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“At least we have a job.” I’ve heard it again and again lately. Not in response to any complaints about tyrannical bosses or unreasonably long hours, but to things, in my mind, unrelated. For example, while going through the DC Metro turnstiles I was commiserating with a colleague about the inconvenience of taking a suitcase on the train – commonplace urban talk.

“Every time I’ve seen you lately you’ve been going somewhere with a suitcase.”

“I know, I’ve been traveling a lot lately,” she said as she wrangled her suitcase through the narrow turnstile before it closed on her.

“I know what that’s like. I remember when my husband was still in New York and I was dragging a suitcase on the Metro every weekend.”

“At least we have a job,” was her response.

“Yes, that’s true,” was the only reasonable thing I could think of to say. Though what I was really thinking was, “What does hauling a suitcase up one of Metro’s inevitably broken, two story escalators with an irritated crowd hemming and hawing behind you have to do with having a job?”

I suppose having a job makes life’s inconveniences more tolerable. Knowing what it’s like to operate in survival mode due to lack of a job more than once, I concede to that point. The unemployed you dragging a suitcase up the escalator is thinking in response to the eye rolling, huffing person you’re causing to be late, “At least you have some place to go to in a hurry.”

So goes the mantra of the unemployed, “It’s not that bad to warrant getting upset over. At least you have a job.” Whereas the employed in a bad economy remind themselves, “At least I have a job.” So for all of the fuss about work being work and not our life, we put a lot of emphasis on work. Work can only be “just work” if we have the luxury of having work. Otherwise, the thought of not having it becomes our life and
consumes the emotional energy we would otherwise have to devote to the “life” of our alter-employed self.

I’d never wish for a bad economy, though often it’s only through our trials that we gain humility.