Wednesday 20 March 2019

I don’t like Mondays

I have always expressed my admiration for teachers, because it is one stressful job which requires dedication, stamina and above all, the patience and skills to work with children of different abilities.

Where teachers lose me, however, is when they start complaining about returning to work at this time of year after they have just emerged (supposedly refreshed) from their summer holidays. Yes, teachers, you deserve the rest and I for one don’t begrudge you, but to complain because it’s time to go back to school? Come on, that’s pushing it. I know that right now there is probably a collective, resentful murmuring of “you try being teacher, Ms know-it-all”, but that’s just it, you see. I did try it for a brief period and I realized it was not for me. You, on the other hand, are different. You did choose this profession, so why all this moaning?

I don’t want to make this all about teachers because it’s not; it goes beyond one specific profession (although I find teachers who hate their job particularly worrying because they are affecting potentially hundreds of students). It’s about loving what you do for a living, which admittedly is not always possible. What job is perfect? None. Every career/profession/job has its pitfalls and downside – with some jobs, people sacrifice job satisfaction and even their personal life by working long hours because the money is just too good to pass up. In other cases you will find those who prefer to work for less pay because they simply love the work they do so much. Others see work as just a means to an end – it puts food on the table, pays the bills, but provides zero satisfaction, so they seek personal growth in their down time by pursuing hobbies and interests which make them come alive. Still others tell you that they just live for the weekend when they can booze it up and party hard, drowning and obliterating their 9-5 daily existence in a few hours of hedonistic pleasure until it is time to face the grim reality of Monday Morning again.

I often hear people complaining about their daily grind and wonder how they would feel if they had a truly awful job like collecting other people’s rubbish, or cleaning public toilets. Now those, to me, are probably at the top of the list when it comes to The World’s Worst Jobs, and yet I am sure all of you have travelled and seen employees doing these menial jobs which no one wants to do, but still with a smile on their face. It’s all about the attitude they bring to their working life and the fact that they are probably very grateful that they are in paid employment, (something which many people in Malta seem to take very much for granted).

When I used to commute daily back and forth from the office I worked at, I often thought about this concept of ‘work’. If you think about it, it is rather weird really. There we were all sitting in our cars driving from point A to point B; those who live in the north of the island going to the south and vice-versa just to sit in an office or stand in an outlet all day providing some kind of a service under the direction of someone bossing us around, in exchange for this odd-looking bit of paper called ‘money’. Then, at closing time, we all hop back in our cars and drive back to our homes where we switch gears and live our real lives for a precious few hours, spending those bits of paper on essentials and on the weekend, on entertainment.

It was when I was driving one day, gazing at the other drivers, trying to guess what they did for a living, with my mind wandering with these abstract thoughts that it occurred to me how we had it all backwards.  In our pursuit of money to buy the things we need or want, we spend too many of our waking hours working only to be able to really ‘live’ and enjoy all the things we are buying for a very small fraction of the time.  Of course, there are financial obligations which don’t ever go away: mortgages, car loans, children’s school fees and household expenses and I am fully aware that most people are barely holding their head above water because of all these commitments.

But this is what brings me back to my original point: if you are going to slave away at something all your life in order to be able to afford the life you want to live, shouldn’t you at least aim for a job which you enjoy? Or at the very least, try to make that job as enjoyable as possible?

There are those who claim that it is not always easy to make a living out of what you love. That’s true, especially on a small island where we always come across a brick wall called ‘economies of scale’. There is too much of everything and too many people all vying for the same kind of work – no wonder it is all so cutthroat and ruthless. Every day I see shops sprouting up next door to similar shops providing the same exact type of service – from hairdressers to butchers to cafes. Then I drive by a few months later and see shops have closed down because the market cannot sustain that amount of competition. The ones which are surviving are (I believe) the ones where the staff (and owners!) have the right attitude towards customers. Surly sales girls, waiters and managers won’t bring you any business through your door. Not when there are similar shops just a corner away.

If you are stuck in a rut in a job you hate, I refuse to believe you cannot change course, and try something new, if you really, really want to badly enough. Failing that, what you can change is your attitude towards your work. If you are a clerk in a tedious government office pushing paper all day and bored out of your mind, you need to find meaning in what you are doing – look at the bigger picture of how you are a cog in the wheel of a department which is providing a public service. Rather than (for example) spending all day seething with resentment about the fact that your political party was defeated so now you refuse to work for this lot. (Actually, civil servants don’t work for the government of the day, they work for us, the taxpayer, but that’s another article).

With so many people loathing their job so much, it is no wonder we have ended up with the present scenario of meeting one glum, grumpy face after another no matter where you go.  Everyone counting the days till the weekend, or what is even worse, counting the years until they can finally retire…is that a way to live?

For, at the end of the day, from a shop assistant to the guy on the rubbish truck, from the girl at the cheese counter to the cashier at the bank, from the kindergarten assistant to me here tapping away at my keyboard writing about various topics, we are all providing a service to one another. We are all earning money in our own way in order to be able to spend money at each other’s outlet, or to pay for a service. We are all cogs in the wheel, and since we stopped bartering and someone invented the idea of currency, we all have to work to earn those bits of paper somehow.

And since most of us are not rich enough to pack it all in and go trekking around the world instead, I just think it makes this one life we have more worth living if we at least bring a more positive attitude to what we do.

Because Monday morning is going to come round, as it inevitably does, whether we like it or not.





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