The best things in life are free, but I still need some of the other things.

I’m fucking cranky, you guys. Noticeably cranky, apparently. Apologies are probably in order for some of my loved ones. Perhaps to you all, as well, for being so distracted that I can’t find two words to rub together in any constructive way.

It’s really stupid, actually – I’ve been looking for a job and it plays absolute havoc with my self-esteem and motivation. Not to mention that I haven’t done this for ten years and I hate every bloody second of it. I hated it then, as well, but when you’re thirty-four rather than twenty-four and don’t have a job, people assume that something is wrong with you or that something bad happened to you. This is further complicated by my last job description basically being “badass forest sprite who plays well with weirdos.” Shit, I should put that on my résumé. I should put it on a t-shirt. Both might do me some good.

That does strike me as odd, that constant line of questioning about my last job. It’s fine in person, when I can explain the nature of my relocating back here and wanting to change professional direction. But on an application, particularly on those godawful online questionnaire type applications, my last job comes off as completely irrelevant. Which is bullshit. I liked that job and I love those people dearly. It is hard to adequately explain how watering and pruning grape vines made me better at data entry or customer service, though, when I can’t talk with my hands. It drives me mad, the way businesses can weed people out based on assumptions and keyword SEO. How’s anybody supposed to move forward when they’re only being judged by their immediate past? Shit happens. Life happens. Why is there this idea that anything other than steady upward linear progression is failure?

I just hate the whole thing. For someone who talks about herself so much, I sure do hate talking about myself in more formal settings, interviews and cover letters and the like. On the one hand, I’m expected to sing my own praises, but on the other hand I’m not supposed to come off like an asshole nobody would want to work with. I suspect that I didn’t get one job because when they asked why they should hire me I replied, “Well, I’m pretty great.” Flinches all around the room. The line between healthy self-esteem and appropriate self-deprecation isn’t one I’m particularly adept at walking, apparently.

Also, I hope that I’m not being turned down for jobs because folks are googling me and finding my blog full of rantytimes and fuck words. As much as I stand by almost everything I’ve written here, that certainly wasn’t something I had to consider the last time I went through this horrible, soul-sucking process. But if that is happening, here’s a disclaimer:

Dear potential employers: I am fucking great. I’m smart, I’m fun, I’m responsible, I’m never late, I’m a wicked fast learner, I make a damn fine vegan bran muffin, and (most importantly to the point at hand) I’m enough of a grown-ass professional to keep my fuck words to myself when I’m at work. Hire me. It’s totally worth it.

You guys think that will work?

Here’s the other thing that’s giving me fits: I hate money. I need money, but I hate needing money. I don’t care about it at all, past meeting my physical and debt-related requirements. At this point, I want to do something that helps people, you know? Rather than selling my life off one hour at a time. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take a shit retail job if I have to, but we’re not quite there yet. Eventually if I can’t get one of those then it’s back behind the barista station for old Nessa. God damn, that gives me the quaking horrors to think about.

I suppose every job has elements of helping people, though, in some way. Even when I take the spirit-crushing barista job, I’ll be helping people get through their day with delicious, expertly crafted, caffeine-and-sugar-laden dopamine bombs. That’s something. It ain’t curing cancer, but it’s something. I don’t mean to dump on baristas, either. That wasn’t an attack on coffee artisans, it’s just a job I’ve done that I didn’t enjoy too much. Could’ve been worse. So, so much worse. And at least I was pretty good at it.

Isn’t it strange, though, where we put our priorities about work, and how those priorities change? I got into a conversation with my roommate the other night about work and money and time. His stance is that one should work as long and as hard as is needed in order to get the amount of money required to stop working and go do whatever the hell one wants. Rinse and repeat. In his case, he works his balls off through the summer and fall, and then takes off all winter and travels Asia or South America or wherever he feels like going. It works for him, but I should note that he’s self-employed. I, not being a business owner and having fewer marketable skills than he, could not live like that under present circumstances. I could save up and travel, sure, but not for months on end and still have a conventional job to come home to. At one point he said, “I work smart, not hard,” the implication being that those are mutually exclusive. Which both irked and baffled me, because he does work hard. Like, really, really hard. My counterpoint was that some jobs which are easy are so horrible that it makes them hard, makes your life hard, and vice versa. For me, it’s not about how hard the work is, but how much you enjoy it. Or don’t. The worst job I ever had was probably the easiest, honestly, but it felt like I was going down a goddamn mine every day because I hated it so much. I tried like ten different ways to explain this to the roommate and he just could not (or would not) grok what I was saying. For him time is money. Simple. Clean. Easy math. For me, time is time and money is money and sometimes those two things are related and sometimes they’re not and really happiness isn’t an equation and life is complicated, man. Although, if we’re being totally fair here, he’s probably a happier person than I am.

