What do you do all day and what does it mean to you? Many of us move from job to job, project to project, customer to customer, or widget to widget without giving it much thought. How does what we do all day reflect meaning in our life? Is what we do all day important? And to whom?
In his groundbreaking 1974 book Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day And How They Feel About What They Do, oral historian Studs Terkel first asked people across America those questions, and the answers ranged from surprising to inspiring to shocking to funny.
Terkel’s book became a best seller (and even inspired a Broadway musical) while forever changing its readers’ views on their work and the work of others. Some of Terkel’s original interviews were recently recovered from his Chicago home and are included in an audio series called Working: Then and Now produced by Radio Diaries and Project&.
The Working in America multimedia project is also documenting the stories of workers in all kinds of occupations across the country by asking them to submit answers to the questions “What is one thing about your work that most people don’t know?” and “What makes you most proud of the work that you do?”
In the introduction to Working, Terkel writes: “[This book] is about a search, too, for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying. Perhaps immortality, too, is part of the quest. To be remembered was the wish, spoken and unspoken, of the heroes and heroines of this book.”
Pia Hinckle is a journalist and the publisher of The FruitGuys Magazine.