thinking, ‘what a ridiculous sensationalist idea!’ but why does it have to be so? 
‘…and if you must go to work tomorrow, well if I were you I really wouldn’t bother, for there are brighter sides to life and I should know because I’ve seen them…’
                                                                                   - Steven Patrick Morrissey


  1. Interesting read, I think it is important to find the right career path initially before you get caught and stuck in one you won't enjoy in the long run. But don't worry Annie, you'll find something you will love soon enough. I look forward to reading your next blog.

  2. I think you've hit a very interesting, thought provoking point which is what do you live for? If you live for your job, or your job is the centre point of your life, then satisfaction in life is gonna be hard to come by if you can't get a job which you enjoy and pays well at the same time!

    I would perhaps state, at risk of sounding super spiritual, that Jesus and the Christian life at the centre of your existence will cause whatever you choose to do to be fulfilling and satisfying because the job is no longer the primary focus. Rather, the job acts as a channel which serves you to live out the life you want to live, of freedom, passion and spontaneity, guided by Him.

    Admittedly, I can only project this point from the position of a student but I have found it to be true thus far and also in observation of others such as my parents or those in the church. =)

  3. I'm home now, so I can write something better aha...

    I have to say, I completely agree with you!

    I hate the idea that we only do jobs for money, I'd much rather do something I enjoy, even if it paid less; but needs must, and it is soul destroying doing something you don't really like doing =[
    Personally (probably because I agree with you like)I don't think it's is that much of a sensationalist idea...but then again, I'm very open minded towards the stability of the 'system'...
    I mean, most of our generation can't imagine a different system, but when you ask our parents, they'll say 'it wasn't like this when I was your age'.
    And I don't think it will be like this when we are older...
    Well I hope it isn't aha.
    Time will tell I guess.

    Keep up the writing =] x

  4. Interesting read...
    just something that crossed my mind...haven't really thought it through much, but maybe the problem runs deeper... living the kind of career centred approach you speak of is an inherently selfish thing to do, but equally, so is doing what we really want to, what we have a passion for, living in the way you propose. Both ways are wrong as both are selfish, one from a 'me in relation to the world' way, and one in a 'me in relation to myself' way.
    perhaps deeper fulfillment would come from serving others, living not for ourselves, but genuinely seeking to do what God wants for us (if you are a believer), living in order to bring happiness to others. Perhaps if we changed our attitude to life in that respect the world, and in turn we, would be happier in doing whatever we turn to, as we would be surrounded by others who are looking to make us happy. In such an atmosphere whatever we do would be a joy, and we wouldn't need to keep searching for freedom, passion, spontaneity, others would be bestowing it upon us.
    In as much as your concept is sensationalist mine is idealistic, but nevertheless, as you say, why [do they] have to be so?
    Anyway, keep up the writing, it's really great.
    God bless.

  5. Epic blog again! But.....
    To take a different view on working could we say that today we have more choice than ever about what to do with our lives? Whereas in the past people tended to stick to one area of work we now have more freedom to switch between different areas of work, admittedly this only really works if you have the qualifications to be able to enter into different types of jobs but still...
    If we look back at history people had a lot less choice and had to take whatever work was available to survive; for instance in the industrial revolution people working in the cities had to work a 12 hour day as standard whilst living in cramped conditions with little or no healthcare and noting but the workhouse to fall back on. In addition a large part of this work was undertaken by children until child labour was finally outlawed in 1878. With the welfare state we have in place today(although not perfect at all and highly abused)nobody has to live in fear of dying of starvation or disease as in the past and therefore don't have to take a job purely to survive but to maintain the standard of living we are used to or want to acquire. With laws limiting working hours and governing the minimum wage we occupy a more humane work place than in the past.
    If we look at women it wasn't until the 1970's that equal pay was won, although the situation for women in the workplace is by no means perfect could it be argued that its better than it was in the past?
    Many people also see a job as a form of independence and a way of increasing your self esteem, to be a able to go out and achieve something.
    Also, although I agree that we can lean towards making friends with people who have interesting careers I don't think that is always the main concern, certainly for me it isn't. Some of my closest friends are people who could be said are doing very little with their lives but I'm friends with them because of who they are as a person, how they make me feel and because I love spending time with them, not for something as superficial as what they do for a living.
    I do totally agree with you though that the system is all wrong. The focus in our society is too often on financial gain and living a consumeristic lifestyle when it should be on our well-being and how much we enjoy our lives. I'll never agree with the way the system works, I've been brought up by parents who have rejected and hate the system in many ways and the view that anyone who holds power is a self-seeking greedy bastard, a view I often find hard to deny. As a result I could never do a job just for the money, I want to do something I enjoy and benefits other people. My family has never had spare money and we sacrifice many things such as never having brand new goods and very rarely going on holiday but I can honestly say I'd rather have family and friends round me I love rather than money, I've survived without any excess money for 19 years after all!
    So sorry for the mahoosive comment! I just thought of a few things to write :P haha.
    And I really enjoyed reading your blog :D xx

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  7. Thanks for all your comments guys!

