Labor(ing) Day (by Billy Coffey)

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I’m working. On Labor Day.

Ironic, isn’t it? That I would be working on a holiday that was instituted to celebrate the working man (and woman), I mean.

I’m sure I’m not the only one schlepping off to work this morning like any other day. We’re toasting the end of summer by sitting in offices or factories or standing outside building houses or putting out fires. Nothing wrong with that. These days, we’re lucky to have a job at all—a fact no doubt driven home by every boss everywhere whenever an employee vents some dissatisfaction.

Work is a part of everyone’s life at some point. I suppose that’s God’s plan. We hear the adage of idle hands being the Devil’s tools and read scriptures like “He who does not work should not eat.” Seems pretty clear—we’re not here to just hang out, we have to be useful.

Holidays are such because they’re meant to focus our minds on something in particular rather than leaving them in their normal, scattered state. Christmas and Easter are all about Jesus (or should be). July 4? Freedom. Thanksgiving is a time to focus on our blessings because there are always some, and Valentine’s Day is all about the people we love.

And Labor Day? Labor Day is all about what we do for a living.

For me, it means a private liberal arts college nestled among the Virginia mountains. I’m the campus mailman. Just me and the three student workers who may or may not bother to show up on a normal day. Working pretty much by yourself has its advantages, no doubt about it. Job security, for one. Not having to spend hours in small talk is also a plus, because I abhor small talk.

But working here also has its drawbacks. The campus post office was once home to three full-time employees instead of only one. To say things get a little hectic around this time of year would be an understatement. So if you’re wondering where the heck I’ve been for the last few weeks, the answer is under piles of Cosmopolitan magazines and packages from twelve hundred mommies.

The truth? I’d rather be doing something else. I took this job because I was going to be laid off from my previous one (which wasn’t all bad, since I got a novel out of it), and I took that one because I was burnt out from the one before. So while I’m walking my five miles a day with a smile haphazardly positioned on my face, I’m really wishing I were up in the mountains somewhere writing.

Chances are that when it comes to occupations, you’d rather be doing something else, too. I read an article a while back that said the best job to have in this country as far as pay, benefits, and perks, is a college professor. Since I’m surrounded by professors every day, I thought I’d test that theory. Over the course of a week I asked twenty of them if they were happy where they were or if they’d rather have a different line of work. To a person, they’d rather be elsewhere. Some wanted to write books, others to travel. Two wanted to be farmers. There was even one who confessed what he really wanted to do was become a bounty hunter.

There’s nothing too strange about that. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that what’s rare in this life is to find someone completely happy with what he or she does to pay the bills. We all have our secret dreams and far-flung desires. It’s part of being human, I think. In our deepest selves, we’re always searching and never quite finding our place in this world.

Do you think this is true? I’d like to know, because reading back through that last paragraph left me feeling a bit pessimistic.

Maybe that’s just a symptom of having to work today. Then again, maybe that’s just one of those non-negotiable, hard truths of life.

So let’s celebrate this Labor Day with a little survey. Leave a comment below. Tell me what you do for a living, and then tell me what you’d really rather do for a living.

Let’s put my theory to the test.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at his blog What I Learned Today and follow him on twitter at @BillyCoffey

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29 Responses to “Labor(ing) Day (by Billy Coffey)”

  1. Sharkbait September 6, 2010 at 3:59 am #

    I am a lawyer. (Well, actually I am a lawyer/writer/teacher/student/minister/leader/trainer/poet, but so far the lawyer is the only one that pays.)

    I think I am happy with what I do, which is to say I can’t think of any other career I would rather have. (I just wish I could get paid for more of the others.)
    .-= Sharkbait´s last blog ..Biblios Hokku – 1 John =-.

  2. angie mizzell September 6, 2010 at 6:57 am #

    Billy, I absolutely agree with this. I’m a TV news reporter turned personal fitness trainer turned small business owner turned mommy turned freelance writer. And, once, I even became a certified life coach. Don’t even ask. Ironically, the work that has paid the least is what I have enjoyed most. And I think what you have done in your own life serves as a great inspiration for so many others searching for happiness in their work– despite having to hold down “a day job” you are living your dream as a writer. I think you’re also doing people a great service by showing how living the dream isn’t always glamorous. I’ve had lots of Hollywood dreams. Those don’t last. So while you’re working today, I’ll think of you as we’re playing in our plastic swimming pool on our front porch. I worked hard for this “glamorous” life. 🙂 I hope your day has a some surprises in store, too!

  3. Joanne Sher September 6, 2010 at 7:18 am #

    Hmmm – I’m a stay-at-home mom and “kinda-caregiver” to my disabled husband – and a writer/proofreader/editor on the side. I wouldn’t want a job change – just a shift, if you know what I mean. A bit more emphasis on the writer/proofreader part – especially if PAY were involved – would be ideal for me.

