“I work hard to put bread on the table.”

Cliche.

But what really constitutes working hard? Usually the guys who said stuff like that in movies were dockworkers, factory men, construction people, or hustlers who constantly, literally, move around cracking deals and making money. Men from ‘that age’ where going to work meant you actually had to sweat and use your hands, and I don’t mean tapping a keyboard or feeling the heat of life in a coastal town.

For some strange reason, that phrase makes me think of some sweaty guy with rippling muscles ramming a sledgehammer onto an anvil…or was that an eighties music video for CMC music factory? Anyway, my point is, what exactly does it mean when you say you’re working hard?

I suppose in the US where ‘living the American dream’ translates into either [over]working overtime in an Ivy League job, or working three, four, even five hourly-wage gigs just to survive. That’s working hard.

But what about the regular person in the regular country? Tuseme Kenya. You leave home at 6 to beat the jam, and work past 8 – again, to beat the jam. Or you pull the regular 9 to five but it’s more like 8 to 9 coz you spend five hours in traffic. So by the time you get home, you’re exhausted from the commute.

You go to work every day even though your job is probably as dull as the ‘before’ clothes in an Omo ad. You drudge through the day without really thinking about what you’re doing and why. The only thought in your mind is that you’d rather be somehwere else, anywhere else. Then you go home. Are you working hard?

I always tell myself I’m working hard. But am I really? Surviving office politics is definitely hard work, extremely hard work, in any office. But that’s not what you’re paid for. What I am paid for, the stuff that’s on my job description, that comes pretty easily to me. On a good day, I don’t need to put much effort to get my job done.

Of course there are those days when your boss makes no sense and you don’t have the energy to dot that i or do that ridiculously pointless project. Or when your brilliant idea gets shot down because the boss doesn’t like it. Or those meaningless tasks that you do on autopilot to simply get the job done without thinking or feeling anything, pushed purely by the paycheck.

Or those days when you have a mad deadline and you actually do feel exhausted after beating it, when you get home feeling that you have actually worked. Or those days when you have to work extra hours, weekends and holidays because the boss, client or project demands it; when you’re too tired to eat and too spent to sleep, so you just vegetate in some pseudo-zombie-med-school-intern state.

And my personal favourite, the moments when your superior is being blonde and mean and you want to blindfold them and shoot them with blanks till they drop dead from fear. But instead, you have to smile at them and be nice, because after all, this is real life, not Wanted [where Wesley put my current thoughts into words quite succintly]. I think that’s hard work – making yourself do something you detest because you need the money.

But that’s on a bad day. Most days, the reason I get home exhausted isn’t because of the job, it’s coz of the accessories to the job, the clashes with coworkers, the office bureacracy, the little and not-so-little annoyances. So then, on a day like that, am I really working hard?

I think I’m working hard to blog right now, coz I’m doing it consciously, carefully. Before I’d just open the window and type whatever came to mind. I wrote instinctively. But now I filter each post before I type it. I channel it through my senses, especially the common one. I sift it in my mind to see if it will hurt anyone, or if it will upset me to read it in a few months tme, or if I will one day get a mwaura-spired urge to delete it.

I feel like I’m cheating when I do that, like I’m not being true to the writer in me, like I’m compromising the quality of my writing, like i’m quenching what i love most about my art – it’s authenticity. I feel like I’m wearing a mask in the one place where I need to be myself. I feel like I’m diluting the beauty of CB.

But then, in life we have to hide sometimes. And a good friend taught me that the best place to hide is in the open. I have finally acquired privacy, I have outlined my inner self, and more to the point, I’ve discovered the need to hide her.

I have this romanticized idea of love, the kind of give-all love between Celine and Michael in Underworld, or Neo and Trinity in Matrix, or Aragorn and Arwen in LOTR. [i watched them all in one sitting – long story, longer night, fun!! – and who names a gun-toting (shiny?) leather-wearing vampire Celine?! They couldn’t give her a cool name like Shivara or Latrava or… anything but Celine. I mean Celine?! Really!! ]

I long for that somebody who will know everything about me and love me anyway. But that can’t happen if everybody knows everything about me. So for the sake of my soulmate, I shall keep a bit of me secret, and leave it just for him. Maybe one day he’ll come along and unlock it for me. Maybe. I am the queen of excuses, no?

Besides, since I don’t work very hard at work, I might as well do it at play, yes?

19 thoughts on “Define hard work

  1. i am as tudent and i would say i work hard at being a student than studying itself…like u said the accesories, putting up with annoying people, tryin to fit in, and all that ish…nothing to do with the studies themselves coz they are a breeze for me, i dont have to work hard on them to get good grades or sth to that effect.

    well, they do say accessories are the spice of fashion…i was going to babble about life being a catwalk and whatnot but that’s way too much cheese 🙂

  2. There is a difference between mentally tired and phyiscally tired. They are both work in my book. Personally, after being in the business world most of my life I”d take phyisically tired over mentally tired any day.
    When I do physical labor I feel better all the way around.

    true dat, burns more calories too

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