Work: Is it a four letter word?

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?

My husband, David, standing proudly in front of our first-ever 200 bu/acre corn. This year’s weather helped a lot, but he also put a lot of research and effort into improving our yields.

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.


11 thoughts on “Work: Is it a four letter word?

  1. Hi I am Sharon Drake. We live south of Wichita, Ks. just outside of Winfield, few miles from the Ok; border. Harry and I both were raised on farms . We did anything needed don with our family. We farmed for a time,but Harry was physically unable to continue. Our Son was involved in the farm also .He has a small place and they both work away from home. Their Children are learning how to work and love being there. Our vacations like yours were few and usually one day and get ready the next day , the vacation was over. You put one foot in front in front of the other and do what needs to be done.
    Congratulations on the corn crop. You both have a very special life . I am sure your families are very proud.
    The corn here is close to cutting. Maize and soy beans are also being cut.This has been a good year due to the rains we have had.One last night, not much. Really do not need much while all the crops are ready. Have cotton here also, that will come later.
    Thank you for our time telling about your farm. Be safe. Sharon Drake 10-23-2014

    1. Thank you for reading, Sharon! We cherish this life. We, too, got some rain overnight, so harvest has been put on hold for a day or two. We’ve got a few more beans to cut before we get to that corn. Yields were good enough that we didnt need to chop all of it to fill our silos. Very blessed this year. Thanks again, and take care.

  2. This is my favorite line, ” I was raised to put effort into things and to take pride in the results.” That is exactly what I hope I am teaching my children. Work brings you so much: Pride, self-respect, determination and discipline. Great job writing this!
    Laurie – Country Link

    *Congrats on the corn yield!!! Know what an accomplishment that is. I happen to know a seed guy……:)

    1. Thanks, Laurie! I hope your children are paying attention. Those kind of lessons will serve them well in adulthood!

      Also, our seed guy liked the post on Facebook this morning. I’m sure the photo of David in a Pioneer hat was his favorite part…

  3. I feel sorry for people that have jobs they complain about and dread Monday mornings. Life is too short to spend so much time being unhappy. I know its easy to say but not very realistic to say “If you don’t like your job find something else”. But it also isn’t healthy to yourself or your family to be unhappy in your job. Working on a farm is the best job I’ve had. So nice to feel you have accomplished something that matters, even though some days are difficult and very frustrating. At least you have tried to do the best you can. Surround yourself with positive, happy co-workers and your life at home will be happier also.

  4. There is nothing like working hard to accomplish something and knowing you beat the odds to improve your self worth. I was just discussing yesterday how our ancestors came to this country to try to improve the lives of their descendants…improve their education. I find, unfortunately, we are less worldly, intelligent, and educated than they were. We may know more than one language, but very few do. We don’t value learning as much as we should. We expect everyone else to make our lives better. Glad my ancestors weren’t like that. Working hard is it’s own reward.

    Thanks for a GREAT blog post!

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting Julie. I know it’s naive to think we can go back, or even to want to, but I’d like to see society reclaim some of those values.

  5. Thank you, thank you for these words! People look at me like I’m crazy when I describe our typical day. But I would much rather feel a hard days work and be proud of the toil at the end than spend the day working a job I don’t enjoy!

    1. They say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. I think they’re wrong, but it does help. Thanks for reading, glad you enjoyed it!

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