What I Learned from Doing Physical Labor

Though I moved into desk jobs, I’ll always have so much respect for people who do physically demanding work.

Leigh Victoria Fisher, MS
6 min readNov 8, 2021


Illustration Courtesy of VectorMine on Adobe Stock

I have always been a hard worker. My parents instilled in me the value of working hard and doing your best to earn a better station in life.

During all four years of high school and my first year of college, I worked for a small-town boat detailing business. I technically started when I was even a little bit younger than high school age on a very part-time basis since labor laws can get pretty flexible at very small-town businesses. This was only back in the early 2000s, too.

It was a seasonal job, so it’d usually start in April and go until about October. It worked pretty great for me though, since there was minimal overlap with the school year that way. I started freelance writing when I was sixteen, so this job also gave me enough time for that.

When I look back on this time, I don’t envy it at all. There were so many cold days in the Aprils and Octobers where washing a dirty boat was an incredible challenge to avoid getting soaked. Conversely, there were so many blistering days in July and August when climbing up boat towers to clean the whole boat thoroughly put out working right under the sun.

There are so many different things that you can learn about yourself when you do manual labor, and it’s not all bad.

Those platitudes about “the value of hard work” are completely true.

Having a background of manual labor makes me so grateful that I do creative desk work now. After being a boat washer and boat detailer for so many years back when I was a teenager, it makes me appreciate my life and work when I sit down with PhotoShop and Illustrator to start off a morning of work. Doing graphic and instructional design is a lot more enjoyable to me than scrubbing fish blood out of non-skid fiberglass.

And I’m not saying that if you sit at a desk, you aren’t working hard. I sit at a desk now. I consider myself a hard worker, it’s just that it’s a very different kind of work. You’re engaging your mind a lot more than you’re engaging your body. It’s still hard…



Leigh Victoria Fisher, MS

Brooklyn-based writer and poet. Designer in NYC. Drinks books and loves coffee. Has an MS from NYU in Integrated Design & Media. Working on an MFA in Fiction.