Are the Rewards of a Day Job Worth the Costs?

Why we need to uncover our calling now, more than ever, before it’s too late

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Photo by Aztreyx Chávez on Unsplash

At the moment, I’ve golden handcuffed myself to a twenty-year career that feels like it kills me a little every day. Sometimes I want to bring real handcuffs to work and lock myself to my chair (but that would be dramatic and childish). When the weather’s nice I walk a mile at lunch, around the parking lot, following the barbed wire fence surrounding the perimeter. I’m literally imprisoned by my job.

I watch people when I walk.

People fascinate me. We have the strangest habits — our escape-isms we follow when we don’t have another way to leave our situation, or cope. Sure, we can quit. But that Band-Aid-rip advice is as useful as an unwrapped candy bar on a hot day. We cope by ignoring the nine-to-five elephant in our lives.

As I walk I see what the others are doing.

They hide between cars to take extra smoke breaks. They sit in their cars and answer phone calls. The talk to themselves as they pace the parking lot, like wards of a mental hospital — stammering — as if no one’s around. Sometimes they sit under trees and hope no one notices. Like a bunch of endangered animals, waiting to be adopted by a zoo.

These are PhDs and other over-educated individuals.

It’s not a collection of burnouts loitering the gas station. These are six-figure employees, wandering, hiding, and talking to themselves. A lot of people. They take more bathroom breaks than needed, just to read books in the stalls. They use company email and copiers to do non-company business. They’ll use any excuse they can to show-up to a meeting late, fake a phone call, and leave early. They use-up the best parts of themselves at work, leaving the scraps for their families.

What happened?

For me, I took the job in desperation. I was eight months out of college, with a degree that relied on a good economy, during a down economy. I took the job that paid the most. I kept getting small (but large enough to be a good carrot) pay increases at well-measured intervals (just before I was about to quit — a half-dozen times). Eventually, I’d spent most of my adult life inside the barbed wire — walking with the car-smokers, the bathroom-breakers, and the self-talkers.

I refuse to let this be the end of the line for me.

I don’t want the gold watch. There’s no pension, so I don’t have that as a carrot. I don’t want the retirement cake from Wal-Mart, or a final hurrah at the shitty, townie bar. I don’t care about making some good-bye speech or worrying if I’ll never see my coworkers again. I don’t care about my life’s work here, because this was never my life’s work. This was just a job. Three words I’ll always regret.

The only thing I care about it, is getting out before it’s too late.

I’m hardly alone. The nine-to-five has been a worker’s rite of passage since the end of the Great Depression. Top that off with all the millionaire, Instagram nine-year-olds and you’ve got a hot recipe for some serious self-loathing.

Which is why it’s so important, now more than ever, to uncover our true calling.

I believe the nine-to-five is almost dead

This isn’t a call for work rebellion or anything. I believe most of us should practice our work that matters most, instead of dying at our desks, doing a job we hate. When we practice our best work, our calling, not only do we benefit the customer of said work, but there’s a massive improvement in our quality of life.

Our job is what we do. Our work is who we are

The calling is different for everyone. This is why the process of finding our true calling works so well. There are brain surgeons, carpenters, and dancers. Number-crunchers, free-spirits, and of course — (like me) writers. Not everyone wants to do the same work. We’re all wired with a different purpose.

Also, not everyone will care to do work that matters.

We’ll still have those who want nothing more than to be told what to do. For those, they’ll struggle. The system is never, and will never, be kind to those willing to just show up and get paid. The system needs those folks to be replaceable. Simple, cheap labor gets us a new laptop for $197. I’m not arguing the ethics of this system, only the reality.

But for you — for me — we can do better.

Maybe we practice our calling on the side for awhile (like me). Maybe we rip off the Band-aid and quit our jobs today (I’m trying… oh am I trying). The way we do it isn’t as important as doing it altogether. When we practice our calling everything changes.

The world looks different. Like your privy to an insider-secret.

When you do your work that matters most, it doesn’t feel like work anymore. You and your work are one being. There’s no work-life balance, only life. The way we spend it will have a direct impact on our mental health, happiness, and fulfillment.

There’s no more time.

The nine-to-five job was a sour promise that didn’t deliver. There’s no more loyalty anymore. Employees expect to hop from job to job and employers would rather not pay them to stay a long time.

Our families suffer too. When we spend all our positive, waking energy working at a job we hate, we leave nothing for the ones we love. We get home and turn to vegetables. There’s no life left in the tank. I’m better now, but there was a stretch where I didn’t even want to play with my son, because I was so burnt from work. I vowed to change that and have.

When you’re struggling to eat, you’ve got to do anything necessary to bring in money. But once the basics are met it’s time to do something better for ourselves.

This is why I’m so supportive of indie culture.

When people take their true calling into their own hands, they’re responsible. As an indie writer I know if I don’t produce and tell people about what I’ve done there won’t be any sales. It’s both scary and rewarding. The day job is like living with training wheels.

And this doesn’t mean you have to start a business to do work that matters.

But for most people, when we find our work — our true calling — we find the current job model no longer works for us. We replace trading our most-precious resource — time, for money — and we trade the old model for the free of self-responsibility.

The work is our there for all of us. We’re waiting for you.

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August Birch (AKA the Book Mechanic) is both a fiction and non-fiction author from Michigan, USA. A self-proclaimed guardian of writers and creators, August teaches indie authors how to write books that sell and how to sell more of those books once they’re written. When he’s not writing or thinking about writing August carries a pocket knife and shaves his head with a safety razor.

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