careers, social media

Every day, my lifestyle is more absurd…

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.

We can’t all shovel chemical waste for a living…

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.

controversies, politicians, politics, work, YouTube

So-called useless, worthless, overpriced college degrees for the “woke”…

In the wake of Joe Biden’s announcement that he plans to forgive some student loan debts for some borrowers, there’s been a lot of talk about so-called unmarketable, “useless”, college degrees. I saw an article yesterday about how some people who have high debt loads “regret” studying subjects that lead to jobs in low paying fields. They wish they’d studied business or a STEM subject– science, technology, engineering, or math. Why? Because they can’t make any money, and they are drowning in debt.

Meanwhile, many Republicans are loudly complaining about people who get degrees in “underwater basket weaving” or “lesbian dance studies”, and then act surprised that they can’t find work and repay their student loans. On the surface, that does sound like a valid complaint. Many conservatives think that a degree in “women’s studies” serves no purpose whatsoever. Ditto to “gender studies”, or any other new-fangled major that explores the issues that affect the disenfranchised. According to them, everyone needs to be studying a field that will lead to MONEY.

Henry Winkler asks… “Who is studying ‘underwater basket weaving’?” And why is a Trump thinking he is qualified to talk about it? It’s not like his father made his own money, right?

It always distresses me to hear people express disrespect for liberal arts education. It also bothers me that so many people seem to be “triggered” or offended that someone would put value in learning about gender theories. Why does going to college only have to be a pathway to a well-paying job? As many people might have realized, that’s not how it worked out for me. But I still see the value in my education. Yes, I have a degree in English, which was very helpful when I went to graduate school and could write coherent papers. More than one professor actually thanked me for being able to write competently and spell properly. I got minors in speech and communications, because I think public speaking is important, and a lot of people are terrible at it and actually fear doing it. Communication is also important, as it helps people effectively share information in a clear way.

I got master’s degrees in more specific fields. One was in social work– macro focus– which means I learned how to manage people, engage in community development, and do research. I have found that most people don’t even know what social work is, and assume it’s a specific job title. It’s not. Social work is a field of study that can be applied very broadly. It’s about helping humans achieve self-determination, and changing environments to suit people’s needs. It’s NOT just about helping poor people, facilitating adoptions, or taking children away from abusive families. And those are not things we learn in social work education, even if those areas are where a lot of social work graduates can be found working. Sadly, a lot of people who studied other fields are also often in those jobs… but they get labeled as “social workers”, when they shouldn’t be. Incidentally, a man who is now gone from my social media used to tell me “you don’t have to have a degree to work with the poor.” Ah… but you DO need a degree to be a social worker. And social workers DON’T just work with poor people. If he had gone to college himself, he might know that.

My other master’s degree might, marginally, be in more of a STEM type area. It’s in public health. I took a health administration focus, because I had to for the dual program I was in. Since I graduated, more dual programs have been developed, and if I had to do it over, I probably would have chosen one of those. But in that program, I learned about management, research, and core public health principles, as well as finance. When I graduated, I felt prepared to work. Then life intervened, and I met and married Bill… and became a globetrotting Army wife. 😉

My point is, though… you can get a good education doing most things, and in almost any field. Too many of us focus on what a person’s major was in college, when we should be focusing on their individual skills as a person. A person who majors in women’s studies can certainly learn transferable skills. I presume women’s studies majors have to write papers, learn how to research, read books, take tests, and work in groups, right? Aren’t those valuable skills? Can’t some of those skills translate to work? Hell, the Peace Corps accepts people with a broad variety of degrees. I learned a hell of a lot in two years of Peace Corps work, even if it didn’t land me a dream job with the State Department or an NGO.

I know that going to college is challenging. Come to think of it, so is working at McDonald’s. Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America, just died yesterday. I read her book in 2000, when it first came out. I read it for pleasure, but I think it would have been a great book for anyone in my grad school program. She showed that: 1. there is NO such thing as “unskilled labor” and 2. Nobody can get by in America on “minimum wage”.

