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talk about work w/a yoga instructor, an artist, a professor, a mountaineer & you

July 3, 2008

Obviously, Matt Harding enjoys his “job”–traveling the world, dancing, blogging…(see the post below). But most people, when you mention work, turn up their noses. Who wants to work?

I remember visiting Jackie Kilpatrick a professor of literature at CSUCI. We’d been in grad school together at Uncle Charley’s Summer Camp, we’d taught a college core course together, and now here she was a tenured professor in American Lit, a dean even, in her office, working one day when I was giving an artist friend a tour. “How much do you work?” my friend asked. Jackie started describing her classes, her projects, plays and books she was reviewing…”It sounds like you work all the time.”

She smiled and agreed. “I love it,” she said.

Driving back to Art City, I asked my friend, “What’s work? When you’re painting all day and night, or creating art, is it work? Do you mind?” I know as a writer or when I’ve done art projects or broadsides for ART/LIFE, when I am working on a project whether it be painting or putting in a garden or organizing an event, it might be considered work, but it’s not–it’s work I choose to do, that I enjoy doing. I am always thinking about projects I want to do–big ones like adding on a home office or retiling the bathroom, or small ones like painting a bookcase or moving furniture around, working on this blog, poetry projects, book projects. It’s like popcorn in my brain, so many ideas firing, which one to eat first?

My friend Dave Staeheli climbs mountains for a living, specifically Denali, turns wood as an artist, and does finish carpentry. He’s visiting us right now, after two successful trips this season up the big mountain. So I asked him about work. He brought up the idea of avocation and vocation. Vocation is a job, a calling; avocation is a volunteer project, something you do that you love, that can become a vocation. He went from having an avocation as a climber and it became a vocation–a job where he gets paid to do something he loves. What really matters, we decided, is that you choose the right job. An avocation is what you want to do and whether you make money or not doesn’t matter; if it does become a job, it can destroy your avocation although that can be a pleasant way to make an income.

I told my yoga teacher Bryan Legere I was looking for a fulltime job, looking to do something new. “I’m sorry,” he responded.

“Why?” I asked. He admitted that it seemed most people with fulltime jobs are unhappy.

“But it doesn’t have to be that way,” I responded. “Look at you–you have a fulltime job–you teach yoga 2-3 classes a day, 3 or more days a week, with weekend intensives, plus your own practice doing yoga hours everyday–is that work? Plus you have your businesses, the Great Yoga Wall, and the Sunrider. You’re working all the time. But it’s different because you’re doing what you want to do, what interests you what challenges you. That’s the kind of work I want to find. Work that I can sink my teeth into. Work where I will learn and where almost every day offers a different challenge. Where I can write, think and create, make.”

My Holy Grail: looking for work that’s an avocation, a vocation, a calling. Not just a job.

We should feel good about the work we do. But most of us don’t. Most of us find work anaesthetizing–it puts us to sleep, it deadens us and turns us into consumers, too tired to cook, to grow food, to make art, to learn to do for ourselves. I want –no, I demand!–an aesthetic experience. You should too. Unhappy with your work? Do something about it! Tell me about it–your work, your search, your vocation, your avocation! The revolution will not be televised!

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