One of the questions I was asked to answer in the book I’m reading is what do you think meaningful work is. What does the world think meaningful work is.
Is this meaningful work?
I chewed on that idea for a while. There are types of work that I think are very meaningful that the world clearly no longer values. Teachers, for one. They are, by and large, underpaid, and what’s expected of them may go well beyond the scope of what education should be. I’m not sure the world as a whole values teachers any longer, at least not in the context of elementary, middle, and high school education.
I finally settled on this: What the world considers meaningful work is something that draws attention to the person doing it, something that makes a lot of money and at which someone can be hugely successful, and in some instances, something that benefits others.
So is the world’s view what defines meaningful work to me? Not so much.
Now, before I get into what is meaningful work to me, let me preface it by saying that I’m OK with working. I didn’t grow up at all with the mindset that I’d get married, have kids, and stay home to do for my family. My mother did do that – when she and my dad adopted me, she retired to stay home with me. When I was older, maybe college age, she told me she wished she’d gone back to teaching when I was old enough to be in school all day. I don’t recall ever having a conversation with her that centered around “someday when you get married and have a family”. It just wasn’t what was expected of me, it wasn’t what I was “supposed” to do. So I’m not necessarily devastated that I can’t be home full-time, and it wouldn’t work for our situation anyway. I married Brian knowing that his training and inclination will put him in some kind of education position, and as I’ve previously mentioned, those types of positions (classroom or otherwise) aren’t necessarily at the top of the pay scale! I didn’t marry him for money, and I know that our current obligations don’t offer the opportunity for me to be completely out of the equation in terms of bringing in an income to support our family. That’s good by me.
So what is meaningful to me? I’d like to do something that people are happy about, something that’s more than just pushing paper around so that some big corporation can add to its bottom line. If what I do ends up not being a service I provide directly to people who can be happy with what I do, then I’d at least prefer to do something that people don’t look at crossways and think, “OH. You do THAT? Huh.” (while thinking, man, I’d rather walk on hot coals while swallowing a live squid than do her job) I’d like to do something that provides some benefit to people. Take being a piano technician, for instance. You provide a service. People walk away with a piano that sounds better, or one that’s been rebuilt to where it can now be played, or an antique that was unplayable that now can be played and enjoyed. They’re happy with the service provided. Work that leaves you soul-satisfied at the end of the day, that’s meaningful work. Work that allows you to meet your family’s needs and have a little left over, that’s meaningful. Work that isn’t illegal or immoral, that doesn’t ask you to compromise your moral values and beliefs, that’s meaningful. Work that uses your skills and talents, that’s meaningful. Work that accomplishes all of this while letting you not be tied to what someone else thinks your schedule should be, well, we’ll get to that in another post!
I don’t care about drawing attention to myself just for the sake of drawing attention. I don’t care about “making a splash”. I don’t care about making pots of money (that brings problems of its own). I would like to do something that, in some fashion, benefits others, and that I enjoy more often than not. And, as previously discussed, I yearn for it to offer flexibility and the ability to be there when my family needs me.
So, where might that lead…?