Working is Not your Worth - by Sophie Harvey

Right, here goes. I feel a need to write this pep talk, for my future self to read, as well as for you!

Firstly, I have always equated my worth, with how much work I can get done. For instance, this is what my head sometimes sounds like ‘Well done Sophie, you have written an assignment, you are worth something now. Well done, you have unstacked the dishwasher, you are worthy of love now. Well done, you have done a work shift, you are good enough now.’ But this toxic commentary is something that doesn’t serve me. So, in this article, I am trying to change that.

In a society that says we should be exhausted all the time, from tirelessly staying up into the wee hours, pumped up on caffeine, hunched over our desks working, it’s hard to undo this narrative. Work to me is everything from housework, socialising (it's hard work for an introvert!), academic work, and work-work. (Please feel free to add in your own definitions of work here.)

For a lot of my life, I felt my chronic health issues have caused me to miss the Work Boat. This included, the Getting a Degree Boat, the Working 9-5pm Boat, the Driving License Boat, and more trivial things like the Going to Prom Boat and The Going to Teenage Parties’ boat. Also, I worry that, because of my chronic illnesses, I will miss future boats, like the Supporting Myself Financially Boat, the Owning a Home Boat and the Having Kids Boat. Sometimes, I feel like my ill health permanently moors me to the pier, the bitter wind whipping at my face as I stare, heartbroken, out to sea, watching my fellow classmates, friends and family enjoy the ride on their boats.

But what if we change the narrative? Instead of making the aim going out on Work Boats, what if we simply enjoy the view? What if we turn in to the mainland, and look at what the mainland has to offer? The adventure we already have under our feet. What if we wonder along the pier, sun in our hair, go buy a dairy-free ice cream, have a seat on the bench and take in the view? What if the mainland is our adventure?

Finding your worth on a Work Boat is easy. It’s instant social validation of your worth. But it’s finding your worth on the mainland, that’s the difficult bit. And maybe that’s my adventure. To find meaning and purpose in a world that thinks the mainland doesn’t deserve meaning or purpose. Maybe, it’s ok to take little paddle boat trips. Whatever that looks like to you. For instance, occasional 2-hour shifts, instead of a 9-5pm job. Of course, it’s ok to take big boat trips if you can, but it’s about also knowing there is no shame in occasionally staying on the mainland, drinking in the view, and being grateful for the ground under your feet.  

So, my final parting words to you my love, are: Whether you are on a Work Boat or the mainland, you are worthy. Whether you are standing, sitting, or laying down on the pier, you are enough. You are enough. You are doing your best with what you have, and that’s what matters. Take care of yourself, my love. And remember, enjoy the view.