Write about a time when work felt real to you, necessary and satisfying. Paid or unpaid, professional or domestic, physical or mental.
Surprisingly this prompt could be quite lengthy and complex for me- so I will trim it down a bit and talk about the first time work (nonacademic) felt necessary and satisfying.
I grew up on a small family farm, there was plenty of work to go around. We had cattle, chickens, pigs, ducks, geese, lambs and more. We had many jobs to do for feeding our animals and upkeep of their shelters and grazing land. When you are a 8 year old boy there isn’t a lot of that type of work that feels necessary or satisfying. Dad knew this- he fought to get my brother or I out doing chores, until he became smarter than the average bear.
Our main livestock was cattle, and it takes a lot to maintain them. We had to put up hay every summer- trying to get 2 crops in each summer. We had to fence in pasture and maintain it. We had to give them shots, take care of hooves, sew lacerations, assist with births. When the calves come, you have to clean them and feed them- first with bottles and then pails. Hopefully mom will take over the feeding duties- if not you have to take care of them 3 times a day, every day. As an 8 year old, none of “activities” are fun, interesting, or satisfying. They are just necessary.
Dad put a twist on that. One fall he asked if I wanted to go with him to the cattle yard. I said sure- getting away from home was a rare occurrence. We went to this place that held a large metal shed, and corrals that seemed to stretch forever. There was so much going on I couldn’t take it all in. We found a spot in the auction hall and watched the sale of cattle. This held my interest for about 10 whole minutes until I got bored and started keeping myself busy- counting rafters, examining how the shed was built, finding patterns in cowboy hats, etc. This all was all washed away when I recognized the next bull that was led into the arena, it was ours. I was absolutely mesmerized with the bidding process on our animal, and the next 29 after that. People were paying us money for our animals, and paying well. It left quite an impression on my young mind. On the way home Dad told me “Next year you are going to own your first cow, you will take care of her and you will get to sell any of the calves she has.”
This blew my mind, I was going to get a cow and I got to sell the calves I raised for once- and get money. This opened up a whole new world to me.
Later that fall we went to another cattle sale and I got to look for my new calf. My calf. All of a sudden I became an expert on cattle, I wandered the yard looking at calves. I was judging them by appearance- how clean they were, how the acted in the corral, how big they were- I was such the eagle eye. I finally picked one and we got her at a good price, her name was GiGi.
From then on, any work around the farm was necessary and satisfying- I knew the importance of keeping GiGi fed, sheltered and kept safe. I no longer complained about chores and even took initiative to do them on my own. That was my first experience of ownership, and hopefully I can help my students find theirs as my Dad did for me.