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Work Is Supposed To Suck – A Lesson That I’m Grateful For

A life lesson that keeps me running.

Hammer
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ASTORIA, NYC- One of the most important lessons that my parents taught me is that work is supposed to suck. If it didn’t, people probably wouldn’t pay you to do it.

I can remember being a little kid, eating my morning cereal as my dad burst in through the front door at 5am covered in snow after spending an hour scraping an inch of ice off of his windshield so he could drive an hour+ to work in a blizzard … where he would remain outside in the cold working his ass off. I was sitting in our nice warm home spooning Frosted Flakes into my mouth and I can remember how he looked at me — it was as though he pitied my future, where I would one day be his age doing something like he did. He just looked at me as a glob of wet snow plopped down from his head to the floor and muttered, “Get yourself an education so you don’t have to do this shit the rest of your life.”

His job sucked. My mom’s job sucked. And I grew up thinking that all jobs sucked. I legitimately feared growing up and having to get a job … that sucked. I spent an inordinate amount of time as a kid lying in bed looking at a map of the world that I had thumbtacked to my wall feeling anxiety about my future. My one goal in life was to not work jobs that sucked. That was it. That was all I wanted to do. So I spent hours and hours laying there concocting strategies of how I could subvert what seemed to be inevitable.

I eventually came up with something.

I postponed working for as long as I could, not getting my first job until I was at the tail end of being 18. Then, feeling absolutely defeated, I went in for my first — and to this point, only — shit job. It lasted about a month and a half. Then I went to Ecuador and learned how to do something.

Wade doing archaeology

The archaeology era.

I was trained well and when I came back I began working as an archeologist. It was traveling work, it didn’t suck, and it paid decently. I was able to travel around with various crews for three or so months per year and then spend the rest of my time just backpacking or going to school abroad. I would eventually get a degree in anthropology and journalism and, almost as soon as I did, doing archaeology just wasn’t cutting it anymore. I realized that I liked the traveling part more than I did the science part, and I endeavored to hang up my trowl and just travel.

I would write. I would blog. And I had a path that was blazed before me:

But the fear of doing a job that sucked was always there. It drove me to spend the long hours in the saddle, bashing out words on a laptop, putting myself into awkward situations to find stories or get information. I was always driven because I knew that I could make it if I only worked 10, 12, 15 hours a day … and if I didn’t I would have to do a job that sucked.

I have to admit that this fear still keeps me going today. Even though I am now 42 years old and have enjoyed a nice career as a blogger, a journalist, an author, an editor, and now a filmmaker I’m still scared everyday that if I don’t keep going I will fall off the mountain and will have to get a job that sucks. They say that fear is a bad thing … unless you use it as motivation.

That fear also allows me to accept the times in my work when things get tough. I can remember one particularly tk day on the set of a show that I film. People were yelling, they were arguing, I got sucked into it. My fellow crew member got taken outside for a talk with the director. It was all bullshit but I really couldn’t get too mad or emotionally invested because in that moment — right when things got their most heated — that image of my dad walking through the door when I was a little kid popped into my consciousness. And I laughed. I laughed because I know that my worse day at work is going to be vastly better than my dad’s best day. Work is supposed to suck.

Happy Thanksgiving.



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Filed under: Family, Work

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3691 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Trenton, Maine

4 comments… add one

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  • Rory Doolan December 1, 2023, 8:47 am

    You ain’t kidding. Those winter mornings unburying cars and carving out a tunnel at the end of the driveway to get out just to drive almost an hour each way and work all day. I worked with him a few summers and one winter when in school. Working hard can be satisfying but it’s a rough row to hoe.

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    • VBJ December 1, 2023, 10:48 am

      Haha I think that taught us both a good lesson!

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  • Jack December 7, 2023, 1:13 am

    I can relate so much to this. I’ve been stewing on this post since you put it up. I like to tell people that I haven’t had a real job since the 90’s and that’s partly true. Sure, I’ve worked at jobs, but most have been jobs that I hardly consider work because I enjoyed them and I was there by choice.

    Other times I have taken jobs because I need the money for one reason or another. I call them throwaway jobs. I work just long enough to get some cash together, and I feel dirty, depressed, and defeated when I have to take the jobs.

    But here I am and I am chafing against the pricks. Soon I’ll be selling what I’ve spent a few years building and moving on.

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    • VBJ December 10, 2023, 12:26 pm

      I’ve always admired your take on work. I’ve only been given little clues as to what you do but it seems as if you rule your employment roost, do things your way, and then go and do something else when you feel like it. That seems to have been a good little project down there on the border. But cool that you’re moving on to do something else. There’s so many things out there to do …

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