FRANK TALK ABOUT WHAT WE DO WITH OUR LIVES

Editorial Note: 3-Week Update

In Notes on February 11, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Work Stew is now three weeks old. A few posts went up before January 20, 2011, but that was the day of the first Facebook announcement, and since readers are every bit as important as contributors to a project like this, I consider that day to be Work Stew’s official birthday.

So far, so good: essays have been published at a rate of about two per week, and more than sixty people have raised their hands to contribute pieces of their own. It can take a while to write a good essay, so patience will be the order of the day for the next few weeks and months. But, once the first batch of contributors starts to complete their submissions, I think it’ll be possible to publish a new essay every other day or so—frequently enough to keep the site fresh, but with enough of a pause between pieces to give each new contributor a decent stint on the front page.

In the meantime, the Work Stew podcast is off and running: the first episode was released on Monday, and great guests—to be announced soon—are already booked for the next few shows. I kicked off the debut episode with a brief answer to the question, “What is Work Stew, and why are you doing this?” For those of you who prefer reading to listening, I’ve transcribed my response below.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please write to me at kate@workstew.com. In the meantime, thanks very much to all of you—writers, readers, guests, and listeners. Your enthusiasm for this project has blown me away.

Kate

Transcribed from Episode 1 of the Work Stew podcast:

“What is Work Stew and why are you doing this?”

The reason I’ve created a forum for people to talk frankly about what they do for a living is that there seems to me to be a lot of work-related angst out there.

Once upon a time, the question of what to do with your life (and all of the associated stewing) used to belong primarily to the young—recent graduates needing to choose a path that would make for a good long-term fit. But these days, I find people of all ages, in all stages of their lives and careers, contemplating—or being forced to contemplate—major changes and, in many cases, wholesale reinvention.

For some, it’s liberating; for others, it’s terrifying. For many, it’s both of those things at exactly the same time.

That’s certainly been my own experience—exhilaration and terror, in more or less equal doses and often mixed together.

A few weeks ago, in an attempt to make sense of all the work-related noise in my head, I sat down and wrote an essay. Once it was done, I quickly found myself wondering what other people really thought about their work lives, and I soon realized I didn’t really know.

With my friends, for example, I think I understand more or less what most of them do for a living—but for the most part I only understand it at the cocktail party level.

Maybe it’s because work and money are inextricably linked; maybe its because what we do can be so tied up with our sense of who we are…whatever the reason, how people really feel about the work they do is not, I think, a topic that is discussed as often as it needs to be.

For the most part, I think that those of us who stew over our work lives—and I have yet to find someone who doesn’t—for the most part, I think we stew, we wonder, and we worry largely in isolation.

My goal with Work Stew is to chip away a little at the shiny surfaces—to have people talk, in their essays and in interviews, thoughtfully and frankly about their work lives: why they made the decisions they’ve made, what they’ve loved about their work, what they’ve disliked, what they’ve observed, what they would have done differently, and where they have, or have not, found meaning.

I don’t know that any one essay or any one interview will help any of us in an immediate and concrete way…but I do know the power of stories—how they help us to expand our imaginations, how they encourage us to think differently about our own lives.

The hope is that Work Stew will provide, both on the page and in the podcast, a good mix of stories— food for thought as we each find our own way.

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