Anyone who can both count and spell knows that work is in fact a four letter word. My point (in this post at least) isn’t to call into question the general public’s ability to count and spell, but rather I’m wondering – when did work change from something we were proud of or passionate about to one those four letter words. You know, the kind you can’t say around your grandparents?
I understand that our culture values leisure and entertainment, but Americans used to value work. Is there not room for both? I heard on a tv commercial the other night that the American dream is to get rich quick – funny, I thought it was to take advantage of the opportunity to improve your position in life, and provide further opportunity for your children, through hard work – blood, sweat and tears – perhaps earning enough to become rich, over time, through hard work…clearly, I missed something in history class.
Or maybe I didn’t. Maybe, sometime in the last few decades, our priorities shifted. What’s the point? Well, I don’t mind work – I kind of like it. I was raised to put effort into things and to take pride in the results. I also don’t think there is shame in earning a living using both your physical and mental resources. I think our culture and our country have strayed from their core values. I hear the statement “That’s too much work” or some similar sentiment all too often.
Now I’m not saying that everyone should be working their weekends away, nor do I think that only physical labor is valuable – clearly my engineering degree would be a waste if I did. I just think it might not be so terrible to invest time that isn’t required to earn a paycheck to accomplish something of value or heaven forbid, to sacrifice something superficial to achieve something you can be proud of. Are we so afraid of failing that we refuse to take a risk and invest a piece of ourselves in something that matters?
When leaving my office on Friday, I am commonly asked about my weekend plans, and my typical answer is “just milking cows” (a pretty extreme simplification, but much easier than going into details about feeding and calving and such). Based on the reaction of some you would think that doing something resembling work on the weekend were the equivalent of having a root canal while squirrels chew on your feet and acid drips on your forehead and spiders crawl all over your body, all while being forced to listen to Joe Buck and Dick Vitale narrate golf. Ugh…sounds horrible, right?
The fact is, dairy farming is an everyday job. No, it is not easy. No, it is not glamorous. Yes, it is a huge commitment. No, we cannot go on vacation without finding people to do most of the work. Some days everything doesn’t go right. A lot of days we’re exhausted when we walk through the door. In spite of all the perceived negatives, two and a half years ago David and I decided to give this dairy thing a go. We’ve invested everything we have – financially, physically and emotionally – into building this farm, this business. In all honesty, failing at something we’ve put this much into is really terrifying, but even more terrifying is never trying it, never knowing if we could. We don’t do this because we have to – we’ve chosen to do this because we want to – we think it has value, and we take pride in it. What’s so bad about that?
I guess what I’m saying is that I want the old America back – the one where people were proud to achieve things that were hard. I long for the America that stood for something, that at the end of the day had a clean conscience and dirt under its fingernails, whose citizens were proud to call her home. I want to live in a culture where people aren’t afraid to truly chase their dreams, even at great cost. I want to live in an America that thinks work is the four letter word that makes your grandparents proud of you.
I don’t think that America, that culture, is gone, but it sure feels like she’s been forgotten.