I’m happy to vigorously promote Miya Tokumitsu so you can also see the baffling conclusion this PhD in art history makes about the work you and I are doing today.
Tokumitsu says, in her world, loving your job is almost a crime against humanity.
Let’s go back a step. Miya Tokumitsu is a PhD in art history. Can you imagine a more fancy, elitist doctorate? Let’s go down to the local bar, grab a stool and tell the working stiffs from the meat-packing plant all about your passion for the Proto-Renaissance period of the 1400s – that’ll get you some big laughs.
She claims that so many people have to pick up garbage, clean toilets and prepare Happy Meals these days that only spoiled elites have the luxury of making the claim that they love what they do, and that love makes the meat packers of the world feel badly.
Tokumitsu writes, “Elevating certain types of professions to something worthy of love necessarily denigrates the labor of those who do unglamorous work that keeps society functioning, especially the crucial work of caregivers.”, referring to people who do home care for elderly people.
She also seems to make the case for more tenured art history teaching positions, claiming 41% of American college faculty are adjuncts – contractors who don’t have ridiculously high salaries and who have to work more than 100 days a year. I’m guessing Ms. Tokumitsu is a special interest group, angling for a cushy university gig where she can have grad students run most of her classes, freeing her to write at leisure about Neo-Expressionism while the rest of us toil and stumble through life as shift managers at America’s Chuck E. Cheese restaurants.
I’m not picking on her. I’m wracking my brain trying to figure out her premise: loving what you do for a living is a sin, because so many don’t?
Tokumitsu is absolutely, completely correct is pointing out that corporate overlords have rendered many of us servants to stockholders. She is spot on when she characterizes people who crave a career in media creation as susceptible to being taken advantage of in internships. I believe I join her in wishing we could gather with torches and pitchforks and storm the US Capitol, demanding once and for all the end of corporate personhood, the resurgence of equality of opportunity and the immediate lowering of barriers for poor people to get in the capitalist game and win (or lose).
The notion that love of a job requires the indentured servitude of others to make it pleasurable is baloney.
Fabulous people exist among us. Fabulous people start legendary companies and create game-changing products and services. Yes, when you invent an iPad you have labor in Guangdong who build them for you. You cannot build things like that in Pittsburgh anymore. But wouldn’t it be better to treat your workers in Shenzhen better, though increased pay, time off and benefits? Isn’t it okay to do well, and do some good? Isn’t it acceptable to get up in the morning, climb on your garbage truck and make 40 dollars an hour doing what is arguably one of the most important jobs in a society?
Why should you feel guilty about being smart, focused and fabulous?
I hate that our nation’s middle class is evaporating. I hate that so many of us have to work our tails off for less and less. I hate the evil part of the 1%. But joy at work is the best possible outcome ever! When you do something that gives you joy, you’ll do it better, be promoted faster, and absolutely make more money over the course of your working life than will a person who needs a tractor to be pulled out of bed every morning to go do something they loathe.
Loving what you do expresses itself many ways; maybe the car mechanic goes totally Zen when he’s installing valve cover gaskets. A restaurant dishwasher with a great idea and confidence can find a person with a skill at finance and start realizing the dream. Maybe there are 2 or three cashiers at Ross who thoroughly enjoy the rapid-fire engagement with customers, and are genuinely satisfied by offering good customer service.
Work of any type provides us with the basic building blocks of life; food, shelter and esteem, to name a few. Work can be a means to an end, it can be a ticket to joy during free time, or it can be an exhilarating adventure. Outcomes are not guaranteed, but if we could do a better job of trying to make opportunity a fair target for many, there’d be a hell of a lot more happy people at work in this world.
Don’t feel guilty if you love how you earn a paycheck. Life is full of billions of little disappointments, heart breaks and setbacks. Loving work is an awesome state of being. You probably deserve it. Enjoy it.
John Scott is an adjunct media instructor and the career services manager at the School of Multimedia Communications, Academy of Art University, San Francisco. He loves his job very much and makes no apologies for it.