By Jim Kempton
Work is what we have to do, and leisure is the stuff no one requires of us—no matter what kind of effort is involved. Anyone who has been tortured by the time and exertion necessary to achieve a solid 70 handicap on the links knows a good golf game takes more effort than most work at the office. And yet, we will slog through the rain on 18 links, paddle against massive closeouts in the surf and run 6 kilometers in the scorching heat and consider it a pleasure as opposed to making a phone call in an air-conditioned office to someone we don’t want to speak to, and bear the inevitable stress of the interaction.
Work is often made unpleasant by the person we call our immediate supervisor—at least that’s what we think makes it unpleasant. Bosses always mistake our attentiveness to them at work for being admiring of their talent—when actually we are just trying to keep our job.
Women have the hardest time in the workplace. More than one woman has told me they feel like they have to think like a man, act like a lady, look like a young girl and work like a dog. This is the most pervasive aspect of working in America today. If you want to know what the term “institutional racism” or “institutional sexism” looks like, look no further than the hundreds of women from all walks of life and all types of industries who have come forward in the last year to give witness to how they are treated differently because of their gender. That mercifully seems to be changing rapidly and it couldn’t happen fast enough in a world like ours.
And like their male counterparts, the breadwinning spouse puts up with a lot of inexcusable behavior because we need to cover the mortgage, the kids’ doctor bills and the car payment even though the way we achieve those necessities seems pointless or even absurd.
Which brings us to the point here: work is considered work because it is not our choice—where play (no matter how frustrating, difficult or downright dangerous) is something we choose to do. So perhaps when they say “do what you love” there is some unrealized connection there, as we tend to do much better at our play (which we love) than we do with our work (which we don’t). What I do know is there is truth to the old saying that nobody ever expressed their dying regrets to be “I wish I had spent more time at the office.”
And of course, there is another important axiom to remember when feeling guilty about all the stuff you feel you should be doing versus all the time you spend just doing what you want, which is often not a dang thing: Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.
And remember, even after working hard, kicking butt, struggling to constantly win, we still get old and die. The winner of the rat race is still a rat.
Jim Kempton is the author of Surfing, the Advanced Manual, a book on surf tips from the pros. His theory assumes work is for people who haven’t learned to surf yet.