All of us have, at some point, felt the immense joy that work can give. Perhaps it was when you finished an assignment with a sense of perfection; perhaps it was when you started an exciting project with your friends or when you created something incredible all by yourself. You can surely remember the feelings that overcome you once you immerse yourself in some task that you can put your heart into: your worries and indecision fall away completely. Your head sighs with relief, and a warm glow of satisfaction settles over you. Troubled minds can find solace in work.
Just as regular exercise makes the body feel more energetic, so does regular, interesting work make the mind livelier. Clouds of lethargy lift; a window of the mind opens and lets the light of the world in. Everything feels brighter and better. Work – enthralling, enlivening work – gives life to food, sleep and free time. A meal taken after hard work is a joyous, fulfilling meal. Free time after hard work is the time when your soul feels free, as it should. And the sleep! The wonderful sleep you can fall lightly into after a day of good work, by itself, makes it worthwhile to work hard. Enjoyable work alters your state of mind for the better and makes all other aspects of life so much more gratifying.
But all of that is just one half of the wonder that fulfilling work provides. The accomplishments of a human being give meaning to that person’s life. Think of the people you admire. As individuals and as a society, the people we celebrate stand on pedestals in our consciousness, not for the food they ate or the sleep they had, but for the work they did. An individual from the past who did some work that was important, in the sense that it was able to touch the other people around her, has her name recalled even though she has passed on from this world. No, she will not live forever, but she left a tangible part of herself behind. And the people who came after could experience that part of her and gaze back with wonder upon the past, not as a darkness they could not fathom, but as a starlit sky with pinpricks of light peeking out. Powerful work leaves a light on in the gathering darkness that turns the present to the past, illuminating small parts and pieces of the times and people gone by. And the present human being looks to those lights for direction – where has our species already been, and where should I now proceed to reach the future? That is how important work is.
We ought to work with the purpose of leaving as many lights on as possible.
But not enjoying the work one does is among the most terrible tragedies that can haunt a human being. Nothing scrapes off the blanket of rust that has a way of shriveling our brains. The head lies, dead under its covering, where no light can penetrate and sow life. Nothing shines out from the eyes. Food and rest become tiresome. It is an awful existence, unfulfilling, dreary, day after day filled with morbid apathy. One constantly battles against that apathy, yet can never really shake it off.
We must find the work we love to do, work that inspires us and delights us, if not for the sake of the future, then for our own peace of mind. If you are stuck in a place that has you dreading the large part of the day you are spending there, working on what does not satisfy you, search for something that is better and get out of your living grave, as quickly as you can. There are times when escape will be impossible (think midterms). In such cases, you must aim to minimize the time you give to that which you would rather not do. Simultaneously, maximize the time when you can work on something you really care about. Look for work you can love and give it your soul, give it all your sweat, blood and bones.
Because, we are lighting beacons as we become part of the past; and we must pass hope on to those in the future.