On Being a Worker in America

Happy Labor Day! Today we celebrate the American Worker. Or mourn the end of summer. Or shop for great deals.

One of the podcasts I subscribe to is Backstory with the American History Guys. If you’re interested in American History, I highly recommend signing up.

This week’s show talks about the work ethic in America. All my life I’ve heard the adage that if you just work hard, you’ll succeed. And, the corollary: if you don’t succeed, it’s because you didn’t work hard.

I work to give my dog a better life. 

I am a hard worker. When I go to my job, I work. I work the allotted amount of time I’m paid for. I work diligently and I complete tasks assigned to me to the best of my ability. I thought that was what you were supposed to do. You work hard on the job, then come home and work hard to keep up the looks of your home.

But where has it gotten me?

As a child I was taught that God expects hard work from his children. And I wanted to be a good little girl, so I worked hard in school.

Then I went to college and promptly flunked out, because I wanted to play and not work hard. But after working menial labor jobs for a couple of years I decided I’d rather go back to college, and I got my degree. So now I continue to work hard, but I don’t necessarily have to get my hands dirty. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve spent a great deal of time this summer driving from place to place and standing in the heat, and I smelled pretty bad at the end of the day. But I didn’t smell like chicken grease or sour mops, and for that I am grateful.

I often hear that the reason poor people are poor is because they don’t work hard. I don’t believe that. There is a thriving underground economy among the poor, from taxi services to hair styling to child care. It’s the only way some could make a living, so they went with it, but they don’t pay taxes on the income and I know that pisses some middle class folks off. As for the middle class, many became poor after the economic downturn in 2008. People lost their jobs, their homes, and their retirement savings. And while the “numbers” tell us the economy is improving, it’s the rich that continue to prosper while the middle class works just as hard, if not harder, for less money and fewer benefits. When we complain, we’re told to be grateful we even have a job.

If reincarnation is a thing, then in my next life I hope to be a cat who is spoiled rotten. 

It’s funny to me how we extol the virtues of hard work, while working so much is killing us. We’re stressed out. We’re in bad health. We don’t take the vacation time we’re given. And when we are at home or on leave, we’re still checking our email.

One of the things I like about the job I have now is I don’t think about work when I’m not there. This has been a relaxing weekend for me and I haven’t once worried about what awaits me tomorrow. That certainly wasn’t the case in my last job, and you know how they repaid me for my efforts.

Personally, I think this whole notion of hard work is bogus. After all, if you can file bankruptcy numerous times and still be considered a good businessman and viable presidential candidate, why kill myself to make what little money I’m making?

I say it’s time to give up the notion that hard work is going to get you anything but tired. I’m not saying don’t work. You need to survive. Keep a roof over your head. Buy food for yourself and your family. But if you for one moment think your working 80 hours a week is going to get you anything but a heart attack, you’re mistaken. Most folks I see stay in one place their whole lives get those little promotions that bring in a few thousand more dollars a year, but they were also handed a lot more responsibility with that promotion along with a salary that doesn’t provide for overtime.

So do your work, but also enjoy your life. 

Or don’t. The choice is yours. But is that job you have now really worth all you’re giving up for it?




28 thoughts on “On Being a Worker in America

  1. to find a balance between work and enjoying life is sometimes not easy… but life is worth it, I’m sure :o) Happy Labor Day to you :o) I remember the Mount Hairy we got from our two huskies… and I can’t count all the hoovers and dirt devils who bit the dust that time :o)

    1. Yeah, I’m thinking that was part of all that “be a good worker bee” shit we were taught in school so we’d not complain about the repetitiveness of factory work.

