3.13.12 “Well, pick up your feet, we’ve got a deadline to meet, and I’m gonna see you make it on time,” sings Roy Orbison in “Working for the Man,” one of those classic American inversion stories where a guy on the line has dreams of replacing his boss and winning his daughter. Americans and work go together like PB&J. Studies have shown that while Europeans, in general, associate their happiness with leisure time, we see work as our greatest source of satisfaction. Even though an average German works fewer hours (about 400 less per year) and enjoys more vacation (six weeks to our two), guess who’s more productive?
My parents found their career paths in their early 20s and pretty much stayed in the same game, saved for their retirements, and called it quits in their late 60s. For young people, the landscape has shifted. I spent over a decade searching for the right career, I haven’t saved a dime or bought a house, and I have no plan for retirement. This weekend I saw a license plate that said, “Wrksx,” and I thought to myself, mine doesn’t. I spend too much time writing on the weekends, but I mostly love what I do.
This week’s feature looks at how people in Charlottesville make a living and it begs a little consideration of the end game. If, as we’re often told, our economy needs structural change, we’re working longer hours with less vacation for lower pay than our parents, and the retirement age continues to increase, what’s the point of breaking the handle off the shovel? Shouldn’t we just lay back? A 2011 Gallup Healthways study of well-being suggests you might already have the answer. Charlottesville ranked second in the nation among the 190 metropolitan areas measured in the index and university towns nabbed four of the top five spots. Work, think, play.–Giles Morris