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The Happiness Project: March, part I

March 5, 2010

I’m continuing to read through Gretchen Rubin’s NY Times bestseller, The Happiness Project, a book in which Gretchen proposes monthly ideas to promote happiness. This month, Gretchen discusses research that suggests people who work more are happier. Whereas you do have workaholics–individuals who wear themselves out by defining themselves through the quantity of work and are unable to set boundaries for times of play and family–I generally find this to be true. We did a research project last year that provided a societal expectation for masculinity, and one of the major components was work. Language such as “primary breadwinner” and “head of the household” resides in many American families (although that’s shifting, thankfully), and that connotes an expectation that men provide through working. Working boosts self-worth and senses of purpose along with financial gains.

It makes me cringe a bit to look at our national unemployment rate. Sure, the number of jobs lost each month are gradually diminishing–in fact, there was a profit in jobs gained during November 2009. But 9.7% of Americans are still out of jobs, and that doesn’t include Americans like myself who have jobs, but can’t find 40 hours of professional work a week. I think the first 14 months of Obama’s presidency provide a great example of this. Obama came into Washington with plans of overhauling of health care system, but many Americans protested this, saying that there were more immediate needs, such as the unemployment rate. It was as if this resistant population was saying “Give me happiness; give me a job.”

Work has been a personal struggle for me. I just finished a 2-year graduate program in marriage and family therapy at ACU (a prestigious program in our field) in August. Several of my classmates have gone on to PhD schools, and several others (it seemed the older ones) got jobs immediately. I’ve had interviews with close to a dozen places, and have had hope risen and dropped time and time again. I’ve had at least two job opportunities where someone with more experience was preferred/hired above me. There were two job opportunities where I felt I was given preferential treatment, but still didn’t get the job. I’ve been incredibly unlucky–at the beginning of the week, I got a call from a place in Boston looking to hire immediately and asked if I was interested. I mean, yes, I am interested, but Katie and I are in Abilene until May. He told me that there may be other job opportunities coming up at that point.

I still have work at Highland (20-25 hours a week keeping the praise team ministry going) and at Faithworks, where I have lunch counseling appointments with several of the students. And I’m so grateful for that work–I’m afraid that my co-workers at those places think the opposite as I talk to them about my frustration with finding full-time work. I probably couldn’t have started our Praise Team nights at Highland or been more intentional about introducing new music on Sunday mornings if I were in another situation. This current situation has also allowed me to be more flexible with the counseling situation at Faithworks. But for whatever reason (age, race, just bad luck), I don’t have a full-time job. And that brings feelings of angst, rejection, and unhappiness.

Gretchen writes about work in a non-professional, hobby-like sense as well, and I want to take the weekend to explore some of the things she discusses. Thanks for reading!

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