On Jobs and Delusions

We used to care what you thought about us. We went to interviews, nervously trying to win your approval. You told us no and we said thanks. Thanks for considering us. Let us know if you think we’d be suitable for anything in the future.

Some of you never called. We still think of you with hope from time to time. We wish we’d moved on, but we haven’t.

Some of you did call. Well, you emailed (that’s almost as good, right?) with news of a new position. Ecstatic, our hopes floating in a world of imagined stability, we wrote new letters, we lined up references (again). We waited with bated breath, thinking this is it! You didn’t get back to us right away, but we remained patient — any day could have been the day our lives changed, solidified in course.

We wanted this. We wanted predictability, a regular schedule with a steady paycheck and weekends off. We wanted a job we could convince ourselves we loved, tell ourselves our work mattered. That this sense of purpose could be paired with paid vacation and sick days is still something that blows our little minds.

After a few weeks of waiting, we forced ourselves to forget about what could have been. We applied for jobs that were less enticing. The people at those interviews told us they didn’t really know what the job description was or when they were hiring. They just wanted to see what was out there. They never got back to us either.

It was around this time that a few things occurred to us.

We despise multi-tasking. To be honest, we’re not even sure what you mean by this. Are you asking if we can watch the latest Art Thoughtz on YouTube while texting our mother and having a conversation with our roommate? Oh, and pizza’s in the oven, cover letter is half-finished (eclipsed by the vid) and we just had to listen to this new Panda Bear singleitjustcameoutandit’samazing!

Yeah, we can do that. But do you really want us to manage our work as thoughtlessly as we manage our social lives? We just turned nine words into one and that text we sent our mom had the word fuck in it. Wait. What? Fuck! How do we unsend that shit?!?

Yes, we can conceive of multiple projects happening at the same time, with coinciding deadlines. We were able to handle this in middle school, we did it in high school and, more intensely, as undergraduates. Some of us even did it in grad school. We also juggled internships and paid work, often while we were in school meeting deadlines, studying for final exams or writing research papers. That’s time-management, not multi-tasking. Please don’t ask any more gross questions like can you multi-task.

We also hate it when you say you want a self-starter or a self-directed crackerjack. It’s all the same imaginary word-junk. If we were self-starters, we wouldn’t be applying for these jobs with you. We’d be self-starting food carts or farms or underground music venues. We’d be mending shirts and relations with American Indians. We’d be brewing beer and finding doctors and dentists who’d barter for their services. We’d be discovering something as useful as electricity or inventing something as revolutionary as the internet. We’d be making flying cars powered by greenhouse gasses or finding ways to collect and use that mass of plastic floating in the ocean.

And that realization brought us to a new one. We don’t think those jobs we applied for way-back-when were the best we can do after all. We don’t need your approval. We’ll bag groceries at a co-op or wait tables in some locavore restaurant where you’re probably one of the customers. We’ll eat well, keep fit and save tips until we have enough for a scrap of land to grow food and a few apple trees. We’ll live simply, get to know our neighbors and let our dreams run wild. We’ll make meaning where you left us with none. TC mark

image – Office Space


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  • Tristancloy

    *bated breath

    • http://profiles.google.com/sveinatle Svein Atle Arnesen

      Damn. I was going to commend them for spelling that correctly. Alas…

  • nemo

    this is amazing because i'm looking for jobs and “self-starting food carts or farms or underground music venues” are three things i seriously wish i had the balls to do

  • Aelya

    This, this, and a thousand times, this.

  • sweet

    this post for the win

  • http://twitter.com/godworm Nicholas Cox

    Could you maybe write this same post again every day until people start to understand that a lot of things that used to matter don't have to matter anymore? Thanks!

  • erin p.

    Amazing. *standing ovation*

  • Elena

    * slow clap*

  • Catalin

    I totally agree with most of what you've written here.
    Except maybe those last few lines. Knowing your neighbours is fine and dandy. But have you seen Dogville? If you have, you'll know what I'm reffering to. :-?

  • http://twitter.com/calvinaftercal Calvin

    Best line is probably the “self-starter” one. Even someone has the complacency to put that in their job description, do you think they really care about the position they're hiring you for? Cliches don't make jobs worthwhile.

