Love and Work

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Do you love your work? Really love it? As for Paul Staley, well, not so much.

As I approach a significant birthday in my mid-60s, I have been thinking about how work should fit into my life. When discussing this with people I have been advised that if I love what I’m doing then I should continue.

This doesn’t help. I may have enjoyed work, but I have never loved it. And I’m okay with that.

Over the years work has brought me income, camaraderie and a sense of accomplishment, but as nice or necessary as any of those are, I never thought of them as worthy of love. As for what I actually do at work, I always regarded a job as a gumbo of ingredients, some to my liking and some not. I also think that if Diogenes were alive today, he would search in vain not for an honest man, but for one who sincerely enjoys going to a lot of meetings.

The notion that one should work only at something one loves is also, above all else, a statement of enormous privilege. I suspect that the billions of my fellow human beings who lead a subsistence existence do not console themselves with the thought that while the pay may be lousy, they are at least doing something they really enjoy.


Work also has a way of crowding out other things. It is like the sun. It provides and it governs our days. But in doing so it obscures a vast array of other possibilities that exist beyond its domain, things that guide or inspire us when we turn away from it and are free to dream and imagine.

The idea of work-life balance is not just a worthy goal but the proper frame of reference. We are distinguishing between the two; here is life and here is work, and to me it is very clear on which side of that divide love belongs. I cannot imagine loving something I do for a living more than I love my wife, my children, my friends and family. Over four decades I have had a variety of jobs, but only one wife. I wouldn’t want it the other way around.

With a Perspective, I’m Paul Staley.

Paul Staley lives in San Francisco.