“Working 9 to 5 Just To Stay Alive” Isn’t Good Enough
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“Working 9 to 5 Just To Stay Alive” Isn’t Good Enough

Working hard and being happy shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.

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“Working 9 to 5 Just To Stay Alive” Isn’t Good Enough
Sam Engler

When I was in middle school, I went to a Washington Mystics game and they gave out free postcards. One of the postcards had a quote by one of the players that said something very similar to the infamous “Find something you love to do and you'll never have to work a day in your life” quote by Harvey Mackay. Shortly thereafter, I decided I wanted to be a WNBA player. I legitimately thought I was WNBA-bound for a couple years, but since I stopped growing taller and quit playing basketball after my freshman year of high school that dream slowly drifted away. Until that point, however, I strongly resented anyone who told me that it was unrealistic or that I couldn’t do it. Deep down, I knew it was a stretch, but two things came into play- first, the belief that with hard work I could achieve anything, and second, my determination that I would do whatever made me happy.

Seven years later, I like to think that my life experiences have made me a little less naïve. I know that there are some things that are unattainable no matter how hard I work. I know that I won’t always be perfectly happy. Yet, the same life experiences that degraded my naivety also reaffirmed how important both hard work and happiness are to me. I know that I’ll always be working hard towards something and that all the while I’ll always want to be happy. Wanting this isn’t always easy, because with happiness as a priority, every little moment that I’m unhappy seems like the end of the world, even though I know it isn’t. This gets particularly frustrating when the reason why I’m unhappy has a lot to do with my hard work, and is something I can’t give up. Like most people, I go through life trying to balance working hard with doing what it takes to be a generally happy person. I know as well as the next person that this can be an uphill battle, because work isn’t always fun. However, this isn’t to say it can’t be.

When I committed to my internship at the National Archives, I felt like I was gambling because if I hated it, or even if it was just ok, then I’d have a truly dreadful summer ahead of me- one in which my hard work got in the way of my being happy. Yet, these two spheres of my life began to coincide perfectly, because I happen to love my internship. I realize how fortunate I am when I wake up (really early) and am excited to go to work, every day. I’m as happy as I’ve been in quite a while, and I feel like I’ve beaten the odds.

I realized something more important when one day I looked at my calendar, which was filled with 40 hour work weeks, and didn’t want it to end. The next large chunk of my life is for the most part a series of 40 hour work weeks. I’ve been practicing this summer, and although I get particularly excited to meet up with friends or find fun things to do in my free time, most of my time isn’t free and is divided between working, cooking, chores, and errands. Of those, the biggest chunk is working, and working has the most potential to be fun considering I’m not particularly domestic. I’m in for a lot of unhappy years if I can’t beat the odds again and find a job that I love. Cue my epiphany- that when your calendar reads like a Rihanna song ("work work work work work"), you better love what you’re doing.

With my future self’s happiness hanging in the balance, I refuse to think of my getting a job that makes me happy as unattainable or against the odds. Instead, I consider my getting a job that makes me happy absolutely essential. I guess my naïve middle school self actually had a pretty good grasp on what’s truly important in picking a career.

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