On What Work Is: #ThousandPoemYear Update – Week 20

[Hi, I’m Joshua Judson. I’m writing 1000 Poems this year. To find out how and why, click HERE.]

Poems written this week: 14

Poems written so far this month: 55

Poems written so far this year: 550


I stand at the mid point of a mountain, looking down at how far I’ve come and knowing how far I have still to go. I’ve written 550 poems this year so far. I’m proud, I’m knackered, I’m a little bit smug. But still, something isn’t right. I don’t have the kind of job satisfaction glow I might have hoped to have. I’ve written more poems this year than some poets have written ever, but still it doesn’t feel like I’ve done any work.

Work ethic is very important to me, because it’s very important to my family. Both my mum and my dad’s side of the family contains narratives of hard graft. Since I was 14, I’ve been working, and the work I’ve done has involved moving piles of stuff from this place to that place, pulling pints, making meals for people and so on. I’ve done coffee shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, data entry. I’ve done work that leaves you knackered at the end of the day. Work that is exertion. I’ve made (not a lot of) money that was earned through service. That’s what work is to me. It’s knackering yourself, putting yourself out for an hourly wage – and at the core of it all it service. The fact that you’re doing it for someone else.

I think part of the reason all these poems have yet to feel like work to me is that idea of service. When I look at my mum, usually holding down 3 jobs at any one time – she is working for myself, my sister and brother. Simultaneously, she is giving her all to the job(s) she is working. My sister is currently working at the Costa in our hometown, as well as a caff in Hockley in Nottingham – where, as one of the youngest people working there, she is trusted to cash up at the end of the day. I was the same when I worked on a bar – one of the youngest working, one of the only ones trusted to cash up. We give ourselves to our work in my family.

I’m sort of losing the thread of what I want to say now. Partly because I don’t know what I’m saying/feeling. I think I’m just uncomfortable with the incarnation of work I’m currently in. For example, right now I am typing this in Fix Coffee on Whitecross Street near Barbican. I am on the other side of service – I’ve got a flat white in front of me and I’m writing my little blog. It’s very hard to tell myself that what I’m doing – what I’m currently typing about is important enough to warrant me sitting here, on the wrong side of service.

I think, again, it is a self esteem thing. I don’t quite believe that the work is important enough. I feel like I’m pretending, that at any moment, something is going to pull me back to the other side of the counter and I’ll be collecting glasses again.

I don’t know why I’ve turned it into a binary in my head – that I can only be one or the other. I think it’s this thing I’ve talked about in previous blogs about struggling with balance. I’m all or nothing. Need balance, don’t I?


Joshua Judson x

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