Meaningful Work

This morning, I read two articles on Fast Company that seemed to contradict each other. The first was about some internet guru lady who says that big companies better look out because working Millennials won’t be motivated by money, instead, they’ll be looking for ‘meaningful’ employment.

The second article said, big companies are trying to motivate their employees to work crazy long hours, near 80 hours a week, by paying them lots of money, because paying one person to work 80 hours is cheaper (because of things like taxes and benefits) than paying two people to work 40 hours a week.

If the writers of the two articles had talked to each other – the advice they might give to big corporations is to pack their jobs with ‘meaning’ and they can hire four Millennials for the price of one Gen-Xer. Now, that might mean they’ll have to deal with the Millennial’s mothers calling the boss anytime the millennial came home with a poor grade, oh I mean bad review, but that’s the trade-off for saving money.

A woman I know (late thirties – so NOT a Millennial) recently left a job because her boss, although continuously complimentary of her skill and efficiency, complained about her lack of ‘passionate commitment’ to the company because she refused to work more than 50 hours a week. He wanted her to ‘realign her priorities.’ Her priorities are currently aligned with her husband and her small child, for shame! After a year of enduring the dirty looks of her co-workers every time she left the office before 6 pm to pick up her son from after-school-care, she finally told the boss to take his job and shove it.

Why do I feel like we’re going backwards? Didn’t that boss ever see the movie ‘9 to 5?’ What happened to the ideal of the 40 hour work week? Wasn’t that something people fought for a hundred years ago?

Those people actually had jobs that meant something. Back in the early part of the last century everybody made things, tangible things. White and Blue collar alike could explain their jobs in tangible terms. Everyone worked so that they could go home after an eight hour day and spend time with their family and friends, enjoying the food and shelter bought with the money they earned.

Isn’t that the point? Isn’t the point of a job to make the money you need to live? And isn’t life defined by the moments you spend with the people you love and the experiences you have away from work?

Oh sure, there is this fantasy we’ve all been promoting for that last few decades that we should all ‘love’ our work. This is garbage. In fact garbage is a great example of why this is garbage.

We’ve all been told ‘the world needs ditch-diggers too.’ It took me a long time to realize that statement wasn’t just about people who literally dug ditches. It was about the people who maintain the civilization we take for granted. The pothole fillers and the utility pole climbers and the garbage collectors.

If all those people suddenly quit and started doing jobs they ‘loved’ or felt ‘passionate’ about, a lot of garbage would start piling up in front of your house.

I was out for a walk the other day and as I crossed a narrow side street, I could see a line of cars trapped behind a garbage truck. Not all, but a few of the stuck drivers were leaning on their horns. They’d been doing so for so long, that the garbage men were stubbornly taking even longer to do their work. I’m guessing, but there was a lot of hand, no, full arm gesturing going on, so it’s probably a good guess.

As I walked (quickly) beyond the scene, a man sitting at a table outside a bar on the main street asked me what the commotion was about. I said, “Some idiots are honking at the garbage men.”

The late 20ish man, dressed in ‘casual Friday’ khakis and button down shirt, enjoying his lunchtime PBR, said to me, “You know they get paid by the hour, right?”

I’m not good with witty comebacks. I just waved a disdainful hand in his face and walked on by.

I wish I’d said, “If they’re paid so much, why aren’t you doing that job?” OR “Whatever they are getting paid, it is not nearly enough for the service they provide.” OR “And how exactly are you are deserving of your six figure salary by sitting here at noon on a Friday enjoying your liquid lunch?”

If we paid everyone based on how meaningful their jobs are, and I mean meaningful as in full of tangible meaning, not some sort of twist on the word ‘fun,’ garbage collectors and utility workers and ditch diggers would be the billionaires.

Take that one step further, get rid of all the jobs that don’t have any tangible meaning, and all of a sudden, that guy sitting outside the bar is unemployed. And all the idiots honking at the garbage collectors all disappear because they can’t afford to buy the cars they were driving.

I think it would be lovely if all the Millennials actually meant ‘full of meaning’ instead of ‘full of fun’ when they say they want meaningful employment. The world would be better for it. But on the other hand, I’ll be the old lady living off the social security funds that they’ll be paying into. So, screw that, meaning and family is overrated, go, work your 80 hours a week and pay for my trips to Atlantic City, if that is still a thing in forty years.

My Favorite Moment


Entered an After Effects contest on Skillshare – but I didn’t follow the rules because rules are dumb, so I won’t win,
but I like it anyway.

Stupid People are Stupid

My father has said you can’t control how you feel, only how you react to those feelings. This is a classic case of do as I say, not as I do, as he has a very hard time controlling his own reactions. I’ve seen him knock a cabinet door clean off its hinges after accidentally smacking his head on the corner of it when coming up from unloading the dishwasher.

That is something I’ve never done. Physical pain causes me to go very still. Retract. Curl up. Like those like bugs we used to have on the sidewalk in front of the house in California. If you touched them, they’d turn into a perfect ball that you could flick with a finger. What were they called? Why does the word potato come to mind when I think of them?

How much of maturity is the ability to control ones reactions to ones emotions? I always thought I’d get better at it with age. That when I got older I would be serene and calm and brave all the time. Unflappable. I always liked that word.

Or, unruffled.  The look of the owl as it gazes out at the world, secure in its position near the top of the food chain. Near the top. Not at the top. Humans eat everything.

How exactly was curling up into a ball a good defense mechanism for that little bug? I’m sure it did not deter its predators, unless they were really stupid. A sparrow swooping in to grab that delicious short worm when, huh, where did it go? I just see a round ball now. Oh well, I’ll just fly away.

My problem is with my uncontrollable reactions to stupid people. Not all stupid people. Not the ones who can’t help it. Not the ones who are trying their best and just keep messing up. No, I mean the willfully stupid.

You know who I’m talking about. People who ignore common sense. People who stare a fact in the face and deny its existence.

They have reasons, I suppose, down deep. Fear of change, pride, lack of self esteem. All the classic rationalizations for ‘bad guys’ in books, serial killers, rapists, Hitler.

Because my mother force fed me disgusting peas at the dinner table when I was seven, I am going to make you sit here until two in the morning printing eighteen copies of a 50 page slide presentation on the world’s slowest printer, instead of sensibly emailing the files to the fifteen panelists who will not have time to look at even one page of it before they go on stage tomorrow morning at 8.

I stare down at the stupid person giving me this command, my disdain for their very existence pouring from hooded eyes, from my sharp and dangerous mouth, my talon’d fingers.

They don’t see the intimidating predator I’ve become though. “Enough with the attitude, Jill, just do what I’m telling you to do.”

I want to knock the idiot’s head right off its hinges.

Maybe I should try to learn how to curl up into a ball?

“Jill, can you… huh, where did she go?”

A Bad Decision

“You Suck.”

That is not what she said, but that is what I felt.

I really thought I had a chance this time.  Only 25 people entered the contest.  I read all the other submissions.  Mine was by far the best.

Of course, mine was also the only one not about twenty-something sex and/or dating issues.

Mine was about making a bad career-path choice.

You know, mature, adult decision-making.

Perhaps that was an error.  Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the personality of the judge, a twenty-something social-media obsessed blogger who used to work for one of those awful online celebrity-dirt-rags.

And the winning piece was to go on Hairpin, a place for twenty-something girls to whine about bad sex and beauty products and mean boy/girlfriends.

Perhaps entering this contest was the bad decision I should have written about.