My Long Love Affair with Work

Mr. Mullet parked his Honda Goldwing and walked in the back door of the banquet center. He was a big, burly man, with a leather jacket and big beard. It was a little before noon on a weekday, and I was washing dishes. I was a sophomore at Northland High School, and I was once again absent from class. Mr. Mullet was there to take me back to school.

I had signed up for a program called Occupational Work Experience (OWE). It was for kids who didn’t particularly care for school and weren’t likely to go to college. I met all the criteria for the program, which allowed me to take the core required classes and then go to work. I took math, science, English, and history classes. Because I was required to have a gym credit, the whole OWE class went bowling every Friday morning. Most of my peers were smoking while earning their credit for gym.

At 14 years old and I was making $3.35 an hour for washing dishes. My single mother who was raising four kids by herself wasn’t making much more than I was. If she was, it wasn’t substantially more. Plus, my employer fed me prime rib, lasagna, salad, and chocolate mousse every day. They had trouble finding dishwashers for mornings and lunch, so instead of going to school, I went to wash dishes.

Work was important to me. School was not. Work paid me. In fact, I worked weekends straight through from 9:00 AM to 2:00 AM much of the time, and my checks were hundreds of dollars. When you have no bills, that’s a lot of money. School didn’t pay me anything. In fact, it kept me from making money. Washing dishes was a more attractive option than school.

Mr. Mullet tried to explain to me that even though I might be able to make a little money now, education would help make a lot more money later. But I didn’t need money later; I needed money now. He reminded me that, as part of the program, I only had to go to school for a little more than half the time other students were required to go, so I could still work.

His advice fell on deaf ears, so he used leverage. He told me that if I didn’t show up for class, I’d be removed from the program and that I would be required to be in school all day. Grudgingly, I showed up and took my core classes. Then I washed dishes.

  • What if work isn’t something that you have to do, and is instead something that you get to do?
  • What if instead of dreading work, or talking about hating the grind, or hating Mondays, or thanking God it’s Friday, you gave yourself over to your work?
  • What if instead of complaining about work you focused on making a greater contribution? What if you worked for the people who were counting on you to help them?

People say they want to make money doing what they love. But most of the people who make money decide to love what they do. They give themselves over to something, often something they never set out to do.

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