a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

HAND-Y-JOB – the future of work

by Tao, Carrboro, NC

Want to work with your hands? Be an entrepreneur? You’re not alone, although many people will initially fall into the category of ‘have to’ rather than ‘want to’. This isn’t all bad. I’ve talked to friends who have been laid off, and after the initial shock has worn off, admit that they are finding freedom and satisfaction in the choices they face. It’s not all golden – one friend moved in with his brother to make ends meet, but subsequently went back to school to prepare for a new career that he’s excited about and has already found part-time work to get him through the process.

Others are leaving (or being forced to leave) corporate positions to work with their hands. Lisa Maris Grillos founded Hambone Designs with her brother, Hernan Barangan, and began designing and making bicycle bags which they sell online through  John left a lucrative finance career to establish a business restoring and refinishing flooring and says he enjoys the feeling of completing a hands-on project. A laid-off teacher and her pregnant daughter decided to start a cookie-making business.

There is a collective soul-searching and/or disillusionment with corporate America as we begin to question the value of how we spend our days at the office. With the help of the internet, starting a business is getting easier and less expensive with online services like Starting/owning a business is never a bed of roses, but I think there’s something to the fact that it challenges our abilities, confidence and identity. According to this NY Times article, research shows that we tend to find and have more resilience in adversity – a kind of call to arms – and mentions the publication of : Reset: How this crisis can restore our values and renew America.

There’s also a strong case for the value – soulwise and otherwise – of working with your hands. After finishing a Ph.D. in political philosophy and finding the academic job market bleak, Matthew Crawford, author of Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work, spent the winter rebuilding and old Honda motorcycle, saying, “The physicality of it, and the clear specificity of what the project required of me, was a balm.”

This resonates with me, for despite the fact that my work has been mostly physical, I have constantly sought outlets for creating like drawing, painting and sewing. Others make projects of their homes or yards. The author quotes one of his high school shop teachers who says, “Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged.”

Of course, we can channel this energetic soul-searching to sustainable ends in our everyday lives and work.

That’s the best news I’ve heard all day.


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