on the page magazine

issue no. 11, summer 2004


thoughts on making a living

One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important.

~ Bertrand Russell

Getting fired is nature's way of telling you that you had the wrong job in the first place.

~ Hal Lancaster, The Wall Street Journal (April 13, 1999)

Whenever it is in any way possible, every boy and girl should choose as his life work some occupation which he should like to do anyhow, even if he did not need the money.

~ William Lyon Phelps

If adults don't like their jobs, they don't go on strike. They just go in every day and do it really half-assed.

~ Homer Simpson

No book has yet been written in praise of a woman who let her husband and children starve or suffer while she invented even the most useful things, or wrote books, or expressed herself in art, or evolved philosophic systems.

~ Anna Garlin Spencer, Woman's Share in Social Culture

IRINA:  Oh, I'm so unhappy, I can't work anymore, I won't work anymore. I'm sick of it. I've had enough!...I'm almost twenty-four, I've been working all this time, and my brain has shriveled up, I've lost my looks, I've gotten old, and nothing, nothing! There's no satisfaction in any of it and the time passes and you realize you'll never have the beautiful life you dreamed of, you just keep digging yourself deeper and deeper into a hole.... I'm in despair. I am really in despair. And I don't understand why I'm still alive, I should have ended it long ago.

~ Anton Chekhov, Three Sisters

I suspect the fault...is in me: that I hate any job on earth, as a job and a hindrance and a semi-suicide.

~ James Agee

Personally, I have nothing against work, particularly when performed, quietly and unobtrusively, by someone else. I just don't happen to think it's an appropriate subject for an "ethic."

~ Barbara Ehrenreich

The best career advice to give to the young is, "find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it."

~ Katherine Whitehorn

What work I have done I have done because it has been play. If it had been work I shouldn't have done it. Who was it who said, "Blessed is the man who has found his work"? Whoever it was he had the right idea in his mind. Mark you, he says his work—not somebody else's work. The work that is really a man's own work is play and not work at all. Cursed is the man who has found some other man's work and cannot lose it.

~ Mark Twain

...today isn't any other day, you know.

~ Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein's brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.

~ Stephen Jay Gould

Work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.

~ Vaclav Havel

During my second year of nursing school, our professor gave us a quiz. I breezed though the questions until I read the last one: "What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?" Surely this was a joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Before the class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our grade. "Absolutely," the professor said. "In your careers, you will met many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello." I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

~ Joann C. Jones, as quoted in The Sun

We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.

~ Charles Kingsley

You aim for what you want and if you don't get it, you don't get it, but if you don't aim, you don't get anything.

~ Francine Prose

Integrity is so perishable in the summer months of success.

~ Vanessa Redgrave

And beyond even self-doubt no writer can justify ruthlessness for the sake of his work, because being human to the fullest possible extent is what his work demands of him.

~ May Sarton

Life is denied by lack of attention, whether it be to cleaning windows or trying to write a masterpiece.

~ Nadia Boulanger

... look on every exit as an entrance somewhere else.

~ Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

"But haven't you ever wanted to work?"
"Oh, yes. Sometimes. It's just...I don't know. I never seem to get round to it."
And that was the long and the short of it. He never seemed to get round to it. Every day for the last eighteen years he had got up in the morning with the intention of sorting out his career problem once and for all; as the day wore on, however, his burning desire to seek a place for himself in the outside world somehow got diminished.

~ Nick Hornby, About a Boy

To live well is to work well, to show a good activity.

~ Thomas Aquinas

Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?

~ Fanny Brice

Every time. You know why? I want to fail. I work like a dog for twenty years so I'll have the supreme pleasure of failing. Never knew anybody like that, did you? I'm very cunning. I plan it in advance. I fool myself right up to the last minute, and then the time comes and I know how cunningly I've been planning it all the time. I've been a failure all my life.

~ Wallace Stegner, "A Field Guide to Western Birds"

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

~ Mark Twain

Q:  Do you think most people are happy with their jobs?
A:  No. Most of us don't have the courage to pursue what we really want. Most people can definitely do better than what they are doing for themselves.
Q:  But as a society, aren't we already overly obsessed with personal fulfillment?
A:  No. I think we are under-obsessed with personal fulfillment. I think we are overly obsessed with possessions, but not with self-possession and self-purpose.

~ "How to Work It," Interview with Al Sharpton, The New York Times Magazine (July 18, 2004)

Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.

~ J. M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan

Follow your bliss.

~ Joseph Campbell

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