One of the silver linings to the coronavirus pandemic, by which I mean one of the things that should have happened a long time ago without the push of hundreds of thousands of bodies, is that people are starting to see how much better their lives would be if we change our approach to the idea of work. In the U.S. and many other nations, work has come to mean driving often hours through grueling traffic to go to a job that you often hate or is so exhausting and all-consuming you don’t even have the energy to hate it.
That’s why it’s so baffling and disturbing to see people protesting local shutdowns with signs claiming they want to go back to work. Look, I know some people like their jobs, or at least say they do. But an unreasonable amount of people only tolerate their jobs at best because they feel like they have to. Even those who like their jobs can make a list of all the things they still don’t like about work. Nobody likes the commute. Cubicles, offices in rooms with walls, and open floor plans all suck for different reasons. Sitting in one place all day doing the same motions with your hands and wrists or standing and walking all day doing physical labor is ruining our bodies. Customers suck. Meetings suck. Emails suck. Everyone complains about all these things and somehow the only solution we’ve come up with is “stop complaining about work.”
But keeping that shit inside just gives you ulcers or worse. So why don’t we just change work if it’s so terrible?
In ways I don’t yet fully understand, we’ve all been convinced that this is how work has to be. We have to do it eight hours per day, five days per week or more. Less and you’re not working enough and that’s bad. If it hurts your body then buy a product to correct it. If you can’t afford that, numb the pain. If you can’t afford/do that, suffer.
I don’t know why we’ve done this to ourselves exactly other than something something capitalism but we can change it any time we want. And maybe we finally will. One article I did today for my own work helped me see how many people are finding how much better their lives are without work or with a different form of work. People are saving so much money on gas, tolls, daycare for their kids, and so much time, and they’re using that extra time to better themselves. People on this Reddit thread are talking about quitting smoking and working on their mental health and taking huge steps in recovering from eating disorders. They’re talking to loved ones and improving their personal relationships.
People are healing without work weighing them down. And what I want people to understand is that we never had to work like this. We certainly don’t need to do so in this day and age. We can change it. We can change how we think of work. Instead of it being an inevitable hell we’ve put ourselves in, work can be self-care. Work can be our hobbies. Work can be no different from play.
I’ve said before in my diatribes against the modern concept of work that while I say I hate work, I don’t hate working. I hate being forced to churn out content for too little pay for hours every weekday just so I can have my own home and buy food. I hate seeing my loved ones have the life drained out of them because their jobs demand so much and give so little in return.
Working on myself? Wonderful, rewarding, hard but so worth it. Working on my writing in the way I want to, without having my creative energies drained for the sake of someone else’s profits? Amazing, fun, eye-opening, energizing. Even just doing everyday chores around the apartment that can be boring and tiring? Satisfying, good for mental health, feels great when it’s done.
That could be our work, if we wanted.
All of this capitalist work, much of it that doesn’t even need to exist or could be done by robots, takes so much away from our ability to do the kind of work that is actually good for us and makes us happy. Let’s do better for ourselves. We deserve it.