The Need to Work

Another school year has come and gone and summer is now in full swing. In fact, I write this before I head home to swim with my two sons. Nothing is better in the summer for a university professor than sleeping in, doing some reading and writing and going for a late afternoon swim with the family and an evening bike ride. This gentle California weather makes it even more enjoyable!

Yet, summers are also a difficult time for a university professor – or at least for this professor. Many days I feel no less than a twinge of guilt for not getting more work done. Truth be told, most days I feel more than a twinge, I feel a downright load of guilt for not being more productive. I confess that I am prone to overwork. Whereas my colleague Matt Jenson works hard to have proper boundaries in this area, I tend toward the sinful side of the spectrum. Work itself is not a sin, but I do believe that we as a fallen people often tend to overwork. Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly many people who do not have this problem! But some of us do. For example, I am writing this blog from my university office, i.e., “work.” Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being in my office on a beautiful summer day, but the whole reason that I am here is so that I can get some work done and be productive. Though I am not teaching classes right now, there is always a book to work on, a book or article to read or something else. It is always easy to find things to do!

Part of why I am wired like this, I think, is that I have inherited my dad’s work ethic. My dad lost his father when he was only five years old. Unable to financially provide for all her children, his mom placed my dad and his siblings in an Odd Fellow’s Home, where my dad would live until he graduated from high school. Upon graduating from high school, my dad started working at the local paper mill where he remained until his retirement at the age of 62, minus about three years when he served in the US Navy. Growing up my dad worked seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, except for the couple of weeks that he took off for vacation and to work around the house. To be honest, I thought that everyone’s dad worked seven days a week. I’m not sure how old I was when I learned that some kid’s parents only worked five days a week, but I bet I was at least twelve years old. My dad was a worker and he modeled that for me. In fact, not only was my dad a hard worker but I never remember my dad ever complaining about it either. Perhaps my memory is rusty or my dad simply kept it to himself, but he either didn’t complain about his long hours or he did it out of earshot of his family.

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