    Very thought-provoking post, by the way. Will definitely be back to check out the others’ responses.
    .-= Joanne Sher´s last blog ..Readiness – Monday Manna =-.

  4. Kelly Langner Sauer September 6, 2010 at 7:22 am #

    “We all have our secret dreams and far-flung desires.”

    love that line.

    Billy, I’m doing what I want to do – or rather, I’m growing into it. But I’m happy. I’m choosing something, God is opening the doors for me to walk into it. It has its ups and downs, but it’s amazing, figuring it out. I’m being a mom, being a photographer, being a wife, writing – I’m so alive, for what seems like the first time in years. There’s a wall that came down somewhere, the fear-wall, I think, and I’m risking a lot to be here and I have bad days, but believe it or not (and I don’t sometimes!) I wouldn’t change anything.

    But I’m weird. So I’ll just leave it at that.

    P.S. My dad always made us work on Labor Day. I was always annoyed with him. Our family has paranomasia. I figured it was just another one of his puns.
    .-= Kelly Langner Sauer´s last blog ..softly to the shore… =-.

  5. Sharon September 6, 2010 at 8:36 am #

    I am happy doing what I am doing. I just wish in all I do I had only a tad bit more time to do fun stuff like photography, but that is more of a scheduling issue than an ‘I want a different job issue’. My job situation will dramatically change in 15 years when the youngest goes off to college… and I know that time is going to fly by so I want to savor every moment of the next 15 years and invest every bit that I can into them. knowing I only have 6 years until the oldest is in college is making me pay more attention and be more deliberate in all I do.
    .-= Sharon´s last blog ..Attempted Murder =-.

  6. Angie September 6, 2010 at 8:39 am #

    I’m a stay at home wife and mommy. It’s all I ever wanted to be growing up, and it’s exactly where I want to be now. When I hear other moms around me wish their jobs away so they could stay at home with their family, I realize how blessed I am. God is so good.

    But I know what you’re saying with your post. My hubby is an amazingly hard worker and will do whatever it takes to provide for our family, but I see the wistful look in his eyes when he talks about his dreams… what he’d rather be doing… wondering all the “what if’s…?” of choosing a different path. But in all his choosing, he chooses to be happy no matter where he is. I’m thankful for that. So very thankful.

  7. *~Michelle~* September 6, 2010 at 8:48 am #

    Great thoughts! And Happy Labor Day to you, Billy and Kathy! 🙂

    Hmmmmmm, what do I do.

    I am a farming, homeschooling, mostly-stay-at-home mama that also subs as a taxi cab driver, cook, nurse, accountant, psychologist, and maid. Those are my non paying jobs. I do make a few extra bucks when I work part time as a hair-dresser and teach tie dye (I bet that doesn’t surprise you, LOL).

    I am pretty content doing what I do….in fact I feel blessed. But if I was given the opportunity to have another “job”……it would be a midwife. I am getting alot of experience delivering “kids” (goats) these days too.
    .-= *~Michelle~*´s last blog ..The WOW factor =-.

  8. Louise September 6, 2010 at 9:41 am #

    Hi Billy,

    I love my job. I work at a homeless shelter as the Dirctor of PR — communications has always been my ‘work’ but doing it in this sector, specifically not-for-profit, is way more fulfilling than I felt in the corporate world.

    The challenge is to love what I do because I do it, whatever ‘it’s is. And then, to find the time to do the other things I love to do!!!

    which is write and paint and teach and speak and inspire…

    Always a balance.

    My daughters are in University and have both just returned from a year away — so I’m also enjoying getting to be a ‘mommie’ again!

    Enjoy your day of labour. With each ‘mommie’ parcel you deliver, you are delivering a box full of love! thanks for making sure it gets to the one who’s loved.
    .-= Louise´s last blog ..Beauty and grace in motion =-.

  9. Rebekah @ It Only Gets Better September 6, 2010 at 10:43 am #

    I am a SAHM and love it. But I don’t think of it as a “job” since I don’t get paid. It is work but not a job. There are definitely things I would like to do later – photographer, bridal shop owner or crafty-making-things-from-fabric type business owner but for now those are just dreams and can be refined and realized a little bit later.

    I asked my husband your question and he LOVES what he does! He is living his dream, even if it doesn’t always pay a dream salary, of being a chiropractor. It is a huge blessing to me to see that he is happy in his work, that he knows he is making a difference in other people’s lives and to witness him getting better and learning and growing in his occupation. He has told me often that if we ever won the lottery that he would still work because he loves it so much.
    .-= Rebekah @ It Only Gets Better´s last blog ..Frazzled =-.

