It was a typo. I wrote whorker rather than worker. I looked at the word. I liked the word. I’ve been savoring it for a couple of days now, searching for the best way to explain it.
Tonight, Soup Boy gave me the answer. I haven’t seen much of him lately, and moments ago I got a message from him about how working thirteen-hour days was beating him down. I nodded, understanding. That’s a hell of a long work day.
Only, I’m on hour thirteen as I write this. I’m tired, but although today was uphill, good things came of it in the end. I made some real progress, mostly identifying problems I will need to fix later, but you have to do that sometimes.
I am a slacker, apparently, simply because I love what I do. (True, I make almost no money at it, but when was that ever a measure of success?) I spend my days working, to the exclusion of my frustrated friends and bemused family members, but because I genuinely enjoy what I do to a degree that may not be healthy, to many of them I am not working. Today, part of my job was to read a fascinating piece by Milan Kundera about Franz Kafka. It was not an easy read; there was much to think about with each paragraph. It was fun, but it was work. I work every day. Enter whork.
If you’re watching the clock, pining for the whistle that marks the end of your shift, you’re not working. You are whorking. I had a blast building a software company, but eventually my work became whork. It took me a long, long, time to realize that, and in the meantime I whorked myself into a position where I can work for a while now, without worrying too much where the next slice of pizza is coming from. No, I am not in any way above whorking; I have done it and will almost certainly do it again. I simply wish working was given as much respect. Suffering on the job has been elevated to the point where your job can’t be worthwhile if you don’t feel trapped and suffocated. Suffering on the job has become a virtue. Somewhere along the way whork has become more meaningful than work.
That’s messed up.
And I probably have it all wrong. Blame Kafka. [Let us pause for the moment while the author clinches down really hard to repress the urge to compare Kafkan bureaucracy to modern America, where the state is granted the right to define existence, and privacy is unpatriotic. Must… avoid… insane… rant!]
There are plenty of days I don’t work thirteen hours. Every now and then there is a day I don’t work at all (not seriously, anyway—there’s no way to stop a writer from testing words and savoring phrases). The most magnificent part of my life is that I am not whorking. Not for the moment, anyway. When I find myself muttering, “ah, crap. Astounding wants another Tin Can story,” then perhaps I will discover my inner whore once more. (It’s there. Don’t let my pompous language fool you. My whole career is a campaign to sell out.)
Crazily, happily, there are accountants who love numbers, who work rather than whork. There are probably damn few teachers who are whorkers. I’d even go so far as to say that there are more workers out there than there are whorkers. And now, by gum, I’m one of them. It feels great.