What does work mean to me?

Sud Ariarajah
4 min readAug 24, 2021
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Entering this writing challenge, I tried to look back into my early days at work and what this theme has inspired me to think about work. What came to my mind, first, was the story of “The Great Gatsby”, a book by F. Scott Fitzgerald. At the time, I was fascinated by the fact that Gatsby had become who he wanted to be just for the sheer sake of love. More importantly I was impressed by his determination and perseverance in achieving his goals. I thought I would read the book again to highlight the parallel with the meaning of “work” for me but I soon abandoned the idea when I remembered that the ending was not so good, even tragic. I then thought about another of my favourite books, “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brönte. What I love the most about this book is the main character Jane’s strong will, fiery spirit, her independence and determination for self-realisation.

Yes, for me, work means a way to continuously improve myself, it is the way towards self-realisation, independence and freedom. It is also a way to express creativity and help others. And “help” is the word I’m deliberately using because “help” is what I like to give whether the hard-core management consultants like the word or not.

When I was younger, my mother used to often say: “You need to stand on your own feet”. Well, that’s what I planned to do. However, I did not choose the easy way to do so. After many years as an employee and several start-up experiences, I decided to create my own company through which I could work as an organisational consultant. Somehow, I always felt like a consultant even when I was an employee. I love to deliver. I just don’t like being tied down and when I get bored, I need to move on. So, work needs to be a challenge and therefore change is inevitable. It means a lot to me. I appear to be on the boarder of a saviour complex. People say it can lead to burn out. I think I almost did reach burn out point a couple of times, just due to sheer determination at delivering quality. At these points the need for self-care kicks in and helps me to moderate myself.

Work means a lot to me. I felt it is my life. However, when I happened to work way too much, I knew I was at the edge, especially when I had stars dancing in front of my eyes (maybe blood pressure?). By my own sheer will I was pushing the limits that my body would accept and I may have been putting too much intensity into the act of working. A friend of mine told me: Don’t you think you are deep in work to avoid finding yourself? I gave it some thought. Of course, I do other things like painting and tennis, but find most of my satisfaction in work. I feel something is missing when I don’t work. But would the saying “too much work and no play makes Jack (or Jill) a dull boy (or girl)” apply to me? I don’t think so. My friends find me a lively person. It is indeed possible to be devoted to work with a balanced life.

Pondering further on my friend’s question, I still haven’t found the answer. I do have a purpose in life and I am following a course which does not always make sense to others but which makes full sense to me. It is a journey of self-development, discovering who you are, what you can do, what you like to do and then constantly upskilling.

I don’t know if I am working against all odds and whether, as my boyfriend says, at my pace, it will take me ages to get there. By “get there” he means being at the top, i.e., “overly” successful. But, what does it matter? Work is here to stay and I have all the time in the world to develop what I want to do and work towards where I want to be. I don’t like taking shortcuts. I believe in what I’m doing and the path I have chosen. It is not about money. It is about authenticity.

For me, work is a means for me to understand where I can bring added value to others and then to do all I can to actually bring about that added value. It is the pleasure of satisfying others and being satisfied by what has been achieved. In this world, it is important to care.