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The Work Illusion

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Work, paid work, is such an interesting phenomena in the Developed world. We define ourselves by it, we cloak ourselves in it and lose ourselves to work.

And for what?

I am a high school teacher and have long believed that my dedication to my work could help a willing student achieve their career goals and they would find true happiness. To do this, I have willingly marked drafts at 4 am so that they could produce their best work, I have given up lunch hours to help my students by just being available for them to speak to so that they felt valued and I have often given up weekends with my own family so that I could supervise students at either sporting or cultural events so that they could enjoy a ‘well-rounded’ education.  I believed that I was indispensable to their lives for the brief time that they were at my school. 

For what?

A few years ago, a fellow teacher who had work at the school for decades, found herself in emergency on life support and had to take a few months from work to recover. After the initial shock, we rallied as a department, finished marking her outstanding assignments and her reports and hoped that her loss wouldn’t be too keenly felt by the school community. 

It was barely felt at all.

She was swiftly replaced by a younger model who the students adored almost at first sight. They spoke about their old teacher with the sort of love usually reserved for an eccentric aunt about whom they had some funny stories, but none of them really wanted her back; not if it meant losing the new teacher who was dazzling in her Doc Marten boots, shorter skirts and knowledge of all things pop culture. However, the young teacher, being a millennial, was much more aware of her self-worth and was much better at saying ‘no’ than we golden oldies. We admired her gumption to her face but feared for her future employment behind her back.

Nothing happened. 

And that was when it struck me, I am dispensable.

Still, I comforted myself, at least I belong to a community. 

Then, the school had the foresight to hire a ‘Human Resources’ manager who is more intent on the bottom line. So much so, that when I asked for half a day off to help one of my daughters  prepare for a social event (I have 42 days sick leave owing) I was told that because the reason for my request didn’t match the laundry list of allowable absence reasons, that I would I have to take the time off without pay. This is after well over a decade of giving up my time, my energy and my heart to support my students. 

For what? 

My community. The community I have been so proud and so honoured to be a part of which has now become nothing but a factory and I am merely an expendable cog; a cheap, barely valued, utterly replaceable cog.

So, I say to the millennials, well done. You have the attitude to paid work that we should all have; you don’t treat it as your life, you treat it as part of your life and my generation should listen to you…

Before it is too late. 

By Ca Venz

1 thought on “The Work Illusion”

  1. Well said. You’ve stumbled onto a profound truth that eventually we all realize: we are dispensable. You’re right about the millennial attitude toward getting paid what they believe is their worth. I admire it, but remain a replaceable cog.

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