In yesterday’s early-morning class, we were talking about how, when you love your job, the lines get blurred between work and life. Or, more precisely, how work becomes such a happy, integral part of your every day that it ceases to be work at all.
This doesn’t mean it’s not challenging or difficult, or that there will never be times you feel like chucking everything and working the steam table at Piccadilly. Just that it’s the same as with the other parts of your life—like when you consider trading in your SO for an “It’s Just Lunch” membership, or feel like sending your kid to boarding preschool.
To be passionate about what you do, though, to look forward to going to the “office,” and to know that you’re good at what you do and can make any small contribution to the world by doing it—is the difference between having a whole life and having a life minus 8 hours a day.
As I sat with Hank’s students around the Big Table from 5:30 a.m. until 2:00 in the afternoon on Tuesday, listening to them say the hard-to-tell personal stories their chair designs will be based on, I was reminded again that I’ve been training for this job for 43 years.
Often, this class is the first time these guys have ever shared their most painful secrets, the things they’ve hidden for years in that “long black bag we drag behind us,” as Robert Bly referred to the darker aspects of ourselves. And even though it becomes farcical at times, I hope it makes things a little easier that I’ve ‘been there’ and come out on the other side.
Who’s more qualified for this than the child of an abusive alcoholic, molested by a variety of men from the time I was a toddler, a recovering anorexic/bulimic/alcoholic, someone whose sister died, someone who knows what it’s like to be on the bruised end of domestic violence--a divorced one-time single mother, a fucked-up parent with a history of depression, and a writer? At least they know I won’t be shocked by anything they offer.
Since around 2002, when I started occasionally sitting in on Hank’s design classes as he requested, eventually becoming “a regular,” I’ve witnessed the transformation that occurs in these young people when they’re honest about their lives and begin to use the important materials of their childhoods, adolescences, and young adulthoods in their projects. They’re transformed in the process. They begin to blossom into their lives. It’s amazing to watch. I’m honored to be a part of it.
When I’m not teaching, I’m doing other things I enjoy—managing and writing articles for the website, putting together speeches and presentations. The people I work with are my friends—more, a kind of family. I learn from them and from the students. Constantly, endlessly.
I believe there’s a job you were meant for—made for. You’ve got to find it. If you don’t wake up excited about the hours between 8 and 5, and happy to see your co-workers, figure out how to change it. Why stay at a job where you’re not respected and your particular gifts aren’t valued and put to good use? It’s akin to living with a man who slams his tea glass on the table to indicate he needs a refill, or sleeping with a woman who dreams of her high school boyfriend.
Did I mention I love my job?