I am in the minority.
I am among a special 30 percent of the U.S. population. I am blessed among men, lucky to be where I am and fortunate not to be a curmudgeon—though some might disagree with that last one.
I don’t hate my job.
According to a recent survey, 70 percent of employed Americans hate their jobs. And about 18 percent of them not only hate what they do for a living but also are “actively disengaged” from their work and spend their days “roaming the halls spreading discontent.”
If I spread discontent in my office—which is in my home—my wife most likely will demonstrate just what discontent looks like. I don’t dread Mondays; I don’t celebrate “hump day”; and I don’t despair on Sunday evenings about how short weekends are. I like what I do.
I have had jobs that I didn’t particularly like. I’ve worked construction—toiling in the humid heat of Upstate South Carolina digging ditches, shoveling gravel, and moving pipe. It was hard, sweaty, unrewarding labor. But it had a purpose—earning money to help pay for college.
I also worked in a cotton mill one summer and on Christmas break. I discovered that textile manufacturing was not a career path I wanted to follow. But the cotton mill, as well as the construction sites, put me a little closer to my goal—a college degree and career options.
I’ve worked in relatively low-paying jobs, even with a degree. The weekly newspaper where I started my career in journalism didn’t pay much but offered immeasurable learning opportunities. And I enjoyed writing the news and publishing it for others to read. It was a rush—still is.
I sort of backed into agricultural journalism in 1976, after earning a second degree in English and wondering what I was going to do with it. Clemson University hired me on for a year as Experiment Station editor. A year later I switched to Extension editor and then Farm Press hired me in 1978. Let me do the math on that. If you subtract 1978 from 2013 you get real close to 35 years; take off another 18 months while I pursued other opportunities and you still have more than 33 years with the same company. I don’t think that would have happened if I hated my job.
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I was talking to a farmer about that subject just last week. We had finished an interview, and he expressed his appreciation that I had come by to see him. I said something like it’s my pleasure, and I enjoy these visits. And I told him: “I love my job.” “I can tell,” he said.
Well, that farmer and a lot more like him over the years are why I am in that fortunate 30 percent of American workers. Farmers make my job interesting. I’m never sure what I’ll learn when I visit a farm. I might find bountiful crops; I might find drought-ravaged plants; I might find a wheat field hailed out or heavy with grain. I almost always find a new friend or an old one who treats me like family.
And I always leave full of ideas about how best to tell his story honestly and in a way that captures a little bit of who he is and why he loves his job. Sometimes I do that okay; rarely do I do it as well as I would like. Sometimes there just aren’t words enough to explain how devoted these folks are to their land.
But it’s my job to look for them, and I like my job.
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