I just got back from spending Labor Day with Bruce Springsteen. Well, we had company, of course: the E Street Band and several thousand women and men attending his concert at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park. He was serious about that announcement. When you see Bruce Springsteen live, he expects you to at least try to work as hard as he does in responding to his passionate, intense music and the powerful emotions behind it, and even on this steamy, humid holiday night, he expected us to engage with him in the raw experience of his performance.
As I did my best to keep up with the hollering and singing along, I came to see there was more he was inviting us to do. He was engaging us on a mini-exploration of thoughts and songs about what it means to seek, to find, to do, and to maintain work that has meaning, purpose, and integrity. Work, as Springsteen sings in one of his latest songs, to set our hands and our souls free. He also gives voice to the struggles and the suffering we may endure when that purposeful work that sustains us is taken away or is somehow unattainable, or is not taking us where we want to go.
I won’t pretend to review the concert, and I’m not seeking to send any political message about these ideas about work in our lives. But speaking from my own experience, I was struck by the example Bruce offers as one person who long ago discovered work that stirred his heart and gave him purpose, and he stuck with it for many years when it just wasn’t setting his soul free – or paying the bills. But he kept working and working and working and…some 40 years of astounding success and popularity later, he’s still out there sweatin’ and struttin’ for 3 1/2 hours on Labor Day – and much of the whole work calendar. What really impresses me is that he always seems legitimately thankful to have found this work and that he still has the opportunity in his early 60s to do it.
I’m not quite up there in Bruce’s years though I’m getting pretty darn close, and I hope that I can still maintain that passion and commitment about the work that I do for many, many years to come. Helping people tell the most important stories of their lives as a ghostwriter for autobiographies and memoirs, as well as teaching Writing Your Life Story classes, has provided me mounds of joy and satisfaction since I steered my work path this way. I am appreciative to have the opportunity to serve ordinary men and women in bringing their life stories to light. I relish the moments when they hold in their hands a book that gives voice to their life story. It doesn’t matter a bit if the stage they have walked upon in life has been shared by only a handful of others, instead of Springsteen’s crowds of 25,000 or 50,000. They have made a statement: I stood on this earth and my life mattered.
Often, the work they have done is a significant part of their life story. I see their unique sense of purpose and integrity that shaped and energized their work for years, or decades, or an entire adult life span. And as I reflect upon this Labor Day moment, I tip my hat to people that I have met through my own endeavors, and I salute their work.
– Kevin Quirk helps people tell their life stories as a memoir and autobiography ghostwriter and life-writing book coach. He is the author of “Your Life Is a Book and It’s Time To Write It!”