A little while ago, as Bill and I were having breakfast and talking about younger daughter’s news, I noticed a meme a college friend shared. It serves as today’s featured photo.
It’s been awhile since I was last on a serious job search. I quit looking for a regular job sometime in 2005, when it became clear that my husband’s career would disrupt my own career ambitions and/or force me to do work that I had been trying to escape. So I gave up looking for a “real” job and started writing. I have actually made some money writing, but not enough to live on. But then, I haven’t actually been trying to find work that pays me enough to live on.
It hasn’t been so long, though, that I don’t remember the frustration of trying to get a foot in the door somewhere, only to have potential employers ghost me or choose someone else. It was a truly soul crushing experience that made me wonder what the point of living was. Because, while it’s never fun to be rejected, the truth is, most of those jobs probably would have sucked, anyway.
As I read the horrifying comments on that original post, I couldn’t help but feel disgusted by the attitudes that so many– mostly white men with conservative leanings– seemed to have toward their fellow man. There were only a few folks who brought up how the very same people who want to pay “entry level” wages to those with ten years of experience, also lament social safety nets for those who those who can’t make it work financially on such a low salary.
A lot of those same people who want to tell others to “suck it up” and drive on when they’re just struggling to support themselves, also tell them that babies are a blessing, and they should be forced to gestate (if they’re capable of doing so, that is). Those same people who have sex for fun, don’t think they should be responsible for supporting those they impregnate, nor is it “their problem” when babies are born with disabilities that are expensive and complicated to treat. They always seem to want to blame the person who is pregnant, and divorce themselves from any responsibility– either personally, or on a community level. No, they certainly don’t want to pay personally, but neither do they think their tax dollars should be used to help such unfortunates. But God forbid someone decide they’d rather have an early abortion.
It just seems to me like so many people are looking to blame the victims. They can’t even spare a moment’s thought for anyone but themselves. And they, and they alone, feel qualified to define what “unskilled labor” is, and accordingly, what it should pay. I wonder if any of them have ever tried waiting tables before they’ve learned the skill. If there’s any “unskilled” job that taught me that there isn’t really such a thing, it’s waiting tables. It was by far the toughest job I’ve ever had– and that includes my stint in the Peace Corps.
As I read more and more cynical comments on Facebook, I started thinking more about my own circumstances, and how absolutely absurd they are. When I met Bill, I was on the way to joining the rat race myself. I hadn’t been looking for a romantic partner at all. I was trying to become “marketable”, so I could go work in a field where I’d be paid minimally to “listen to people ‘cry’ about their problems.” Someone in the comment section actually wrote that about mental health counselors, derisively “laughing” that he made more money doing physical labor at the chemical plant, where he barely needed a high school diploma. He’s likely never considered that he probably won’t always be strong and healthy, and might need to rely on his mind to make a living at some point in his life… If his current commentary is any indication of what could happen if he needs to rely on his wits, I’d say his future is l00king rather bleak.
I don’t regret my seven years of higher education. They were challenging, fun, interesting, and life changing for me. They just didn’t lead me into the professional lifestyle I had expected them to. I wound up in my absurd lifestyle purely because of a series of decisions I made which, frankly, my mother might not have approved of at all.
I met Bill in a chat room that, you could say, was full of lonely, horny people looking to connect somehow. And yet, it was a pretty platonic place, at least in the public areas. We struck up a conversation and hit it off, became friends, and helped each other during challenging times in our younger lives. I was trying to launch a career and break away from my abusive parents, once and for all. He was trying to escape his abusive ex wife and re-launch his Army career.
When we first married, we faced a very tough financial situation. I was looking for work. Bill had work, but his credit rating was completely ruined because of Ex, and his inability to relieve her of access to his financial assets. He was also paying a shit ton of child support, while she did her best to crush his morale and ruin his family relationships. This is the main reason why I despise her so much, and why I write about her. Because I saw what she did, and too many people want to excuse her for what she did.
Gradually, things got better and better for us, even though I wasn’t working at a job. We now have a very nice lifestyle. If I had a job, we would definitely have more money. Maybe I would be “safer” if something happened to Bill. But it wouldn’t be a nicer lifestyle. It would just be “safer”, in terms of money. And that safety would be purely financial, because some kinds of work take a huge toll on a person’s mind and body. Yes, you get paid, but you also pay in terms of time and wear and tear on the body, mind, and spirit.
I am not trying to say that people shouldn’t work. They absolutely should. But there’s all kinds of work to be had out there, and almost all of it is necessary in some way or fashion. Even artists, musicians, writers, and actors contribute a lot to the world. How many museums and theaters have you been to that honor the guy shoveling chemical waste? And what about the low paid therapist who listens to a brilliant artist “cry about his problems” so he can go on to create something amazing? People often disparage those who work in fields that are considered impractical or low level. But if you think about it, everyone does make a contribution in some way. And it’s all valuable. So people should be able to make a basic living without having to resort to multiple part time jobs or welfare. Salaries should be sufficient to allow us that much.
I’m not trying to dis the chemical waste shoveling guy, either. That guy is doing necessary work, too. I just think that person hasn’t considered that everyone has a contribution to make, and life isn’t just about making a few extra dollars per hour… or ANY dollars per hour. Working should be a means to an end, not an end unto itself. Life shouldn’t be about being stuck on a treadmill set by a boss– especially one who is always trying to save a few beans at workers’ expense and undervaluing their contributions to the company’s overall success.
I’m not sure how I ended up in this absurd existence I have. I wasn’t planning it. A lot of people would look at me and think I don’t deserve it. I’ll be the first to agree. I certainly don’t look like someone who deserves to live the way I do. But, like I said, I made a decision my mom wouldn’t have approved of, met Bill, and then became his partner. He’s the type of guy a lot of women would have run away from, mainly because he had a lot of baggage when we met. And while I think he’s adorable, intelligent, sweet, considerate, and kind, I also know a lot of people would think of him as a “beta” male, because he isn’t always beating his chest, talking about football, and buying bigger homes for his toys. 😉
To be honest, I don’t think I could stand living with that type of guy. You can have him, hot stuff, and enjoy your boring vacations in soulless family friendly resorts, where you eat American food, drink beverages by InBev, and watch a lot of professional team sports like you’re worshiping. And that guy probably would hate living with me for so many reasons… but mainly because I tend to be too free with my opinions and I don’t suffer fools. That’s also probably why no one wants to hire me… which I think is really sad…
I’ll close today’s bonus post with a comic that came up in my Facebook memories today. I think it really fits with the theme.
Maybe people go on to college, not just so they can be good little, high earning, worker bees, but also because they know that someday, they may have to learn to live by their wits. And one good way to learn is to be around other people who are smart and skilled. Which isn’t to say that universities corner the market on that type of person… but I do know that a lot of people at universities realize that years of earning a few extra bucks an hour doing manual labor could take its toll in the long run. For some of us, life isn’t just about making money, earning promotions, and keeping up with the neighbors.
And some of us wind up off course, not just because we studied something “useless” in college, but because we did something we shouldn’t have, and found ourselves in the right place with the right person anyway. That seems to be what happened to me.