  10. Glynn September 6, 2010 at 10:46 am #

    In my current reinvention, I lead an Online Communications Team for a Fortune 500 company (corporate web site, YouTube channel, social media-type of stuff). I’ve been a PR guy, a crisis management guy, an issues manager, a speechwriter (lots of that), an individual contributor, a people manager of 1, 2, 5, 10 and 25, an independent consultant. Confession: I was a journalist for the first nine months after college. I have loved the work I’ve done. That doesn’t mean I’ve always loved the employers I’ve done it for (including myself).
    .-= Glynn´s last blog ..The one time something I did went viral =-.

  11. Candy September 6, 2010 at 10:48 am #

    I am a nurse. I’d much rather be a retired nurse.

    “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Colossians 3:23
    .-= Candy´s last blog ..Tasty Bites- Pizza Margherita =-.

  12. Jim H September 6, 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    Some people would call me a telemarketer, but I’m not “that” kind of telemarketer. I get to talk to Independent Christian Bookstore owners every day and supply them with the best music, books, Bibles and gifts that we can find. That is the part of the job that I love – helping my friends minister in their communities – I’m really looking forward to selling “Snow Day” next month!

  13. Maureen September 6, 2010 at 12:03 pm #

    I retired in 2007 after more than 30 years working in editing/writing/publishing. I’ve started a small art licensing business and write every day. I earned a high income at my last company job. Getting used to having no income of my own was difficult but I’ve made my peace with it. I’m married to someone who’s fine with that, too. I am in a much better place now, happy with my writing and being involved in the arts.
    .-= Maureen´s last blog ..Pinsky Reads Shirt =-.

  14. lynn September 6, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

    “In our deepest selves, we’re always searching and never quite finding our place in this world.”
    So true.
    I’m learning to surrender and be okay with Plan B. I heard recently a pastor speak about how we want God to give us what we want but God wants to lead us to what He wants-what He knows is best of us.
    I have a good job, (sales and training in the dental field) but would like to be more creative and thought that God planted love of writing in my heart. I shall see. And listen.
    .-= lynn´s last blog ..Review-Wild at Heart by John Eldredge =-.

  15. Corina September 6, 2010 at 1:03 pm #

    I work in the banking industry. I’m not a personal banker or teller or anyone you would ever see. I work in the back offices and oversee your everyday transactions and purchases.

    Am I happy with what I do for a living? Well, I don’t know that I would say ‘I’m happy’, but I’m content. But like most everyone else out there, I too have dreams. And I would much rather make my living by living my dream.

  16. Megan Willome September 6, 2010 at 2:25 pm #

    I am truly happy in my job. I write/edit for a monthly lifestyle magazine. I never knew I would like magazine work, but I love it. All my other writing dreams seemed way too noble. I now work on something that people flip through at the hairdresser’s or the doctor’s office. And that’s just fine with me.

  17. Lynn Mosher September 6, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    You know my answer: I write! Whether I get paid or not doesn’t faze me. I write because the Lord said to, therefore, I wouldn’t want to do anything else!
    .-= Lynn Mosher´s last blog ..Patient in Tribulation =-.

  18. Clarice James September 6, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

    I love my work as an online syndicated publisher. I want to get more customers [we call them patrons] to the site so they can appreciate the work of producers like Billy Coffey! That way he could write full-time!

  19. Joyce September 6, 2010 at 6:22 pm #

    A very good question…what do I do. I’m really trying hard to figure that out at this point in my life. I’ve been-a speech pathologist, kindergarten teacher, school director, wife, mother and volunteer. I have loved every single job but nothing tops motherhood.

    I like to write. I like people. I like travel. Trying to figure out how to merge all three into one fabulous occupation.
    .-= Joyce´s last blog ..Labor Day without the Labor =-.

  20. Robin M Arnold September 6, 2010 at 7:19 pm #

    I think happy in work is directly related to how many people one works with, and the encouragement, rewards, and leadership we find. Right now, I could be a full time writer, as I’ve always dreamed, but that’s not what I’m doing, and not what makes me fulfilled and happy because so many other parts are missing. I often read Psalm 90 when I’m work discouraged and go back to the idea work is an offering and a blessing we should let it be for the number of days we have. It’s a means to help support our families, and our contribution to the economy and the planet.

    By the way, I’m an independent data auditor working with churches and non profits who maintain membership databases. For me, work is play and play is work. I lose total sense of time and space when I’m working. Am I happy? Mostly.
    .-= Robin M Arnold´s last blog ..If I jumped in a time machine &amp went back to school =-.

  21. Annie K September 7, 2010 at 9:39 am #

    I’m the Operations Mgr for our School District’s Maintenance Department. I’d much rather spend my days living and hiking in the woods or traveling the world taking pictures for National Geographic.

    In the meantime, I’m just thankful I have a job.
    .-= Annie K´s last blog ..An Excellent Use of Time =-.

