‘Work’ was always a centerpiece and basic value in the Wu household with the simple mantra of: “Work Hard to Reap the Benefits.”
My father has worked pretty much his whole life ranging from a Chinese kitchen, a lumberyard, and, finally, a professor. My father held down multiple jobs when raising my sister and me alone. My sister started working and moved out of the country straight out of college with the appearance of working the glitzy wanderlust life of a journalist. Me? I never knew what I wanted to do with my life. I always had a curious nature with so many interests. I was easily fascinated and in awe with the little that meant the most. All I knew was I had to be a Wu and work AND work hard. I purposefully graduated a semester early to get a head start working as I was always one for the hands-on and outside class experiences rather than listening to lectures inside the classroom.
When I was let go from my first full-time job and struggled to find work again, I learned that there was a possibility that I could NOT work at all and collect disability because of my chronic kidney failure and health issues. It was tempting and I wondered: Well, life is hard and unfair because I have had to deal with all these health issues while most people my age have not, so why can’t I make my life a little easier by NOT working?
My father asked me point blank: “What do you think the point of work is?”
“Uhh…make money?” I asked feebly.
“No, the point of work is for you to contribute positively to society. Yes, life is unfair, but you are NEVER entitled to anything. You do not deserve anything. You have to earn your keep. Those who do not work end up feeling depressed and as though they are useless because they are not connecting with others or there are other people who become self-absorbed into entitlement. Yes, life may be more difficult and challenging for you because of your lifelong health issues and, yes, you are going to have to fight more so than others, but that does not make you special or different from anyone else. It is a privilege to work. If you can work, then work, because others are not so lucky. Everyone needs a reason to get up every morning, to go somewhere every day…to feel like they are connecting with the outside world and to, most of all, have a purpose. Everyone has been blessed with God-given gifts and talents and everyone has a purpose. To waste these gifts and to not do anything with your life is a true detriment to you and this world. You are not a charity case. Do you want people feeling sorry for you and to be known for all your health stuff rather than for you and what you can do with this world and in your life?”
My father has taught me many lessons. Some were spoken and, unlike many prepubescent teens, I never saw my father as lecturing but as always teaching and sharing his stories with me. Most were unspoken through his actions, behaviors, and, especially, treatment towards others. Because of him, I strive for wisdom and not intelligence. His words made me work. Work hard to Enjoy and Live Life ever more.
So, I worked. Full-Time. My father was right that I have had to fight—fight for my health at my jobs to always put my health and life first. But I have always loved a good fight that brings out my feisty and my lifelong boxing gloves that are golden, shiny, and sparkly. Always working, fighting, and living. Never looking back. I cannot imagine not working.
Some people in the transplant community have said they feel bad for me that I do not have a significant other or the system to take care of me and that I have to work. I have never done well with pity. I have always done my part to be the living proof and prove others wrong if I must. The only policy in life is this: “No Guarantee Policy” - great if you can be taken care of, but how long does that last and isn’t it more rewarding to stand tall on your own feet than to always staying on the ground? Security is an illusion. I never knew that the basic and honest value of working hard to reap benefits could be seen as a cry for help and sympathy, and as though I am a charity case. Alas, I feel bad for them that they feel bad for me for I strive to be strong, independent, capable, and, most of all, fulfilling my purpose to help patients and work hard to enjoy and live life most.
Work is important. More so for mental than money to have some place to go to everyday and, indeed, contribute positively to society. Why do we work? Can you work? How does it feel for you to work? How does it feel NOT to work? Do you feel comfortable for others to take care of you? Can you imagine ever NOT working? Have you ever experienced someone pitying you? How do you feel when people feel sorry for you, as though you are a charity case?
Don’t feel bad for me, my friends, for I am not a charity case but a case in point.
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,