The Breaking Point of Compromise


So. I admit defeat. Mental breakdowns. Bowing down to pharmaceuticals. Being the embodiment of generational stereotypes that I would rather quit a job I have that doesn’t fit my education or lifestyle or principles than continue working for the sake of supporting myself no matter what the emotional fatigue it is to pretend.

I have had to give up so much of my stubborn self over the last couple of years that I can’t even bother to fight the prejudices and stereotypes that I’m that odd eccentric chick who is crazy enough to walk through the cold, reads non-fiction on weird things like gay culture and the current state of waste management, and is too awkward to get a man.

Life isn’t great right now. It could be worse. I see worse. What I could’ve added to people’s smile-and-nod impressions of me above is that I choose to live in the scary city centre, this part of town that doesn’t have driveways or even fences because it’s all apartment buildings – and there are SCRUFFY people there who don’t even bother to walk properly, and they’re darker and sometimes ask for money. How can a vulnerable young white woman like me make it there? There are people with substance abuse problems, domestic abuse problems, and mental health problems that have people not trained and paid to address them – all of these things – ignoring the existence of such human beings on this basis. They can look me in the eye to smile-and-nod as I tell them the seriousness of speedy population growth and urbanization in the developing world and what that means for human health but that’s as much as they’re willing to handle – a white person who took a shower that morning, talking vaguely about what they’d rather ignore. In their neighbourhood there’s that retired person with an array of lawn ornaments and that’s as much as they’re willing to deal with visible differentness in their suburban part of town.

An otherwise unremarkable moment from last year stands out in my memory – walking down a street in my downtown neighbourhood, a not-well native person approaches a well-groomed young man in a suit and asks for change. The man dismissively says “No way, I’m in debt, you’ve got more money than me!” While on some levels this is true, the man in the suit ignores what was required of him to get in debt in the first place – qualifying for higher education and associated loans, and enough earnings or earning potential to get a mortgage, credit cards, line of credit for his own luxury. The cockiness of this man’s strut bothered me enough before he said this.

Despite the presence of these flashy people seeking the status and prestige of a job in the skyscrapers of Portage and Main, working downtown would be an immense improvement on my life and well-being because of material balance and abstract principle. So when I had a waterfall breakdown at work last week and spilled out to my boss how my skills are underutilized and lifestyle compromised in a work situation I’m looking to get out of the weight came off my shoulders of pretending to her, and at least a couple of other people in this bubble building, that I fit in as part of the team.

I’ve divulged more personal details here than I ever have before, as unwise as it is to write things out that can be used against me in exactly what it is that I need to change in my life. Here’s how this is to be generalized: people of my generation won’t get hired in lower-end jobs because of the likelihood, as is our intention, that we will leave as soon as something better comes up. We won’t get hired in the jobs we seek to start our careers in because they’re being eliminated or hoarded or bottlenecked from decisions of older people higher up. We’re turned down for the first hundred jobs we apply for, for either of these reasons, and we’re told to count our blessings when we’re hired for the mediocre middle that’s not on the path of what we strive for, that doesn’t pay enough to at least drown our sorrows, and typically sacrifices other parts of our lives to a tipping point. The part of my life that’s being sacrificed is time spent in my own community, around the diversity of people I’d rather identify with. I’d gladly swap places with someone who’d like to avoid working to pay off their debts in a place where the odd person in different circumstances is left to walk around asking for literal handouts. If I leave a job that’s not compatible, my generation lacks loyalty and shouldn’t be trusted. If I downgrade to something simpler because it’s closer to where I live, my generation lacks ambition and the financial discipline to save for our future. If I stay where I’m unhappy, my generation has been zombified at work with the same habits we developed playing hours and hours of video games.

Darn kids.


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