    I agree with Josh and Martin when it comes to serving others and most of all serving God. I avoided going into all that, that's another blog for another time I think... But I would definitely say that if we didn't get sucked in to such time consuming, soul destroying careers, we would most certainly have more time to give to others and more freedom to respond to the things God calls us to do.

    Emma I love your comment. It's so typically you hehe! Your sociological points are great, the working world has definitely improved over time, especially for us working class women! (trust you to play the class card!) And I agree that a persons career is not the dominating factor we look for in friendships, but that it is a small factor that is there, and perhaps will bear stronger inclinations when we are older. (Don't worry, I won't cross you off my friendship list when you're cleaning bogs for a living!)

    I only hope that everyone who reads this will ask themselves these vital questions while we're still holding that pin!

    Really appreciating the feedback!
    Keep reading :)

  8. Hey Annie, good post.

    I don't think it is sensationalist - but I do think it takes only a narrow scope. (On another note, Britain actually did better than almost any other European country through the recession in terms of how much it actually affected people on the ground - so far.)

    I think that you are right and that many people find the idea of a 9-5 job day in and out everyday and every month utterly torturous. But they still do it. And many people will feel somewhat unfulfilled by their job, it won't give them all they want, it won't be the job they dreamed of, but the job they need. Some people work to get more money so they can have a better life for themselves, so their retirement can be easier, so they can reap the rewards of the wages and positions for themselves. But I suspect this is less people than a cynic might expect. From the people I know their priorities for having a job and the job they do are actually much simpler, much more real. Most people have families. Most people by the time they get into their career will end up having children. Their life is not in their work, in is in their kids. They sacrifice their perfect job and their personal freedoms and they substitute it for the needs and dreams and lives and freedoms of their children.

    Then there are the people who do jobs not for the money and for themselves, but for other people - the doctors, the policemen, the jurors, the firemen. Then you also have people like me who find a vocation placed upon them but who take it up even though they may desire, or have desired, other things.

    And in our society there is no job that isn't important to you. the jobs may be 9-5, they may be monotonous, they may be torturous and limit personal freedoms, but they are crucially important. Society as a whole needs doctors, teachers, rubbish collectors, cleaners, phone-line handlers at the bank, lawyers, academics, shelf-stackers, shop assistants... Society needs these jobs done if it is to remain to the physical living standard it provides, and people need these jobs regardless of their own desires and wills, without them they lose their house, they have no money, they live on the street - and 9-5 is preferable to that.

    I think you are correct, society has not got it right. But I don't think I would go so far as to say that society has got it wrong. In Uganda and other LEDC's most people don't have jobs, they have to try and grow their own food and be totally self-sufficient. Those who do have jobs often don't work 9-5, they work 8-8 or even 7-9, and often for less than a £1 a day. Society does not help, they don't have people doing specific jobs that benefit the whole like we do. The torturous jobs of 9-5 day in and day out may seem the worst possible thing, may stifle imagination and dreams and freedom - but they provide your university eduction, your free eduction, your free healthcare, your very chance to have any real choice of what to do in your life no matter how limited it may be by current and pressing nation and personal economic situations.

    Society is messed up in many ways, but I think it could be a lot lot lot worse. Nonetheless, when people find identity and social station in their jobs and economic value, then something is wrong. And I agree that that needs to change. Many people instead find their identity and meaning in their family, or in what their job does/gives to others, or what they do with the free time they might have. I agree with Josh that we should place it in Christ. Despite 8-8 day in day out working in an insanely hot and dirty environment, many Ugandans are happy, joyful, they are happy with their job, they see it, what ever it may be, as an opportunity to show what their real identity as a person is to others, they see the job as a gift.

    If everyone took Morrissey's advice, everyone would live in dust and ashes with no opportunity to do anything spontaneous.

  9. I resent that last comment re:Morrissey. :|

    Overall it would seem that you've had a better experience than I have when it comes to careers. It seems easy to say for someone as yourself who has a career, someone who knows exactly where God wants them to be, whereas I myself and the majority of others have absolutely no idea and therefore find themselves reaching out desperately for any kind of career they can take.

    Also, as one who has grown up in and around families that devote their lives to one another, I can see why you would say such things. But to me these cases seem extremely rare, I know very few families that thoroughly enjoy the time they spend with one another, and often time spent together is a chore rather than a source of happiness. Of course I was never saying that all cases are this way, only the majority.

    Thanks for your feedback :)
    Also happy to hear that your experience in Uganda has helped you to appreciate the way you live.

  10. me ha gustado mucho, Annie! :)