A work ethic is one of those things that you either have or you don’t.  I don’t think it’s something that’s learned.  I think it’s inborn.  I’ve known people whose parents were incredibly hard workers who think they can just skate by.  I’ve known people whose parents were functional alcoholics who have a remarkable work ethic.  I’ve known people with no goals of their own, who worked on the coattails of others, with the appearance of a work ethic — that appearance being a sham that dissolves as soon as they feel justified in not working for one reason or another (disability, a spouse’s success, their own twisted vision of entitlement).

I’ve always had a strong work ethic.  Always.  I don’t remember complaining about homework, and it always got done.  Money was not always the motivator.  When I was too young to do paid work, I volunteered.  I was one of the youngest volunteers they had at the hospital, and by the time I was done, I had worked so many hours that they didn’t have anything else to recognize me with – no one had ever volunteered that many hours before.  I had a few babysitting clients once I was sufficiently aged (including Damien (yes, really) the child from Hell) .   Then I started shelving books for my Dad after school (still not of legal working age).  At 17, I got my first “real” job, working in a restaurant, having had no previous restaurant experience.  And the rest is history.  I’ve either worked or been looking for work for the last 30 years, with the exception of the year I took off when Kelsea was two/three.  I’ve was my family’s sole support for the last ten years, and for many years off and on prior to Kelsea being born.

Even with my upcoming gainful unemployment, I am going to try to work for myself, and I’ll have the half-time job still.  Yes, I am tired, too tired and too old to try to start working for someone new in a 40-hour a week job with 2 weeks off a year for good behavior.  But I can’t stop working, not because of the money, but because if I’m doing something I like, I really like to work.

When Pat did work, he worked in bars, motorcycle shops or poker rooms.  In bars, he had always been drinking when he came home.  Ditto with the motorcycle shop.  And poker rooms.  My point is, all his work was playing.  Especially poker.  That IS playing.  Not working.  Playing poker for a living is PLAYING.  That always irritated me.  It wasn’t working, it was playing, and he didn’t always come in ahead of the game.  And I was working.  I was the drudge.   Yes, I was probably jealous, but injustice pisses me off.

Kelsea had a meltdown the other night about how much work she had for school.  I’m sure some of that was hormones, and she’d been doing the wrong thing for the project she was working on (she’s always had a little issue with not reading instructions and assuming she understands what’s wanted), besides the fact that it was a ridiculous assignment (even in my opinion).  Part of her tearful rant was that she never has time to do what she wants – she’s always in school or doing homework.  She never has time to be a kid – and this from a kid with only one afterschool activity.  Nothing she is learning feels like it pertains to her future goals.   I sympathize completely.  Though I did tell her she might be surprised at what does pertain to her future goals. 

At any rate, it was painful to hear her echoing my own sentiments about working herself (myself) to death.  I don’t know it it’s an attitude shift that’s required on both of our parts, or a life shift, that will help us feel like we are not just toiling to the grave, but actually living our lives joyously.

Where’s the balance?  And am I glad that I (and she) care about doing good work?  Yes, I am. 

But still, I sigh.