Well actually I do care. I care if it makes you happy, I care if you have the financial stability you crave, and I care if you are stressed out due to looming redundancies. But in terms of what you do actually meaning anything in the grand scheme of life? Well it just doesn’t. Of course it may have personal and emotional significance to you and/or your friends and family, in which case it is hugely meaningful. What I’m driving at here is that it doesn’t mean anything about you as a person. It doesn’t make you better or worse than any other human being, and it in no way defines who you are. We all have a certain sense of snobbery about us. Even as I write this I am aware of moments in my life where I have been a snob. Having worked at a university and earned a professional wage, I recently did a stint of cleaning work in my local neighborhood. I’d quit my job, was looking for something less stressful for a while AND I happen to genuinely love cleaning. So why not do some cleaning work? My parents were obviously a little disturbed by this sudden change in direction – and social status! They used to enjoy telling people I worked for a local university, and they were very proud of me. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I was proud of myself, in fact. But do you know what I was even more proud of? My decision to quit a job that in the end was making me miserable and do something completely different. It took guts to do that, and it was much more of a personal achievement than any successful job applications I’d ever made. But despite this, and despite really enjoying the work, I still had moments of shame about it. Intense shame whereby I didn’t like to admit what I was doing, especially to former colleagues and other academically successful friends of mine. It was OK in certain situations, but mostly I felt it made me unworthy and I was too embarrassed to chat openly to anyone about it.
It’s a shame really, don’t you think? A huge, colossal sized shame really. Because deep down we all know we’re born equal and die equal. That someone may be cleverer or more beautiful than us, but that it doesn’t make them a more worthy individual. How could it possibly mean that? In a world where people are born into different social and cultural environments and have different experiences and opportunities? It just isn’t a thing. I often think that if aliens were to land, and we explained about the varying perception of two people because one works in a posh deli in a quaint little village, and the other in a cafe selling fried food in a busy town centre, they’d be frankly a little baffled.
Have you ever noticed how obsessed we are as a society about what we do to make money? If you go on a gameshow you give your name, age and occupation. As far as I’m concerned two of those things are irrelevant, unless the contestant is especially proud to have just celebrated a milestone birthday, or they’ve just got a new job that they want to share with the world. But otherwise, what difference does it make if you’re a retired police officer or a part-time bin man?!!!!
The question: “and what do you do?” always baffles me too. I always want to answer with a list of daily hobbies and activities, ending with: “and right this moment I’m stood here talking to you”. That’d surely make them wish they’d never asked.
And what’s with paid work carrying more kudos than the equivalent role but in a voluntary capacity? It’s all work.
Before I get too ranty about the whole thing, I’m going to sign off here and leave you to ponder what a great big bunch of snobs the human race can be.