I like what Beau had to say about Ted Cruz and his offensive comments about “slacker baristas”.

In the above video, Beau laments Ted Cruz and his unfortunate and OFFENSIVE comments about “slacker baristas”, who have “worthless” degrees and “wasted” seven years in college studying what he deems useless things and now can’t get a job. But, as Beau points out, the reason why Starbucks makes big bucks is because of the baristas, who make coffee drinks that people want to buy. It’s not because of the bean counters or the managers. And it does take effort and skill to learn how to make good coffee drinks. I know. I’ve done it myself– not at Starbucks, but in a fancy restaurant, where I waited tables (the hardest job I’ve ever had, by the way), and at a chocolatier shop that sold pastries. It’s also a good look when the barista speaks proper English, knows how to behave in a businesslike manner, and is professional.

No, you don’t have to go to college to learn those things, but it is one place where those soft skills are taught. And you can also grow from friendships, experiences, and the opportunities to take courses in other fields. I’m living proof of that one. It was in college where I discovered my ability to sing, a talent that I was able to develop in college. I have used that talent in countries around the world. Does it make me money? Not really, but it makes me a better, more well-rounded, more interesting person, and it improves my life immeasurably.

Too true.

Another point I’d like to make is this… Not everyone can succeed in business or as a STEM major. I SUCK at math. I don’t have a head for it. I don’t enjoy it. Even if I somehow got through a math major at a university, I would be completely mediocre in the field. And if everyone decided to major in business, the worth of that education would plummet.

I do have master’s degrees in public health and social work, which are technically healthcare related fields, but I would be absolutely awful as a nurse. I don’t think I have the right temperament for it. I’m not good at math. I don’t like the idea of giving people shots or inserting IVs or Foley catheters. However, I probably would be good at writing for a Web site like WebMD, or hospital newsletters. I would be good at writing patient instructions or other literature that provides valuable communication with the public. My English degree helps immensely with achieving that job.

If I had gone to college to study a so-called “in demand” field, it truly would have been a waste of time and money. I don’t think I could succeed in those fields. My talents are in the arts. And God knows, we value the arts, don’t we? We like to be entertained. We like being stimulated to think about things. What would the world be like if everyone studied hard sciences and business? Who would write the scripts for shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, or any of the other famous TV shows that people can’t miss? Who would make the music that helps make life easier to bear? Who would take care of the impoverished who need help, or the children who need to be taught life skills?

I think we all need a collective change in attitude. I think Americans should broaden their perspectives a bit. There is value in almost any field of study. Do people need to be spending six figures for a bachelor’s degree? I don’t think so. But that has a lot to do with what our universities are charging, and a lot of what they are charging cover things like athletics, alumni events, renovated dorms and other facilities, and technology. And also, the fact that people don’t want to pay more taxes to support those institutions.

I do think it’s true that there are a lot people who shouldn’t go to college. Maybe they aren’t intellectually cut out for the work. Maybe they lack discipline or skill. Some people really should go to a trade school, or learn something on the job. But I do think that college has value, and most fields– even the so-called worthless ones– have something to offer. We just don’t value education the way we should, and we don’t want to invest in the community or each other. I see community in Germany. Last night, one of my neighbors told me that she has no student debt, and she looks to be in her 20s or so. But then, not everyone in Germany can go to college. In America, almost anyone can go to college, if they can pay for it or get loans. That mindset probably ought to change… and we ought to get rid of most of the “for profit” colleges.

But really, I think people like any one of the Trumps (except maybe Mary Trump) or Ted Cruz need to get down off their high horses… and people need to stop looking up to them. They certainly don’t understand regular people. And they obviously value those “slacker baristas”, too… who make them their fancy coffee drinks. Those baristas make the money for Starbucks. I hope more of them will vote, too… especially if they are college educated.