  • Flanges

    So you're an “underachiever and proud of it” yet your ultimate goal is growing enough to food to survive?

  • Alex

    Wonderful honesties beautifully written.

  • RamonaCC

    Yo can I send this to Toys R Us and Petco who keep denying me jobs? Like hello bros I am clearly overqualified for all these positions but give me a break you're my last hooopppeeee. I've tried everywhere else. Goddamn good for nothing English degree. This was great.

  • http://gearshack.blogspot.com Naked&Famous

    More articulately put than any of my 'seeking employment' posts… I sure wish I could write as well as you can, but it probably won't mean you're employed before I am. I don't consider this post (my response) as a challenge or a call to action, it's just saying that “ability” is a loosely qualified term. Sadly.

  • PINA

    It's a bit naive and infantile, but I like it.

    • Gregory Jean

      agreed…If i wasn't on the job hunt I might have skipped over this…glad i didn't.

  • Swatle

    You're a crack jumper, lady!

    “You represent a generation of young people who've been blessed with education and opportunity, who don't just fall through the cracks, but jump through.”

  • guesty

    Eh, be glad you have a degree. Shit's rougher without it.

  • Sa

    God this is so appropriate right now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Fiveoseveniam-Lazaroff/7706828 Steven Fiveoseveniam Lazaroff

    nice accompaniment to coffeen's 'resistance' the other day.

    the resolution here reminds me of david foster wallace's work. or the point of it, or something. (i feel like i am always bringing the dfwian reading to everything, haha) that life isn't just about freedom-from but freedom-to, i.e. the onus on us to create meanings and frameworks amid consciously deciding what we worship. bc we can't escape worship. there is no such thing as neutrality.

    there also is an important community thread to this goal of living simply and outside the current status quo. it isn't just about individual choice. i like the use of the collective 'us' throughout.

    “The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.” (http://web.archive.org/web/200… ; audio: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

    in the end, tho, i'm left asking the same question i am always asking after thoughts like this…do we even have the resources to conceive of a post-capitalist world? can we achieve something in between glacial and apocalyptic change, something closer to now – without the violence usually associated therein? or will we always require some great dickensian benefactor to remove the tie that binds, capital? but maybe you're right, and that's not a bad thing, that we must stay within, play the capital game so that we may use that capital to start a more glacial change – or just accept that all we can do is change our world, defining it pragmatically without betraying our ideals. i dont know.

  • Daniel Coffeen

    This is fantastic — and gives me great hope. But it's the mode of delivery that I enjoy the most — that move, that turn, you make into the seethe is fucking brilliant, as if clarity is dawning on you with an impossible mix of anger, freedom, joy, and righteousness. A pleasure to read, through and through.

  • http://pleasureiseasy.info math

    yea beautiful

  • d.

    I love the sentiment and writing in this post. Although at the end I find myself wishing, more than believeing that it could be true.

  • http://likethehours.wordpress.com/ devin howard

    this is just, awesome. I might be reading into it a little too much, but it seemed like there was a middle finger to the vapid robotic consumerism an unfortunate majority of our fellow citizens subscribe to, steven fiveo said it well somewhere down in the middle, “an important community thread.” Refreshing.

  • http://meditationsonasubway.wordpress.com meditationsONAsubway

    Great writing style and a very apt article.
    Unemployment is really one of the thing that doesn't “get better with time.”
    It's great to finally read an article about unemployment that actually gives me hope at the end.
    I'm currently trying to turn my unpaid internship into a salary job with sick days, cubicles, and inter-office memos.
    Much like you said, the sense of purpose that comes with a simple 9-5 job is mindblowing.

    I'm pulling for you and everybody else out there in our shoes.
    Keep fighting.

    *Just another 20-something tryna survivie in NYC”

    • http://meditationsonasubway.wordpress.com meditationsONAsubway

      *Just another 20 something tryna survive in NYC*

  • http://ssourtimes.blogspot.com Ssourtimes

    currently going through 3 months of unemployment and this article made me smile because finally someone gave my self esteem a hug.

  • Campbelljv

    Amazing, thoughtful writing!  So very eloquent.

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