  2. You are so right,My previous employment I was lower management,it paid me about £10,000 take home a year,And in that role the upper managment dumped on me with rubbish hours rubbish job and dealt with all the customer service rubbish too and with a whole lot more responsibility,that firm went bankrupt and closed down.The job I do now is still not a great job and I only part-time but the hours I work are great,the immediate team I work with is a great bunch of people,No management responsibility.and those the job I do is a bit boring it is an important one in keeping waste down,I just go in do my job and go home at the end of my shift.No headaches,hassel and I’m just left to get on with it.When I leave everyday the thought of work leaves my head the moment I walk out of the door and I still get a certain amount of job satisfaction that I have gotten everything done that I needed to get done with in the few hours I do.and most days I look forward to go to work as well as look ing forward to finishing work for the day instead of dreading going in to work each day.its a nice feeling, even though I take home a lot less now its enough to do most of what I want to do.xx Rachel

  3. I agree -my humans work so hard and have little to show fur it. Human #1 (the one who feeds me and spoils me and takes me to the vet)- watches the Creature (her 7 year old granddaughter) from 7:30 am – 5 pm Monday – Friday, and is A Beauty Consultant full time, and when she’s not working fur one of those things, she’s writing a book, taking care of me & human #2, and the house, and taking care of sick neighbors. If she got paid for everything she did, I’d have my own purrivate yacht.

    Take time to rest and enjoy your family and pets. Killing yourself just isn’t worth it!


      1. Mol!! Oh yes – I forgot to mention she also works out every day!! 😹 (She has lost 44 pounds and got her blood pressure below normal now)! 😺

  4. Yes, it’s frighteningly sad. Productivity has increased dramatically over the past 30+ years, but wages haven’t kept up. I finally earned my B.A. in December 2008 and hoped I’d see a significant salary increase in my job at an engineering firm, when salary and performance reviews came up at the start of the following year. But that, of course, is when the “Great Recession” had started. My then-project manager used the sudden economic downturn as an excuse for my minimal wage increase; adding that it was company-wide. The company, however, experience a greater-than-expected earnings boost in 2008.

    Several years ago, when I was part of a local Toastmasters club, one of the group’s co-founders insinuated that people garner more respect when they have more financial assets. He noted that when they have “f*** you money” – whether in stocks, bonds or hard cash – their employers don’t mess with them. I became incensed! I asked him if that meant a company’s management had a right to disrespect their lower-ranking, lower-paid employees. He said no and tried in vain to justify his statements. But I was too mad to listen.

    If anyone works and tries to make a decent living, they deserve to be respected. That’s an alien concept to some – especially our elected leaders – but it’s true.

  5. So, so true, Jen. A proper work/life balance can be so elusive. I wish everyone was able to work to live, but so many seem to (out of necessity or choice) live to work.

  6. Hell yeah, thank you! I am one of those people who never seem to have had the ‘break’ that means my hard work has lead to any sort of reward. I got good grades, went to Uni, got a job in the field my degree was in and then was bullied so badly that I had to give up that job for health reasons.

    Took up a new job that I was so ridiculously over-qualified for, but I needed to pay the bills, grew the roll within the company so I was running multiple, multi-lingual marketing campaigns. Yet the company refused to increase my wage in line with my responsibilities.

    Left there and took up another job, where for the first time in my life the wage was good, but this time the work was uninspiring and it was a toss up between a good wage but struggling to get out of bed, or jacking in it and starting again probably with a pay cut.

    I feel that as a society, we are so busy working we forget to live. For me, work will always come second to what matters, I work so I can live, I do not live to work.

    1. You are far wiser than me. I actually thought work could be emotionally fulfilling for me. After crawling away from several jobs battered and bruised, I have finally learned my lesson.

  7. Work/life balance in America is a challenge. Employers are willing to suck the life out of you if you let them but it’s important to draw a line. Being a stress puppy got to me last year and I walked away from it. My health and well being was far more important. And I haven’t looked back since. I applaud anyone who makes the choice to do what feeds their soul as well as puts food on the table. Whatever “it” ends up being. 😉 You go girl…love those sweet fur-babies and enjoy your life.

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