In Praise of Physical Work

People are always astonished when I tell them that I graduated from Dartmouth College, and I work as a clerk at the post office. I honestly don’t understand what one has to do with the other. I like my job. It’s what I do. It’s not who I am. It’s not how I define myself. It’s just a job.

After spending the first 15 years of my working life bouncing from one ill-fitting office job to another — banking, publishing, marketing, the IRS, Fidelity Investments — I realized that I was burnt out from sitting in pointless meetings and at a computer all day. The thought of spending one more minute imprisoned in a tiny cubicle or tethered to a headset made me want to stick a pencil in my eye. I just didn’t belong in that kind of environment. I didn’t want to climb the corporate career ladder. I wanted a “job.”

So I took the postal exam. They offered me a job. I never looked back.

Now, I’m not trying to imply that I’m a GENIUS, but…

Albert Einstein got it. He was working as a clerk in the Swiss patent office — a civil service job clearly “beneath” him, right? — when he discovered his theory of relativity, among others:

The Big Bang Theory‘s Sheldon Cooper got it too, when he decided to work at the Cheesecake Factory with Penny in order to clear out his mind long enough to solve a difficult physics problem he was wrestling with.

After I started doing a more “physical” job, on my feet all day, moving and lifting, amazing things started to happen. I lost about 15 pounds and 2 pants sizes. My blood pressure went down. My chronic lower back pain went away. I discovered my biceps! I developed confidence in my physical strength and abilities for the first time in my life. I felt TOUGH!

I’ve also found, like Einstein and Sheldon, that performing a repetitive physical task like sorting mail, frees up my brain to focus on my own creative pursuits and purposes. I’ve had some of my greatest epiphanies while sorting packages and stuffing mail into PO boxes.

I punch the time clock in the morning, do my job, punch out, walk out the door, and don’t think about my job again until I punch in again the following morning. My mind is still fresh for my own creative endeavors (like this blog!) when I get home. I have no work-related projects or responsibilities to take home with me. I have zero stress. The rest of the day is mine.

I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep up with the physical demands of this job, but for now, it is exactly what I need. I basically get paid to work out, and I get to wear jeans to work, every day!

And, because I’m now a card-carrying union member, my paycheck and benefits package aren’t too shabby either.


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