On my fridge there’s a magnet quoting Louisa May Alcott, “Work is my salvation and I will celebrate it.”
I purchased it in grad school and during those years the sentiment was absolutely true. I adored research. I loved writing papers and trying to get them published (it helped that I got nearly all of them published and didn’t have to deal with much rejection). I excelled at winning fellowships and travel grants. I enjoyed teaching. Work was a solace when I was lonely, or had a falling out with friends, or broke off a relationship.
Eventually, I graduated, couldn’t get a traditional academic job, and my world (and conception of self) crumbled.
Ever since, my relationship to work has been a difficult one. I’ve enjoyed some jobs more than others, but work hasn’t been my “salvation”.
Today I got an “on this day” reminder from Facebook that it’s been roughly 2 years since Paul began work for the federal government. And it reminded me how much life sucked without our current jobs. Now, we pay rent without worry. Ditto medical bills, car insurance, grocery charges, gas, etc. We even have money for fun frivolous stuff like booze and clothes and trips. I bought two pairs of shoes today and didn’t worry about my entire financial future.
In graduate school, making 12k a year, my work may have been a “personal” salvation, but it didn’t feel much like salvation when I injured myself and there was no money for doctors or medicine. It didn’t feel like I’d been “saved” when I got in a car accident and hyperventilated begging my grandparents for money to pay for the damage.
Working has changed our lives completely. In the times when I take my job for granted, when it feels like something far from salvation, it’s helpful to remember that it’s so very, very good to have a job.