The first time I saw ‘there’s no such thing as an easy job’ by Kikuko Tsumura on a Waterstones shelf, I knew I’d read it at some point. It was probably about a year later when I bought it from a London bookstore. It was then many months afterward, that I finally hit it on my reading list. Why did I buy it? Mainly because of the title. If you’ve been reading my books or my blogs, you know I’ve got a passion around searching for how we can find fulfillment and joy in our working lives. So, the sentiment of ‘there’s no such thing as an easy job’ grabbed me instantly.
Come on, we’ve all done it.
“I wish I just had an easy job.”
Maybe working in a cafe, shop, or an admin job where you don’t have to think or deal with other people. I don’t know what ‘easy job’ you might have imagined. However, Tsumura, in this almost 400-page account of a lady in Japan jumping from one short-term employment to another, of course, makes the obvious point. There really is no such thing as an easy job.
So, a disclaimer on this one. It is not a thriller. If you’re looking for a hearty romance or a non-stop action sequence, this one probably isn’t for you. It is, however, a very real account of a modern worker’s struggle. We meet a woman in ‘an all-consuming late-capitalist Japan’ who has left her previous employment because of burnout, and she’s just looking for something straightforward. Throughout the novel, and the five very different jobs this woman encounters, readers can experience her similar approach to different tasks. She becomes obsessive and consumed by whatever she’s doing. She also experiences in one job how things can be so much bigger than just your day-to-day tasks - what you’re doing impacts other people. Additionally, with one job, Tsumura shines a light on how quickly people look for a sense of ownership in their work, and the harsh way our pride gets hurt when decisions are taken in a different direction. Finally, Tsumura cleverly reveals how even when a job is stagnant and dull, that’s still not enough for a job to be ‘easy’. The woman wants to have an impact, and a job like that doesn’t let her and in the end, she returns to the original role that caused her to burn out.
What Tsumura does is this - even in culturally ‘lesser’ jobs (which are not ‘lesser’, by the way), our feelings towards work are often still the same. Unfulfilled, frustrated, living for the weekend.
Our natural inclination to do a good job at things and let our work consume us means there’s no such thing as an easy job. However, she shows how that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are ups and downs in all jobs, but the important thing is to give it everything you can. I definitely agree with that, but not in a way that leads to an unbalanced working life. We need to rest too, but when we’re at work, we should enjoy it. And I’m not saying - ‘if you don’t enjoy your job, leave.’ While there is a place for that in certain situations, I’m talking about checking ourselves. Are we giving it our ‘all’? We should enjoy our work. Are we actually making it harder for ourselves by having a positive attitude and putting our best foot forward? Maybe work isn’t supposed to be easy but it doesn’t have to be a burden either. Are we making it a burden, when it could be a joy to work hard?
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” Colossians 3:23