Even after a good jolt of coffee at a morning meeting with one of our customers I could not muster a quick answer to her question.
“Why are you still working?” she asked. “Why continue to do what you do?”
There was an easy if flippant answer: “I need the money.” Or I could have talked about the pleasure of small business ownership with its risks but also the rewards of working for myself and providing jobs. I could have climbed up on the high horse and talked about community service, which I truly believe a newspaper provides.
But, instead, I stuttered and stammered and said something like, “I like what I do… I…ah, like it, believe in it…”
Over the hour-long meeting the question continued to rattle around in my mind and as we left the meeting I said to my guest, “I continue to work after 50 years in this business because I have never found a hobby or pastime that I enjoy more than work.”
There is, of course, the slogan that may seem trite but is true: “Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.”
Overused but accurate.
I was reminded of it later that same day when I returned to the office well after 5 p.m. and five of my colleagues, all age 50 to 70-plus, were still at work.
All of them are veteran newspaper folks, most with 30-40 or more years in our business. They keep working when many people are comfortably at home for the day in part because we have a small staff and our people must work efficiently and hard. That alone requires long hours. But most likely these five were still there because they love what they do and they believe that the work matters.
The scene caused me to reflect on how lucky I’ve been to find work in the field of journalism for more than 50 years and to work with people such as those five, people who love journalism, photography, words, telling people’s stories, defending freedom of the press and the public’s right to know, holding government officials accountable, and tirelessly searching for truth.
The moment also called to mind a book entitled Life Work by the late poet and essayist Donald Hall. It covers a variety of topics but begins as a study on the value of work and the joy it provides.
Among the benefits Hall ascribes to work: absorbedness. (The definition, in case you’re wondering: “The state or condition of being completely engrossed or having one’s attention fully taken up.”)
So here, in the category of better late than never, is my official answer to the question about why I still toil at my trade: I love the absorbedness of work.
Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org