Finding Meaning in Work

In late August, I was fortunate enough to receive a job offer for a Work Learn position. After being interviewed over Skype in the dingy corner of the Harvard Museum of Natural History and submitting references, relief and ecstasy were two dominant emotions on my mind. Having been employed in a small bookstore where I got paid in check and was often sent home early due to a consistent lack of customers, any position with a scrap of legitimacy was enough to get me excited.

Indeed, for the first few days, I was eager to learn and worked fastidiously, dutifully leaving my phone in my bag and switched to silent mode. After a week, however, I began listening to podcasts. As most of my duties were secretarial in nature and did not require immense brainpower, having an auditory distraction was not particularly damaging to my level of productivity. The real problems began to develop when I failed to find meaning in the repetitive and mechanical tasks in which I was engaging, leading to frequent binges of articles on New York Times. The work was so predictable and basic that there is no way anyone could fail at accomplishing it, which induces a sense of comfort, but also boredom.

Personally, I prefer to find meaning in and define my life by the challenges I overcome. It is my nature to not judge success by perseverance and commitment, but by how often I try (and possibly fail at) new activities. This can be problematic (see: taking different dance lessons for a year and stockpiling jazz and ballet shoes), but the resulting variety is exhilarating. My job, however, while seeming resume-perfect on the surface, just doesn’t provide me with the same euphoria as the prospect of tackling a backgrounder for Model UN or reading about the history of ballet.

Before this school year ends, I would like to reach the stage where repetition at work is peaceful and meaningful, just so I can experience that kind of “blank” contentment. Otherwise, I’ll simply have to come to terms with my capricious personality, and try to determine how to best use it to my advantage, a topic for another post.

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