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Work in the USA

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Work in the USA

“You can’t, by just leading your daily life, really see a goddamn thing. You have to force yourself to get into unfamiliar areas. We’re no longer living in a set feudal system.”
-Tom Wolfe

It is my impression that the idea of work in the USA has been perverted into something that people do solely for money, and not for the intention of creating happiness or an otherwise fulfilled life. True ambition, vision, creativity, and professional pride are qualities that seem to be draining out of the American character as work becomes ever more mechanized, rudimentary, and unfulfilling. The American workday stands as a glistening example of a way of life that seems to be increasing impacted by the forces of compulsion and fear, the message is clear: work hard now to enjoy life later.

“The meek shall inherit the earth.”
————–
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Bangor, Maine, USA- December 1, 2008
Travelogue Travel Photos
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It is my impression that Americans are socialized into believing that work is an unfortunate means to an end, it is not suppose to be enjoyable: you do it so that you can make enough money to be happy . . . someday. The idea of a profession has been perverted into a compliant form of slavery. You work hard and toil now to meet the expectations of the future.

A profession is no longer something to be proud of, a trade is no longer something to be mastered. People are no longer defined by what they do, and it is superfluous to be proud of a job, a position, a trade, or a role. Seldom do I see people beaming with pride when they tell me their job, and it is to the point that asking someone about their profession feels akin to opening a fresh wound. But what strikes me as odd is that people who enjoy their work seem all too ready to pretend that they do not.

Because work is not suppose to be enjoyable.

I enjoyed doing archaeology, but I felt the it was conventional to try to hide my love for the profession. Most of my co-workers would do the same, as it is a common trait. In fact, everytime I ask my father how his work is going, he answers simply by saying, “It sucks.” Though I know that it doesn’t, for I know that my father enjoys his work.

I feel nostalgia for the imaginary days when people seemed to feel pride in their work and defined themselves by the work they did.

“I was a steel worker,” I can remember my grandfather saying to me with a proud look on his face before jumping into a tale of the old Pittsburgh steel days. His job meant something to him, he felt a sense of pride in the fact that he knew a trade, and he defined himself as such. He had a role and he was proud of it. He built buildings, and I can only imagine the pride that he must of felt upon completing a job.

But for my generation, the work day has become just another transaction that you are expected to make: the time of your life in exchange for money. You are not suppose to enjoy it. The post-industrial regiment has designed a work complex that seems to be as un-enjoyable, sterile, formal, politically correct, and everlastingly un-human as possible. It is almost heretical and sadistic to foster ambition, drive, and zealousness in this setting. Work is for machines.

The joy from working, the pride in a craft, all sense of creativity, and the ambition for personal happiness seems to be traits that are seeping out of the American character. This is quickly becoming a sedated culture, one that is lacking the very characteristics that made it successful: ambition, innovation, creativity, and vision. The man with great ideas quickly finds himself buried and subjugated in a corporate, assembly line system where eccentricity and character are inhibited. This approach towards labor seems to have become the rule.

I cannot say that I was acculturated to expect that I should enjoy the work that I would someday do. “Do well in school,” my parents would ominously warn me, “so that you can have a job that you enjoy.”

This seemed to be almost a threat, and I must say that I was flatly terrified to grow up. This was unfortunate.

In my opinion, ambition and hard work mean nothing if it does not make someone happy while doing it. Work can be enjoyed, labor can still provide a person with pride, and employment does not have to be degrading. But it may take a little effort to really “get into unfamiliar areas,”
to push the boundaries, and to close the seperation between “work-life” and “real-life.”

The idea that work is suppose to not be enjoyable is one of the greatest myths I have ever confronted.

Related Pages:
Enjoy the Journey
USA- Upstate New York is Beautiful
USA- Shopping in the USA- The American Way
USA- Travel- Happiness- and Aging
USA- Traveling and Projects
Portugal- On Masterpieces and Messes

Links to previous travelogue entries:

  • Enjoy the Journey
  • Archaeology Fieldwork Interview
  • Rites of Travel Website Construction

    Work in the USA

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Filed under: Travel Philosophy

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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