There’s a tendency among millennials to characterize an imaginary 99% of the general population as “uncreative” or “boring.” The old “every person that isn’t a rock star or one of my 9 friends is an emotionless drone” cliché gets brought up every time someone discusses their dreams or artistic ambitions versus the economic realities of pursuing them. For whatever reason, this discussion inevitably leads to the conclusion that everyone with a job is miserable.
Wait, what? Really? Do you live in a Twilight Zone episode?
One of the funniest resulting contradictions from this mentality is the idea that you can slave away at being bored. How is that possible? If you’re actually working hard enough that it could be considered “slaving away” how could you be bored?
The myth of the boring job is a dangerous one because it can be damaging to the psyches of young people. It can stunt them emotionally and professionally and rob them of the confidence to pursue something they could be truly great at. No one wants to “give up on their dream” because they can’t hack it, but dreams can change. There are 10 billion or so different jobs on the planet and there’s something interesting about each one of them. It’s ok to start out wanting to be a guitar player and then find out you’re also interested in actuarial science. You’re not giving up on your dream you’re pivoting and improving your life.
It’s widely accepted that happier people perform better at work, but current studies indicate that it may be the act of performing well that’s making these people happy in the first place. Making things, fixing things and solving problems feels good. Our bodies are designed to send us little happy feelings when we complete tasks because it’s conducive to our survival. Graphing something complicated, or nailing a meeting with an intimidating client can make you feel awesome, so stop worrying if what you’re doing for money is cool enough.
People like their jobs, and making an effort to talk about them can be a great experience. You know why? People tend to know a lot about the thing they do every day and they can tell you the most interesting parts. If you pay attention you can even learn something about that person and their industry. A conversation about someone’s occupation can be just as interesting with a carpenter as it would be with an artist. You shouldn’t have be outrageous to feel validated enough to talk about what you do.
The myth of the boring job is likely due in large part to a popular misinterpretation of the movie Office Space. For a lot of millennials this film was the introduction to the idea of having a job. If watched wrong, Office Space can be a movie about a guy who is miserable because he works in an office. When correctly viewed, Office Space is actually about the dangers of being misemployed. At the end of the movie the protagonist is happy because he gets a job that’s better suited to him, and he becomes more in sync with his reality. The supporting characters bitch normal bitching about their jobs but they stay at their job in the end because they’re more interested in what they’re doing than the protagonist. That one guy even makes that money stealing program! That’s extra work! People who don’t like what they do don’t know how to make a money stealing program. Even the dick head boss in the movie likes being a dick head boss. That guy’s a guy too, and his job is a job.
There are a lot of variants of the “Guy who sucks because he’s normal” but having a job is the thread that seems to tie them all together. Other weirdly derogatory attributes regularly tacked on to people who work are things like, “They like Nickleback and The Big Bang Theory” (Which you know what by the way? Fine. Whatever. No one should care.) or “They only eat processed food.” In some extreme polemics anyone who isn’t part of an artistic or performative counter-culture is characterized as a would-be nightclub rapist. The “bro” is really just a younger version of the common working man. Why has it become so comfortable to shit on people who want to work for a living?
Even though it’s basically the sentiment of an uncool dad, it’s disheartening that the criteria for being disrespected is “having a job.” Sorry guys, we don’t actually need very many film directors. Being a rock star is a lot cooler than being an accountant, but maybe we should just make accounting be what cool looks like now. (There’s a sliver of hope in norm core movement.) It’s hardly a new sentiment to point out that our culture of celebrity and artist worship could be damaging us psychologically, but what if we’re just doing it out of fear? What if we only entertain lofty dreams because we’re afraid that if we spend our lives doing something “normal” we’ll be bored? If we dispel the myth of the boring job and celebrate every occupation with the dignity it deserves maybe we can start to drift away from celeb worship and be a happier society.
The idea of a job being cool is a relatively new one because teenagers invented “cool” and teenagers were what happened when we invented “young people without jobs.” “Cool” is at its core is kind of characterized by not having a job. So “cool jobs” are usually just jobs with traditionally “cool” affectations crudely slapped onto them, such as alcohol or a lack of structured protocols (like dress codes). In order to truly have “cool jobs” we need to shift our culture to be one celebrating self-reliance and completing tasks. The poster every kid wants on his or her wall should be one of Ron Swanson.
People are inherently interested in seeing people do things well. There’s a whole genre of television based around it. Unfortunately no one is very good at acknowledging they feel this way and instead distract themselves with the colorful characters that come along with the shows. Those characters then get elevated to celebrity status and the work is forgotten. It’s a weird instant psychological trick people play on them selves. They place them selves within a weird paradigm of self, celebrity, and unknown others who are “normal” and almost definitely miserable…
So here’s to all the geologists, fishermen, doctors, lawyers, government employees, accountants, electrical engineers, janitors and every other conceivable worker that isn’t a personal friend of mine. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, just do it the best you possibly can and hold your head high.