As I write this post I am surrounded by piles of clothes, class notes, and flight information – items that fall under the category of “things I need to take with me to Knoxville”. The Tennessean conference I will be attending in the coming days is one for Phi Eta Sigma, an honors society of which I am not only a member but also an executive board member. When I agreed to take this trip less than a month ago I was focusing on the knowledge I would be gaining from meeting with other college students like myself, the advice I would be getting from listening to their experiences, and the ideas I would be getting that could help improve our chapter. As I sit among this mess now, I cannot help to think, “Oh, I hope all this work is worth my time.”
We say these sort of things all the time. “It was a waste of my time.” “I don’t think it will be worth my time.” And, what do they really mean? Well, for a moment let’s think about it economically. If every activity we participated in during the week were like a paying job for us, how much would that job have to pay to be “worth” the time and effort it took up? Now consider the returns of those activities (particularly the social capital returns, such as experience, recognition, pride, etc. ) as an hourly rate. Are your activities paying you enough to retain you?
I know how cynical it sounds, but for the past few days at least this has been my mindset. When certain responsibilities of mine take up too much time and effort leaving me drained and demoralized, I feel like they are jobs for which I am being paid below minimum wage. And, I think this is something we can all relate to. After all, how many times have you skipped your assigned reading for a class because that professor never asks questions on it, and it only feels like a waste of time. Or, perhaps you have gotten frustrated at work because you feel like you have been given double the work than was agreed to.
My message tonight, despite what you might have thought, is not a cynical one. Do not get stuck in the rut of feeling over worked and underpaid. Everything, all the work and effort you put into things, will pay off. And, even when you feel like you should be receiving more for your services, remember every cloud has a silver lining. Will you look at that! Not only did the message turn out non-cynical, it ended up being quite a bit cliché.
This week focus on the positives, when faced with feelings of being overworked. Every experience yields lessons and take-aways. Perhaps doing your class reading will clarify difficult points for you, and working hard at your job will keep you humble. Whatever the activity, know that there will be rewards for your hard work if not sooner, then later. As I finish up getting my things together for Knoxville, I am confident that the trip will not only help me to be a better executive board member for John Jay’s chapter, but it will also provide me with a mini vacation, some time away from NYC, and much-needed nap during the plane ride.