  22. A Simple Country Girl September 7, 2010 at 9:48 am #

    What I’ve done for money: waitress, waitress, waitress, gas station attendant, house-cleaner, busboy (girl, really), pizza tosser, campus mail worker (& I always showed up on time; worked in the bulk outgoing mail department), bottle water distributor, health consultant, health educator, substitute teacher, secretary, store clerk…

    What I am glad I decided not to do: finish law school (when I was in the midst of the legal stuff, I asked all the upper classmen and attorneys I could find–and not one said they would choose the same path if given the choice again; become a professional bull-rider (except the other night at the rodeo, I really thought I would like to give it go again–then I saw one dude break his leg and I remembered my many bruises and a head-whack and I really enjoyed my seat in the stands); professional boxing (still have my heavy bag and speed bag–they are in the storage unit, but I have ’em)

    What I do now: wife and mother and child of God all the time; write and photograph sometimes

    What I would rather do: nothing other than the roles God has given me. Although this town has a roller derby team and I think I may have bits and pieces of what it takes to do that. (Say Billy, do you ever wear rollerblades to deliver mail? Seen it done and it’s not very pretty.) Obviously I like writing. Oh, oh, and photography. And politics, maybe a politician. Waitressing, I would do that again (oh, yeah, I do that already)…

    By the way, my husband has worked the last few Christmases and he has to work this one. My mom works for a company that does NOT allow employees to take any time off around a holiday. Nice, ehh?

    .-= A Simple Country Girl´s last blog ..Where Ya Going =-.

    • katdish September 7, 2010 at 9:53 am #

      Okay…that’s just freaky. I was at the skating rink yesterday lamenting that I had missed my calling as a roller derby star…

  23. laura September 7, 2010 at 10:23 am #

    My husband was a college professor when we met. Looking back, it seems like he was quite happy then. Of course, he left to go into private practice to make more money. And that was before kids, and that extra twenty pounds that come with happiness.

    We are always looking for the next best thing, I think.

    But I’m with you, Billy…I’d rather be in the mountains writing. The trick, I guess, is to find a little bit of joy in each moment. I’ll let you know when I find a sure-fire way of doing this! Keep me posted on your progress too 🙂
    .-= laura´s last blog ..Taking Care of Kittie- A Story =-.

  24. April September 7, 2010 at 12:43 pm #

    Well, I am not currently doing what I want to do for the rest of my life, however it is a good, full-time job until I finish my degree. I am currently an assistant to an editor at our local newspaper. Basically that means I am a secretary, though I think that term went out the window many years ago. I have great hours and a fantastic boss, it’s just a job that I want to continue for the rest of my life. I am working toward my degree as we speak and am looking forward to graduating next fall.
    .-= April´s last blog ..Worry =-.

  25. Sandra Heska King September 7, 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    I’m a nurse. Retired with a license intact. I’ve worked in intensive care, special duty at University of Michigan, an OB/GYN office (where I met my husband), operating room, family practice office, as a community health educator, and public health nurse.

    I also did medical transcription, editing, and teaching.

    Along the way, I’ve sold a little life insurance (very little), water filters and skin care products, worked as a church secretary, and worked in a small dress shop (where I owed the owner my paycheck plus some.)

    I’ve cared nurtured two challenging children and now help with the grandgirls.

    Currently I’m a kept woman by a man who loves his job who would like to see me make a little money writing. I would, too. Words make me happy.

    I’m not a very good multitasker. So working full-time AND writing is very hard for me. Mountains work. I’m all over that.
    .-= Sandra Heska King´s last blog ..There Comes Hope =-.

  26. Brock Henning September 7, 2010 at 4:54 pm #

    Great post, and a great question! Interesting to see all of the responses.

    I’m a network engineer. The work is alright, but I loathe corporate America. I got into this field because I’ve been somewhat of a computer geek since age 7. I’m still in this field because it pays the bills and provides for my family, but for the most part, I’m tired of it.

    I’m with you bro, writing is where it’s at, despite that writing is much harder than my day job. Funny how our passions get us to do ridiculous things.
    .-= Brock Henning´s last blog ..Middle Fork Church =-.

  27. Kim S September 12, 2010 at 1:41 pm #

    Billy, I’m sorry that your day job isn’t a blessing to you. Hope you feel better knowing that your writing is a blessing to others! I’m one of those few happily employed people. I’m the marketing director for a Christian publisher. I get paid to let the world know about Christian writers and their books, and I’m surrounded by other committed Christians with whom I work. I know I’m a lucky girl!


  1. Labor(ing) Day : Billy Coffey - September 6, 2010

    […] wrote it all down over at katdish’s place , so in between the hot dogs and hamburgers you’re no doubt grilling today, feel free to […]

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