There are some words that polarize our thoughts and emotions– one of the greatest ones is work. Ask as many people as you like, but responses usually swing from among the following themes:
- It is a necessary evil — something more negative in sentiment
- It is a necessity — something more positive
- Work is a playground.
The layman commonly swings between the first two, while the third concept is a utopia at best, a general perception of the young, self-made millionaires. But I am not here to talk about them; rather, I am here to share about my recent realization over how I feel about work. The situation is timely, as I have recently started working for a new company, involved with something more out of the box after a period of being unemployed.
When I started working, I only had one reason as to why I did what I did: money, duty, and recognition. After 12 years, I found out that these were not enough to make me stay in a company, and definitely not enough to get me up from bed everyday in the morning.
During my hiatus, I definitely was not idle in looking for employment. I needed the money and I can’t deny that; but I realized that, my need, far over-weighed a greater need. I thought that I did not want to take a certain job because of the schedule (to have more time for myself, do volunteering), or because of its location. Those were excuses, at best, which were everyday issues that could be solved in time and with proper management. What I had been looking for was work that would adopt to me — but I was wrong.
Work is love made visible…
It is such an abstract statement, but once I got around to thinking about it in terms of a relationship, it made more sense. A relationship is not just one way — it is not about what a person can bring to me, but what we can both bring to the table, and how we can benefit from each other.
I have just finished my two-week training at my new workplace, and the quote has been made alive for me in several ways. For instance, while the company needs me for my skills (that I am very much eager to provide), the training has pushed me, and reminded me, that I needed to be excellent. It is neither been a chore, nor it is a favor. Whenever we enter into an employment contract, we are adults who understand what is expected of us.
Of course, nothing less than our best is expected at work. Skills can be taught, knowledge can easily be changed for something else; but what needs the most honing is the element that your mentors and superiors will look into when all else fails: your character.
I have come across the kindest and most compassionate employers. At my worst (read: at a time when I was suffering from burnout leading to depression), not only my supervisor stood up for me, but my manager and human resources department stood up for me as well. They wanted to save my butt. They have known me as hard-working and dedicated, and they were willing to forgive my poor performance and gross violations for a certain period — but I had already given up on myself. I was even ready to take alms for that.
I learned that changing jobs did not help fill the void. While there were things that made my happy about the second workplace (office friends, choir, art group, parties, bonuses), I realized that they were fleeting and could be taken away at any time. If I anchored my happiness on things that easily change, I will be off to another burnout, and I just couldn’t afford to face another work-related depression all over again.
Gradually, in my relationship with Jesus, I learned that there is a thing such as joy, and how it differs from happiness. Happiness depends on happenings — fleeting, changing things; but joy, is something more resilient. Joy comes hand in hand with faith, peace, and love that only God can provide. As I transitioned from a season of unemployment to that of having to work, I prayed that God would take away the scales from my eyes, so that I will see as to why He has put me where I am. I wanted to see His hands at work.
I saw that my character needed evolution. I now find myself way beyond my comfort zone: in a business with currently unsure return-on-investment? Check! Graveyard shift? Check! BPO dealing with finances instead of IT or back-office support? Check!
Thing is, I had to see beyond my discomfort — not to fool my brain into comfort, but to see the gems underneath the dirt. The business I am in, for instance, has allowed me do things that I am passionate about: writing, education, culture, history, arts. I have come to enjoy the perks of the graveyard shift. Dealing with the financial industry has made me learn the heart and the character behind businesses and the art of negotiation (which, as you may guess, is also beneficial to the business I am now into). Dealing with people I will not necessarily like on the get-go has tested my heart — am I truly the follower of Jesus that I have claimed myself to be?
It is alright to say that you do not love your job, but it is quite something to work with joy, and with love. With that kind of perspective, I believe that I can take on any job, or leave without regret.
I have long thought that after my challenges in my professional life, I would just carry my wounds with me. But wounds heal — and scars take on odd, but different shapes as well. I can get up from my position of taking alms, even if it were just in my mind, and get up and embrace working with love.