A lot of people are happier than you’d think, doing jobs that get shit on automatically in regular public discourse. What are the ones that are used all the time? Garbage man? Burger flipper? Janitor? Well, let me tell you something, you snooty fuckers – that garbage man works for the city and makes great money, and society would absolutely fall apart without the janitors of the world, and if you think you’re better than somebody just because they cook food and you don’t then you should probably sit your ass in the closest possible chair and watch Fight Club again. Lately there’s been a lot of bullshittery from the media about people who want a higher minimum wage. I don’t see the problem with raising the minimum wage. While I go on and on about the value of my time, poor people have to contend with the constraints of time itself. There are only so many hours in the day, only so many jobs one person can work, and how the hell are you supposed to raise your kids and have healthy relationships with anyone in your life if all you do is work and sleep and work and sleep and work and sleep? A higher minimum wage is better for everyone, better for society. Further, it shows that, collectively, we value people over bottom lines, that we want employees to be healthy, contributing members of our culture and our communities, and not just miserable and exhausted service robots. And if you’re not willing to pay a quarter more for your Big Mac in order to vastly and immediately improve your country and the quality of life for your fellow Americans, then fuck you. I don’t know what else to say.

Burger flippers aside, I think we’ve devalued actual labor so much that it’s become acceptable to shit on anyone who doesn’t work in a nice, clean, air-conditioned office pushing buttons on computers and shuffling papers around so rich white guys can get richer. Our biggest export in this country is literally debt. What the fuck is that about? Why do we so respect people who go to business school or whatever and put themselves in a never-ending abyss of student debt but then tell our kids to go to college so they don’t end up like the guy who paves the roads? The guy who paves the roads makes way more money than the guy who’s fresh out of his MBA program, I guarantee it. Plus, bonus, he doesn’t have to pay someone to apply his tan with a hose.

And, quick but relevant side step here: stop harping on millennials for not wanting to do skilled labor. It’s not that they (“we”? am I a millennial? I don’t even know – it doesn’t really matter) don’t want to work hard. It’s that their parents and grandparents replaced all the line jobs with robots, sent all the factories overseas, and cut funding to public schools so vocational programs were eliminated. The parents are the ones who decided that little Aura or Ember or Jackalope or whoever was a beautiful snowflake and was better than people who get their hands dirty. The parents are the ones who put their kids through so many extracurriculars and advanced classes that kids are overdosing on speed just so they can stay up all night to do their homework. The parents are the ones who gave them all participation trophies. The parents are the ones who start applying for Ivy League schools when the baby’s in the goddamn womb. This is not the millennials’ fault. They are not a generation of pussies, the millennials, they’re just victims of decades of greed-based economics. I’m sick to death of these thinkpieces about how millennials are ruining the world. I and everyone I know are just doing the best we can inside a system that’s fucked and has been since Clinton signed NAFTA, but I couldn’t even vote then so stop blaming me and my homies for this utter flaming shitshow, huh?

And as much and as often and as hard as I make fun of the handlebar mustache crowd, I will give them this: artisanal anything – furniture, mustache wax, pickles, pennyfarthing bicycles, whatever – means that someone somewhere wanted to make something from scratch, with their hands, using the best materials available, with zero planned obsolescence. That is a culture shift I can absolutely get behind, even if those people annoy the shit out of me. It’s proof that people do want to work and work hard, there just aren’t those kinds of skilled jobs and training as readily available as there used to be, so young people are inventing their own jobs. I say good on them. It won’t fix our crumbling infrastructure system, obviously, but it’s not entirely useless. Any culture that finds itself with a higher number of people with an increase in free time sees a rise in the quantity and quality of art, and that tide lifts all boats.

Anyway. What’s my point? I need a job. Preferably one I love, but I’ll take one I don’t hate. What else? Money isn’t the point of life. You are not your job, unless you want to be, I guess. Don’t be a dick to the people who touch your food and build your bridges and keep your lights on. Don’t be a dick to the people who make local, organic, free-range mustache wax. Don’t be a dick to millennials – they didn’t build the system we live in. Don’t be a dick to that poor, awkward, writer girl when she comes in for a job interview and doesn’t really know how to deal with interactions with humans quite yet. You like her. Give her a job.

2 thoughts on “The best things in life are free, but I still need some of the other things.

  1. I’d hire you in a heartbeat, if I had a business. As it is, I struggle all the time with jobs. Technology has outpaced me, and my mouth has only gotten worse. And I DESPISE online applications, which is all anyone does anymore. I’ll go into places and ask to talk to the manager, but all they say is fill out that damn application online. If I were you, I WOULD delete some facebook history, because they do check. (Although I don’t think you have anything worse than some “fucks”) But keep pounding the pavement (or computer, in this case). You ARE amazing, and someone will figure that out one of these days.

    1. My privacy settings on Facebook are on lockdown, they can’t see anything if we’re not friends, so I’m not worried about that too much.

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