for whatever we lose, (like a you or a me) it's always our self we find in the sea. ~e.e. cummings
it’s not that i have no interest in owning a house, or peasant-chic cardigans from anthropologie or to participate in a company-matched 401k, it’s just that my freedom means so much more. simple math dictates that if for every 50 weeks we sell to our employer, they “give” us two weeks to keep for ourselves, then for every 50 years we sell to our employer, we "get" a mere two years for developing who-we-really-are. because i am convinced that one’s truest self cannot be nurtured when directly plugged into the economy. sure, people can enjoy their jobs, be challenged by their jobs and even positively contribute to society through their jobs (although this is rare), but more often than not, we are unable (or unwilling) to take a cold hard look at our lives and realize that they are only our own to the extent that our desires can be purchased.
from the time we learn how to speak, our capitalistic society grooms us to choose and devote ourselves fully to a career as if it were a religion, starting with the nauseating question: what do you want to beeee when you grow up, tommy? By the time tommy can talk he knows the correct answer to such a question, is not “a good conversationalist,” “an ecofeminist” or “one who dabbles in finger paints.” no, even 4-year-olds have learned that the questioner is really asking, how do you plan on earning money in order to pay for your inevitable mortgage, car and consumer debt? so, enthusiastically, tommy answers by proudly declaring that he wants to be a doctor, a firefighter or a lawyer, or by naming some other profession deemed respectable enough to be found in children’s books.
and as tommy gets older, he is seamlessly incorporated into our cog-like society, and before you know it, he is a 25-year-old business administration graduate spouting off nonsense like “i work hard and play hard” and “timmy, let's get all our ducks in a row and huddle to debrief on the client’s deliverable.” although the hippies among us find it easy to point fingers at all of the tommys in the world that perpetuate the conveyor belt of birth-work-death, tommys are mere products of our capitalistic society. since the capitalists have lubed and inserted their agenda into virtually every arena of our lives—political, educational, linguistic, etc., it’s hard to see that the whole "meaningful career" ideal is the most complex, opaque and successful marketing scheme in history. the money-mongers do not want us to see the gap between ourselves and what we do to pay our bills. the more time and energy we (enthusiastically, no less) invest in our careers and take on their productivity goals as our own, the more we pad their pockets at the expense of becoming who we are meant to be.
a much more articulate tom hodgkinson says: career encourages what i consider to be a terribly unnatural self-specialization: in our urge to compete, we tend to try to become very good at one small thing to the exclusion of all others. this is called professionalism but could more accurately labeled 'being useless.' culture is produced by experts, music by bands working for record companies, education by expert teachers, medicine by expert doctors. we are disabled. it will soon be difficult to put up a shelf without a degree in shelf-putting-up.
all of this is to say, that i’m sick of being made to feel (or allowing myself to feel) irresponsible and selfish for not wanting a career. i want to do a little of this and a little of that. i want to blur the lines between my working and non-working hours. i want to become more well-rounded, a renaissance woman. i want to commune with those who incorporate anarchy into their lifestyles. those who don’t need permission to cross the street. those who have lifted off the sticky lenses of fear. those who tangle and dance with this crazy thing called optimism. i want to pay my bills by making soap while listening to mason jennings, by walking dogs in the rain and taking on short-term temp jobs in the city. i want to listen to more Motown. i want to finish embroidering my salvation army peacoat. i want to spent more time with nicole brown and whatcom county farmers. i want to lift waterlogged worms out of puddles. i want to keep keeping my eye out for a used yurt. i want to find the love of my life and milk cows side-by-side. i want to keep in better touch with the people that inspire me. because as andy frank says, wealth is the sum of everything you value.