I know I’m not alone.
Last night, at approximately 6.37, it kicked in: the gut wrenching pangs of realising that the sweet taste of freedom has almost completely slid down the gullet towards the sour stomach pit of realisation.
I had work tomorrow. I had to get up. I had to interact with adults and children on a neverending pedastal of stress, each step made up of deadlines and demands. And emails, emails, emails. Like I said, I know I’m not alone in this feeling! But in the spirit of things, I decided to replace my otherwise Beckettian monologue of repeating ‘Do I have to go in tomorrow?’, and do some research on the dreaded sunday feeling, and how to resolve it.
Not for me the first few sites that I tuned into, who seemed to accept that work was something to be managed like a taciturn orca. I didn’t want to read about ‘Time management’ and Éffective strategies’. I wanted to be inspired. And somewhere, lodged on page three of my google endeavours, I came across some quotations from a man called Khalil Gibran, who wrote a book called The Prophet.
Granted, I haven’t read the book and I will misquote him, but the gist of his writing shed a new light on the Sunday feeling. He believes that work is essential and a joyful act at that. This is what he writes (with my commentary in italics):
Älways you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune (true that!). But I say to you that when you work you fulfil earth’s furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born (huh?). And in keeping yourself with labour, you are in truth loving life. And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret (hmmm….okay…..).”
Granted, I don’t know what life’s inmost secret is – hands up if you do, because I want a detailed powerpoint presentation on what that is. And I’m also not sure on how to achieve this state of bliss while trying to drill the three sentence types into my year 9’s heads on a wet and dreary afternoon, but it was a helpful perspective today. Instead of finding ways of managing work, to strap it down and hold it in place and hate the whole darn thing, to actually take a moment to appreciate the act of work, of all the myriad decisions that we make while working, of the processes that we adapt to and in so doing show an understanding of life. It made a difference today: I actually enjoyed a discussion with students about two poems that we were studying, rather than marshalling them towards the right answer. Instead of despising my commute, I enjoyed the chance to be still and see a new world emerging from the darkness. I felt prepared and ready.
The other point that he made resonated, and that was regarding work envy. At school, I didn’t really care what I wanted to be, I just wanted to be renowned for it. Since leaving school I’ve tried my hand at a variety of jobs, but they’ve always had the potential for fame nd glamour: I was an actor and then I worked in television and all the time I was focussed on how to become known in these circles. Looking back, I realise that my focus was wrong and maybe I should have enjoyed the work more rather than looking to be the next thing. (Or maybe stopped and realised how little I was enjoying my work and rung a few changes…). And now I’m a teacher and I sometimes think of the phrase ‘Those who can, do, those who can’t teach’. For a long time it has seemed like a failing in me, that I’ve ended up as a teacher, unlikely most days to even get a thank you from my students. This feels particularly galling when I turn on my television set and see any of my peers acting their little socks off in a primetime dramas, maybe even making a move on Hollywood, the big time. Would you like some salt with your wound, Madame?
What Khalil Gibran advises us to stay away from thinking about is of the status of particular jobs in relation to each other, but not to denounce them. When I see a compadre doing well in their chosen field, I should stop musing bitterly on their shelf life and how it will all end badly for them as a way of gaining temporary and illusory satisfaction, I should think on the joy inherent in my own work. The quote that I have been musing on today was something like this:
“Both the broad oak and the blade of grass feel the same sunshine’. This is not to suggest that my job as a teacher is any less signficant than being an actor (some would argue the opposite in fact), but that relative values don’t matter. If you are gaining joy and satisfaction from your job, it is the same feeling regardless of external recognition.
Unless your occupation is a serial killer. Or you are Rupert Murdoch.
I’m not normally one for spirtuality, but this struck me as sound advice, certainly more practical than other guides with their talk of ‘maximising business opportunities’ and ‘learning to succeed’. It’s certainly something that I will hold in my head until I finally learn to feel 100% grateful for what I have.