My experience only, I can’t speak for others. I grew up with a dad who said this all the time. At the end of the day, we (five of us, we were pretty damn poor) needed to decide if we worked hard enough to deserve dinner. We never did and what we ate was too generous for our labors. Always. Not only would we be in debt to him but indebted to God who was keeping a tally. It was a very effed up way to grow up. The effects last a lifetime (well, I don’t know that for sure. I’ll let you know when I’m dead, though I suspect I will feel guilty eating the lime jello at the home.)
I decided a very long time ago that manual labor was not going to be my only skill, that selling my time was not going to be my only marketable asset.
Yet in adulthood, I find myself surrounded by people who value the amount of “back” you put into the work and the time you spend doing it. Often times, I am working hardest when looks a lot like staring off into space, walking my dogs in the park, “playing the twitters” on my phone, writing on the medium, making some stupid video, doing live impromptu street improv with some unsuspecting but willing extra waiting for a train…. This constantly gets compared to the hours they spend toiling away under watchful eye of some overlord with a watch, telling them when they can go, when they can stay, when they can pee… for wages that are never quite enough to maintain human dignity yet just enough so they don’t starve.
“That is real work,” they declare, “not the stupid internet stuff you do while sitting around on your arse.”
Yet somehow the not real work pays for the mortgage, the cars, the vacations, the college degrees, the health insurance, the weddings, the food… doesn’t keep me from being mocked and feeling guilty for a whole lot of sitting around, and feeling like I am never working hard enough as I watch those around me with manual labor jobs fall into disrepair but still clinging to the notion that their idea of work is right, that there must be some “back” in the thing to be work…
…and sometimes I don’t eat dinner because I have not worked hard enough that day.