A path with heart

“Work is overrated.”

That’s from a 20-something friend who made that observation not long after joining the working masses when she finished college.

I crack up every time that statement pushes its way into my consciousness. Of course, she’s right. And American workers overwhelmingly agree: 69 percent, according to a 2006 Gallup Poll, feel “actively disengaged” in their jobs. Yet, they work harder—an average of 49 hours a week—than people in most other countries of the world. They get far less time off from their drudgery than their counterparts in Europe. Plus, according to a new CareerBuilder survey, one in four Americans now takes work along on vacation—no doubt through fear of being “downsized” by one of the unmerciful corporate machines currently grinding up employees.

By any sort of cost-benefit analysis, that makes work in America a drag. It’s no wonder that baby boomers stung in the corporate crunch are looking for a way out. Some are asking—perhaps for the second time since their hippie days—the question Carlos Castaneda put to Don Juan in 1968: “Does this path have a heart?”

And unlike Don Juan, whose youth and “vigorous” blood kept him from understanding the lesson offered, many of today’s youths are asking the same questions about work and meaning and are shunning the false promises of corporate America.

They know the truth: Work is overrated.

But SN&R Arts Editor Becca Costello and her staff (see “For love and money”) found eight locals who, through boldness, obstinacy or something else, have taken a different path in putting their passions to work for them. One man turned an obsession for extreme sports into a livelihood. A woman turned her heartbreak over the mistreatment of animals into a paying job rescuing tigers and elephants. Still another decided to become a comedian because life is too short not to be spent laughing.

Read how these Sacramentans have followed the road less traveled. Then ask yourself: “Does my path have a heart?”

“If it does, the path is good. If it doesn’t it is of no use,” in the words of Don Juan’s benefactor.