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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Questioning The Value of a Job Well Done

March 27, 2014

I just want to say something before I continue on with this piece.  I am what you consider to be a mostly perky person.  And, when I say perky, I mean perky.  I try to maintain as much of a positive attitude as possible because it means a lot less stress and a lot more happiness overall. 

(And, hey...if it annoys the hell out of those chronic "Negative Nellies", all the better, right?)

Well, today I'm going to warn you ahead of time.  This piece is probably going to be not quite as positive as most of you are accustomed to.  But that's fine.  It's not very often that I do feel down about certain things that are going on, but I've been doing a lot of thinking about certain things, and I feel as though I sort of have to vent about them.

Now, granted, when I say that I want to vent, it doesn't mean that I am going to be channeling my inner George Carlin and spouting off every single four-letter word that I can think of.  There's definitely nothing to be gained by doing that, even if I really, really want to!  But there are other ways to express my frustration about things.  For instance, I could turn the font a harsh, bright colour, like red for instance.  And, that's exactly what I've done.

Again, I don't usually have feelings like this.  Most days, I'm content with things, and how life is going (whether you choose to believe me or not.)

But today, I find myself questioning something.  Questioning the way that I have lived life so far, and wondering what the answer really is - or even if there is an answer.  All I can do is express my thoughts and hope that by the end of it all, I know where to proceed.

What I am questioning is the value of "honest work".  The reason why I call it honest work as opposed to hard work is because let's face it.  Nobody likes to work hard.  I myself prefer to work smarter instead of working harder, but I also admit that in some circumstances, we don't always get that choice.

But you know, just based on my own experiences, and also bringing up some pop culture examples as well, I'm starting to wonder if making an honest living really is worth it at all. 

When I was in school, I managed to get fairly decent grades.  In eighth grade, I ended up getting nearly straight A's on my report card (the only thing that kept me from getting that perfect report card was that stupid C minus grade that I received in gym class).  But considering that practically everybody was moved ahead to the following grade anyway, would it really have made much of a difference if I graduated elementary school with a D average instead of an A average?  I recall quite a few students in my first grade class being held back by my teacher because she felt that they were underperforming.  But then again, I have very little respect for my first grade teacher because had she had her way, I would have been held back too because of the fact that I walked on my tiptoes instead of flat-footed.

But you know, while I definitely won't single anybody out that I went to school with, I will say that I was absolutely appalled at the number of kids who basically didn't do a lick of homework all year long, who goofed off in class all day long, and who basically coasted through the class and still managed to do just enough work to pass ahead to the next grade, even though they were by no means ready for it at all.  But, who do you blame in this case for that?  Do you blame the students themselves for not taking initiative?  Well, in some cases yes, but in some cases no.  Everyone is different.

Or, would you blame the way that the current school curriculum is with their "no child left behind" policies?  I know some might point out that holding back a child in school would be scarring because you'd be separating him/her from the friends she made, but I don't fit in that category.  Especially if the child purposely does no work to prove that he or she has earned the right to graduate into the next level.  You wouldn't give someone a driver's license if they only answered two of the twenty questions correctly, would you?

At least...I hope not!

I don't know...I just felt that the message that we were getting in school is that you could fail every test, not do any work in group assignments, and goof off in class, and yet you would have no repercussions.  It certainly made the kids in the class who actually turned their homework in on time and did all their assignments (like myself) feel really great about ourselves.  It was as if the schools didn't seem to care about strengthening our weaknesses.  They were more concerned in moving us out of the class as if we were cattle to make way for the next class.  It wasn't exactly the greatest feeling to have, and I suppose that by the time I reached high school, I was feeling a little more than jaded by the whole public education system.

But something I'm finding myself even more jaded by is the amount of people who I encounter who basically get by in the world by doing as little as possible.

Now, before I get into more detail about this, let me just state for the record that I am not entirely against government programs that are designed to assist people who are in need.  As long as the people who are using them are in legitimate need for the programs, and as long as they use them for all the right reasons, and that they understand that these programs are not designed to be a substitute for a career.

But when people take these government programs and abuse them in such a way that they actually make more money than I do working a full-time job (and I really have to be careful and word this in such a way that doesn't make it seem like EVERYBODY does it because I know they don't), but when people do this, it kind of also makes me scratch my head in disbelief and frustration because I have to wonder where society went wrong.

Can I just say after that seeing examples of this in action in various places that I've been, is it any wonder that I have the feeling that maybe I've been doing this all wrong?  I'm having a difficult time making an honest living, and yet some people seem to know all the right steps to take in order to manipulate the system to their advantage.

And, can I just tell you right now that I absolutely HATE having these feelings right now?  As someone who is known for looking at the brighter side of life in most cases, and tries to look for the silver lining in every black cloud, it kind of makes me sad that thoughts like that even run through my head at times.  I wish I didn't have them, but sometimes I can't help but think about it.  I know everyone says that when you do hard work and perform well in certain situations that the rewards will automatically follow.  But I'm really beginning to doubt that.  I don't want to think these thoughts and wish I didn't. 

I mean, a perfect example of this not working in the world of pop culture is the television show "Good Times".  In that show, we had a family who grew up in near poverty in the Chicago projects, and their main goal was to get out of there.  And certainly Florida and James Evans worked their hardest to make it happen and to provide a decent lifestyle for their three children.  In many cases, James would work so many jobs that he sometimes lost track of what he was doing.  Mind you, it wasn't easy for James to get jobs, as he didn't have his high school diploma, but this was during a time in which getting a high school diploma wasn't necessary to land a job.  But, James did everything that he could to put food on the table, and try everything he could to improve his educational standing so he could get better jobs.

But just when he had found the job that could finally get his family out of the projects, he died in a car accident.  And, that was the ultimate tragedy.  Not only did we get to see Florida smash a punch bowl and scream the word "Damn" three times, but it also showed a sad reality that no matter how hard a person works, they may never see that hard work pay off.  Of course, had John Amos not been let go from "Good Times", there very well could have been a happy ending for James Evans.

I don't know what the answer is.  I don't know how I can stop feeling this way.  I honestly don't know if I'm doing it wrong.  But I do know one thing.  I can't change who I am.  And, I can't just suddenly decide to lay down and raise my white flag in surrender.  Like it or not, I am a person who is determined to make it in the world the way that it was intended...through perseverance and dedication.  

Maybe if I do enough of it, somehow it will be enough.  Even though I'm really questioning if it really does have as much value as it did some thirty or forty years ago.  

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