DOING ethnographic research at thousands polish homes I got to know that one of the most often complaints is… work. Ideal work is a DREAM, at least “ good enough work” is the aim. Most people come to terms with the fact that work is work and work only. Well it’s not for me. I am put my soul in it – I have to really love it. We have to look for work that makes us happy, makes us smile, makes us proud.
There are people who have work so ideal that I really envy them. And I wonder why I don’t have such work. I have a good one but… it could be much better for sure. Others have so much better work…
When I talk to my friend Mikolaj who is a surgeon saving lives – I always go through a EXISTENSIAL crisis.
When I met Balquiz who runs a SPA in Sumatra – one of the most beautiful places on this planet – I thought that if I had a job like hers, I would probably never travel as much as I do. I’ve also met a journalist who writes about travels and makes a living from it. I’ve once met a person who carries out research ON A PLANES – they earn money travelling with business class and talking with people.
Many, many people have an IDEAL job. And the most beautiful thing is when they are aware of it, because they know how to be happy with it and they have no doubts about choosing the right job, profession, lifestyle… They would never like to do anything else despite some imperfections of their situation (because even diamonds have flaws).
I love my job but… I am a maximalist. Sometimes I think to myself: maybe I should go back to psychology? A therapist saves people and what I do? What do I do for the humankind? Apparently this is a typical complex of psychologists who haven’t become therapists.
Or maybe I should teach more after all? Or maybe I should go and build houses in Africa or Costa Rica, or anywhere else – to get the sense of helping others, of doing something valuable.
Sometimes I wonder if I was right to leave the corporation. Those who envy owning a company are most often the ones who have never run one. And they don’t know how it feels to have a child which ALWAYS needs you and whom you are afraid to leave. And when child doesn’t need you – you also unhappy: Am I steel needed?
Maybe I could have had a BIG career. Maybe it would have been better, easier, more interesting, maybe I would have been a better version of myself now…
Describing all the options would take a lot of time. Unfortunately though, I often travel to the country of ‘maybe I should have’… In such situations some kind of tragedy is helpful. Some shock, so you can make a decision about what you really want to do or to appreciate your life or work for what they are at the moment.
Where meditation didn’t work out (despite my huge expectations), the scalpel helped me. I am really afraid of doctors and surgeons in particular. Thus, when I had to go through a mini-surgery (however with a two-hour anaesthetics), panic came over me.
When I am in that horrible green (not my favourite #happygreen) clothes, in a super cold surgery room lighted brighter than a red carpet during the Oscars – I go weak at the knees, everything starts to pulsate inside of me and I feel like crying. When I finally lie on an operating table – it’s getting even worse… I have no control any more. I’m at the mercy of the surgeon’s ability or mood (yup, I’ve read it has a big influence on the surgery’s outcome). I don’t know if I shiver more from cold or fear. Really – a rather shitty situation.
The anaesthetist is stroking my head and says:
– Well, you are not that afraid, are you…?
Everybody lies – as we say at IzC – but not on an operating table…
– I am freaking out.
I am afraid so much and I am so cold that my teeth start to chatter.
– Hey, come on, you know that I’ll take care of you and won’t hurt you. We need a little more time to get ready so tell me what you do so I know whom I’m treating.
– I carry out ethnographic research for marketing and business.
– Jesus Christ, what’s that?!
– Don’t try to tell me that you think I make cut-outs….
– And do you?
– No! I don’t make cut-outs… It has nothing to do with folk. We do research on how to design a product or service most adapted to the person’s real needs.
– And how do you do that?
– We respect human nature. We know it is as it is… And that it won’t get any better only because WE, the marketing people, need that. We know that all people lie therefore we don’t fully trust words and we always check what people really do.
– And how do you check it? And WHO asks you for it?
– Well, for example, I’d like to see how to improve your work. I could ask you but you wouldn’t tell me the whole truth as it would mean admitting to some weaknesses or saying that there are things you can’t manage… or that some things you simply don’t think of. You are focused on hysterical patients who are scared, not on the fact that some things are uncomfortable, non-functional or simply ineffective… Lie can also be not saying the whole truth, which doesn’t always result from bad intentions but from the lack of reflection…
– So we will also ask your nurse, your receptionist, your assistant and your trainee.
Nurse Mary joins the conversation:
– I’ll tell you the whole truth – what is lacking, what and how should be improved. And how the doctor makes my job harder – I’ll tell you that, too J.
– I would also ask your wife and would gladly spend the whole day with you, talking to your patients too.
– WOW – you would do that for me? It would be so cool… A whole day with you… (The comment so typical that neither I nor the other female researchers react to it). But who’d pay for it all…? We’re such a small clinic after all.
– That could actually be covered by a pharmaceutical company wanting to know how to talk best to you and what you need for the relations between you to be good. But most often we have easier tasks – companies want to know how to advertise instant soups so people think they’re tasty. They ask us: Why do people buy vitamins and never finish them? How to convince people that a credit card is okay and they will not get bankrupt just by having it (yes – you do need to use it IREESPONSIBLY – credit card doesn’t need for herself 100 pairs of shoes)? Or… What do modern teenagers live for and why are they such egoists?
So we shadow people at work, visit their friends with them, we spend a lot of time at their homes.
– And how do you convince them to tell the truth?
– Well, there are various techn…
– I’m sorry, Julia, but something strange is going on… Nurse, why is the patient still awake? Not enough anaesthetic maybe? She’s not even getting sleepy and she should be.
– Because I haven’t given her the anaesthetic yet.
I couldn’t see the anaesthesiologist’s eyes but I could sense they were wide open and screaming: WHY?!?!
– She’s talking about such interesting things. I really wanted to know… She’ll be unconscious after the surgery and I will never know how to make the husband tell the truth without threatening him with the divorce.
What happened next – I do not know. She had finally given me what she was supposed to.
But my teeth didn’t chatter and my legs didn’t shiver any longer and I woke up with a thought that if being on an operating table I can talk about my job in a way that stops the nurse from giving me the anaesthetic, then all my thought about changing the job are probably at least not appropriate… Sometimes people get crazy when they have too much happiness in their life.