Why Do You Work?

Job Arial view

Which is more important to you: time or money?

 

Why do you work? To be successful, to maintain a certain standard of living, to find your identity and purpose, or for some other reason?

 

I decided in 2nd grade that I was going to be an engineer. My reasons were varied and diverse:

  • My dad was an engineer, and I wanted to be like him.
  • I enjoyed math and science; problem solving was a fun hobby for me. I was always up for a mental challenge.
  • Smart people become engineers, and I wanted to be thought of as smart and successful.
  • I liked objective subjects, where no one could give me a bad grade without being able to justify their actions (like when I got a C on my first history paper because my teacher “just didn’t think it was well written” even though all of my facts were accurate).

Having earned an engineering degree and having worked at a major oil company for seven years now, I have come to find that working in the business world is not all that I imagined.

  • Though my dad was an engineer, he worked at a small company where he rose through the ranks and set the tone for a culture that appreciated creative problem solving and new ideas. This is not the case at a Major. When my dad’s little company got bought out by a giant, he disliked his once enjoyable career as much as I do now. Although my company recruits creative, self-motivated, intelligent individuals, it takes those brilliant minds and sticks them deep within the confines of The Machine, where they are no more than a cog in the wheel, and all individual thought is not only stifled but punished.
  • Problem solving is fun when dealing with a closed set – like an Agatha Christie murder mystery where all of the suspects are snowed in to a log cabin, minimizing unforeseen variables. But the real world is messy, and there are an infinite number of variables that are impossible to control or calculate into a solution. This is significantly less fun than the problem sets I solved for fun as a kid.
  • As I have written about multiple times, simply having an engineering degree – and even being a well spoken and intelligent person – does not mean that people will think you are smart and successful. My boss thinks I’m incompetent just because our working styles don’t align.
  • Although in school, math homework has a right or wrong answer, in Corporate America, workers get graded based on subjective opinions and perceptions, many of which are more a reflection of the manager than the employee being evaluated.

While our parents worked primarily to earn a living, Millennials are generally driven by a need for purpose and identity; to find meaning in their work. I hate to ever be a part of the crowd, but of late, I find myself fitting the generalization. Money is not much of a motivator for me. At this stage of life – having experienced all that I have at the hands of Corporate America – I would rather earn less and be more fulfilled in my work. Which is why I have started working on my Teaching Certification in the hopes of teaching junior high math.

Some fellow Christians will tell me (and have told me) that I should find my identity in Christ and not in my job. That’s true, but that’s no reason to stay at a miserable job. The bible says in Ecclesiastes that “there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work” (2:24), and again, that “that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work” (3:22).

Some lower-income friends will tell me (and have told me) that money is not a motivator now because I’ve never had to go without. While that may be true, I imagine there is a lot of character development to be had from learning to restrict spending as a result of voluntarily taking a pay cut.

Some friends will tell me (and have told me) that every job will have its frustrations and disappointments. While I acknowledge that to be true, I also believe that – if every job has its challenges, and every work environment has a couple of “difficult personalities” to deal with – I may as well enjoy the work itself. I’ve spent seven years not enjoying my workload in addition to dealing with difficult people.

There have been countless closed doors over the past seven years of trying to change careers. But I’m prayerfully considering yet another attempt at a new career path, and hopefully God sees fit to swing the right door wide open, whether it’s teaching or something else I have yet to even consider.

I’m hoping it’s teaching though. After all, teachers have the best blogging material.

Authentically Aurora

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The Beauty of Specialization

Shaq Emmitt

Specialization is a great concept. It allows economies to grow and thrive, and it allows individuals to dive deeply into a certain area of interest. A lot of us want to spend time with (perhaps even date or marry) those who we view as our intellectual peers, and the idea of specialization allows each of us to feel like a subject matter expert in our area of specialty while leaving room for others to shine in their own brilliance.

For instance, last night I was at a birthday party (Grant‘s birthday party, actually), and while the birthday boy was introducing me around, we stopped for a while to talk with his friend James.

James is a tall glass of water – broad-shouldered and well over six foot – with a messy mop of brown hair. At one point, Grant asked James, “Hey, how’s your hand, man?” James produced his hand with a shrug, saying that it was “healing up alright.”

Grant suddenly looked around the group, excited, and asked us, “Hey, can anyone guess how he got this wound?” A couple of the girls glanced at it and answered with a giggle, “A paper cut!” But I took James’ hand in my own and studied it for a moment.

The deep gash looked like a cut, but it was wide and confined to the length of two fingers on the inside of his palm. I glanced down at James’ attire: jeans, boots and a huge belt buckle. I smiled to myself and declared with confidence, “A rope burn.”

Grant and James both looked at me in surprise, eyes bugging out. “Wow! Yeah… you’re right…” Grant could not seem to wrap his mind around the fact that I had identified the wound so quickly, so I shrugged to James and admitted, “I was an EMT during my college years.”

A little while later, I glanced up at the TV screen mounted on the wall, where sports had been airing all night. I recognized one of the four sportscasters, but I couldn’t but a name to his face. He was a large, black man who looked like a former athlete I used to root for, so I leaned over to James and shouted over the noise, “Hey, who’s that sportscaster on the far left?”

James glanced up to the TV for about half a second and said simply, “Shaq.”

“Oh, yeah,” I agreed, nodding. “I knew I recognized him. I was going to say either Shaq or Emmitt Smith.”

My comment was made in all sincerity; I am really that ignorant of professional athletes, but James thought it was so funny that he yelled across the table to Grant. “HA! Did you hear what she just said?!”

James relayed the story to Grant, who laughed and said, “It’s basketball on the TV! Why would you think it was Emmitt Smith?”

I shrugged meekly. I wasn’t trying to be funny; just displaying my sports ignorance for all to see.

When Grant saw my discomfort, his face transformed immediately to one of warmth and affection. “Don’t ever change, Aurora,” he told me with an intensity to his gaze. And he kissed my forehead.

Authentically Aurora