Emotional Labour. A friend introduced this term to me a while back, during a time I was employed in a job I wasn’t happy in. Well, some days I was happy. Other days – most days – I was miserable, drained, and frustrated. The constant back-and-forth in my experience – the love/hate relationship with my work and what I felt it demanded of me every day – resulted in what could aptly be described as ’emotional labor’.
I’d been performing the same type of job for years, albeit in different environments, and I was finding it increasingly hard to continue the same routine. Every day my head would battle my heart in a ‘should I stay or should I go’ debate.
I left that job a few weeks ago. I was passionate about the vision of the organization, but that wasn’t enough.
It’s not the first time I’ve quit my job; and in previous instances, I’ve eventually returned to the same type of environment. And I understand why.
Through conversations with friends and loved ones, I know that so many of us have incredibly wonderful interests and desires, innovative business ideas that we know would fill our spirits and benefit the world around us. We want to feel that our work has meaning, and brings our particular vision of beauty to this planet.
We know the old structures are crumbling. We are aware of the early conditioning and mass programming that keeps us repeating the same patterns, and we work to shift that. But transformation doesn’t happen overnight. And in the meantime, there are bills to pay.
Things have changed so much in one generation, and the world today is very different from that of our parents. What is true security, in these times?
After the novelty of each new workspace wore off, I realized how bored I was. I also found myself straining to be nice all the time. Being ‘nice’ wasn’t in my job description, of course; but given the roles I was in, it was the underlying expectation.
Women often find themselves doing ‘pink collar’ work – jobs that are service-oriented and call for a perpetually pleasant and accommodating demeanour. For a long time I prided myself on being these things. Now I realize how unnatural this is. Sitting in front of a computer screen, indoors, under fluorescent lights, supporting people doing the work they are passionate about…it had taken an energetic and physical toll.
So many of us sense there must be something more. There is a heightened sense of urgency.
For the unfulfilled among us – it is our responsibility to step out of our secure, familiar ways and create the new. We already know this. It requires courage, entering discomfort zones, finding those whose vision aligns with ours, and trusting the universe. Easier said than done, maybe. But imperative, definitely.
It’s not frivolous to want joyful work. If consciousness is evolving and a new paradigm is emerging in all this chaos, it makes sense that all our creations, including our work, would align with this energy. In most of my conversations, a meaningful career has far less to do with individual wants and desires, and more about making the human experience better for all.
The un-learning and deconstructing of the past is important. So is patience and self-compassion. I don’t have any how-to’s or solid next steps. I only know that every minute is precious, and I must get these words out.