Labor in a Day

Today is the first Monday in September. For many, it’s merely the start of yet another work week.

Whatever ‘work’ means for you.

Getting the children off to school before running a long list of errands and volunteering in the classroom. Pulling into the factory parking lot with a double shift ahead.

photo by Ambros of office workers in a meeting at Adventures in Expat LandTrading stories at the corporate water cooler of weekend highlights (or ennui, if you’ve nothing of interest to share) before the morning staff meeting.

Numbers to crunch, factors to consider, decisions to make.

Tackling those loads of laundry that have piled up, taking the dog to the vet, calling the plumber about the leaky toilet tank.

Opening up shop, doing the inventory, ordering new products, ringing up sales. Shelves to stock, orders to place, telephones and emails to answer. Vendors peddling their wares.

Preparing your lecture, grading papers, planning a field trip. Finishing hospital rounds, poring over X-rays, monitoring vital signs in the neo-natal ward, administering anesthesia in the first surgery of the day.

A big rig to drive across country, jets to refuel, bus routes to follow, taxi fares to pick up. Ground to till, vegetables to gather, crops to water. A house to frame, drywall to put up, roofing materials to order.

Consultations, meetings, appointments, exhibits, presentations, assignments, sales targets, objectives, strategic planning, start-ups.

I’m sitting here typing but my mind is six hours and some 3,900 miles west.

Different country, different work culture.

Today Americans will awake to Labor Day.

A national holiday to commemorate the economic and social contributions of workers and employees across the US, Labor Day has come to represent different things to different people.

Industries, organized labor and trade unions celebrate the victories of met goals and contracts negotiated, and lament the losses in membership and representation. Economic indicators remain dour, unemployment remains high: millions still out of work, others fearful they’ll be next.

At the same time, the majority of Americans will wake up to enjoy a day off. Plans loom for a picnic or backyard barbeque, grilled burgers and cold beer, watermelon and potatoe salad and ice cream, a dip in the pool, waving flags and listening to the marching band at the local parade.

For students, it’s the last hurrah as the remaining school districts begin the school year bright and early tomorrow morning. Those who have already returned to the classroom welcome a day to sleep in and get caught up.

It’s the end of the season, the demarcation between hot weather, summer camps and the annual vacation, and cooler temperatures, shortening daylight and leaves falling.

After today the door has slammed on wearing white, unless you’re fashion forward enough to do so deliberately and in a cheeky, ironic manner. Otherwise you’ll simply be seen as having committed a runway faux pas or (worse yet, gasp!) dreadfully out of date.

As I reflect on the meaning and nature of work, I’m mindful of deadlines looming: an article and a blog post to be written today, a review this afternoon, an extensive conference application later this week. Not to mention more chapters in my book that need considerable work, pages to edit, references to include.

And let’s not forget the mandatory school meeting late this afternoon and required paperwork to submit.

How I labor today is very different than it was two or five or fifteen years ago. It’s me, my laptop and my mind, limited only by my imagination and creativity.

The writing projects are of my decision and design, the goals self-set, the deadlines (well, many of them) self-inflicted. It’s creative and demanding and scary and exhilarating all at once.

As I sit here in The Hague organizing my ‘to do’ list, outlining the day’s chapter and checking facts, sunlight streams through the sheer white curtains of the open French doors. If I listen carefully I can make out the joyful sounds of Dutch children playing at recess in the elementary school a block away.

Beyond the school are the roads and intersections leading elsewhere, tall office buildings full of workers like Husband doing what they do, avenues and tram lines to the city center with its Dutch ministeries and foreign embassies, international organizations and local businesses, boutiques and department stores.

I am one bee in the industrial hive of business and commerce, laboring away.

I like where I live, I enjoy the culture in which I find myself, I am energized by what I do.

And yet I cannot help but wish I were several time zones earlier, turning over in my sleep, content in the subconscious knowledge that today is a glorious opportunity for one more day of relaxation and respite before facing the world.

Labor Day.

[Image credit: ambro, portfolio 1499, freedigitalphotos.com]





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