The world of work

As I once again enter job hunting mode, I am reflecting on this whole concept of work. I recently read a blog post re: a couple who were entrepreneurs having their own small business. There were vacationing in Europe but still had to do some work each day. Due to the schedule of vacation & work, they ended up spending a specific restricted & dedicated amount of time doing work, condensed from what they normally would do. They discovered they were actually more productive and subsequently decided to continue this work schedule upon their return home. So they have done what is called work smarter & harder but not longer and instead shorter. Of course they were very much wanting to share their learning and encourage others to follow suit.

I was like really?!?!?. How many actually have the choice to work 5-6 hours a day in a 9 to 5 world. For f____ sake, most folks have absolutely no choice, no control over this. Talk about being blind to their privileged position, something that irks me about middle class folks.


I have always been one to be a hard worker. I attribute this to my good ol’ (Protestant) work ethic that my teachers, and maybe my parents’ to a lesser extent, instilled in me from a young age.

I am a doer by nature – don’t know if that nature was born in me or I was influenced by my environment.

I know I like making to do lists – it helps keep me organized even though I am already a super organizer type of person. I like being organized.

I know I am super great at multitasking although in the past decade I have attempted to reduce the occasions when I practice this. To me this is a clearly gendered phenomena.

I know I like to be doing things, keeping busy. Even when I am feeling shitty or have had bad spells in my life that have lasted for some time, I have always committed to doing at least one productive thing each day, even if that is simply cooking a good meal.

I remember reading something online when I was in a dark period that I am what would be called a high functioning person even when experiencing some mental health issues.

I have had the opportunity in my working life to have had employment where, as an academic, I had much control over my working hours. For the bulk of these years, I never had to consider what were work and home boundaries. I was fine with checking email, doing course prep or grading papers at different times of the day or week. I have been fortunate that in terms of a teaching schedule, almost always my courses have taken place either Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday so my Fridays were free from teaching. I was always pooped by the time Friday rolled around, probably because I did not have good boundaries so I certainly took it more easy on the Fridays, but also because I practiced a transformational pedagogy, not lecturing like a robot.

Ever since I had the job from hell at Saint Mary’s University where I finally quit academia, I have implemented relatively strict boundaries on this even if this doesn’t always work for me.

In my first full-time unionized workplace after I completed my Ph.D., I was exposed to a 28 & a 35 hour work week. In both of my positions, I had originally applied for the 28 hour position but for understandable reasons I was offered the 35 hour position. So I arranged to work a 9 day fortnight, working 9 days instead of 10 in a 2 week period of 14 days.

Having the three day weekend was absolutely amazing, and since then this is what I have always wanted but rarely do you find this, at least not in North America.

I am struggling to figure out what is a good arrangement of my time for work and other activities.

I am usually a morning person but I seem to have slowed down in the mornings. Now I just love taking a few hours to leisurely make coffee and enjoy it, prepare and eat a breakfast, do the morning email check & other internet surfing, catching up on the news. Being in a rush in the morning is not good for me.

I do love the idea of taking a siesta. There is always a lull in my energy level in the afternoon and a nap would be fantastic but how many of us have couches let alone offices where you might find a couch.

I am also contemplating what is the right work environment for me. My environment is not always conducive to focusing on work. Living on our farm during the winter can be challenging if I am to do sedentary work activities, e.g. using a computer. Soon enough I am freezing my ass off as we do not have central heating.

I do like interacting with work colleagues or others that might connect with my place of work. It is just so stimulating to engage with others on issues of common interest. I also know I do like to do my own work as well, but not in isolation.

I am realizing that in a certain way one is rarely completely free from thoughts pertaining to work. I mean my work has always been connected to my activism. So I may be enjoying myself with friends over a few drinks or some great food, but inevitably at some point, topics will be discussed that pertain to my work. So should this be considered work time? What about the times I have my early morning insomnia to often then have some amazing ideas come to my mind at a time when my mind is at its most clear. Is this work time?

I hate it that I feel some guilt if I am not doing my work during the 9 to 5. You know when you check email or facebook, to pass a few moments, catch up on news or just be distracted enough to overcome the momentary fatigue or just needing to switch gears to clear the brain of work thoughts.

As they say we should not be living to work, rather working to live. Our capitalist North American obsession with long hours of work does not work when many of the hours in one day are not actually that productive.

I don’t want the 9 to 5 prison. If I know what my job is, what the expectations are of what I am to produce, then I will get the job done and well done but don’t tell me I have to do it from 9 to 5 (or 8:30-4:30). I guess I am now at an age that I know what I am capable of and what I can deliver.  I am a very hard worker. I am an incredible asset to those who employ me. I also know I will only settle for a good life work balance, and doing a 40 hour work week does not fit the bill for me let alone for anyone.

I am struck that even with so-called progressive NGOs or institutions, they still work this type of schedule. Where’s the progressiveness in that? Why are there not more opportunities to work remotely or at least partially virtually?

I want a job where I truly feel I am contributing in a tangible way to making this world a better place, even if in a minute way.

I want a job that values me and remunerates me correspondingly, demonstrating their value of me.

I will give it my all but this will only last so long if I am not valued, if I don’t feel what is the task at hand will truly make a difference.

I am still searching for that elusive next career focus. Or rather I know what some of those careers could very well be. The problem is that this often means moving away from our farm, living most likely in a city of some size.  Alas this I cannot do. So I hope for a position at the Truro Agriculture campus of Dalhousie University in their International Department, or at the provincial Department of Agriculture, but alas both are not hiring.

Any takers for a sociology farmer or a farmer sociologist with international experience? 

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4 Responses to The world of work

  1. Tyler says:

    Hi Wilma,
    I know exactly how you feel, and I’m lucky to be in a career (and at a stage in my career) where I can dictate my work environment (hours and remote locations, i.e. work from home). Considering your educational background, your well versed writing abilities, and your insight to small farming/farmer markets, I suggest you try a writing career that also allows for some experimentation (similar to what Ross is doing). I know you guys don’t think too highly of Mother Earth Magazine but perhaps you can approach the editor with the idea of submitting articles to the magazine on market improvements based on international experience (both hands on and researched)? Its not likely you would make a lot of money at it but its one way to establish a network. Something to think about? Also, is it a feasible idea for being a paid guest speaker at various universities speaking on local issues associated with small scale farming, …maybe combine it with an anthropology course? Again, not much money in it.

    • wwolfvan says:

      Hi Tyler,
      I will be sending you an email shortly. Thanks for your ideas and for your positive feedback. I am actually fine with Mother Earth although I guess I am not that familiar with it in detail. Funny but it seems to come up often when I do an internet search on a farming related issue, e.g. growing or preserving food. Diversification is key in farming and simply in general when seeking to garner some income but not from a full time job working for others. I will be spending some time when we are back in NS, considering and costing out options of what we want to do investing in our farm infrastructure but also how we can see some funds coming instead of so much going out. I really think Mr. C5 needs to get published. This is actually something I would like to do, and could do, making it happen,
      with my skill set. What do you think?

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