Adulthood

Standard

I’m stuck in a loop of never fully convincing myself that I’m an adult and it’s in step to take adult moves towards adult responsibilities, because I’m making adult money. It doesn’t feel like I am making adult money because it’s not being robbed of me by adult expenses, because I haven’t taken the adult moves towards adult responsibilities that incur those expenses.

adult cycle

There is no way to get in unless you already have one of these, and to get one of these you need to have all three.

It’s for this reason that I can’t commit to looking after myself. I’m a grown person, and I’ve lived alone for six years without serious injury from home accident or owing money to the mob. But I rent, and I’ve only ever considered buying a home once. When that fell through I knew I had to get more together before I could try again. I needed to have the adult money to make that adult move. But the money that I have can’t be adult money, because I’m making it without working 60 hours a week or having decades of experience in a high demand industry. Those are responsibilities that can only be earned through demonstrating maturity, and nobody could be seen as mature if they rent an apartment.

Ad nauseum. I don’t go to a podiatrist or physiotherapist to see how I can stop killing my feet with the walking and running that I do (when I do the running – separate issue to come later) because I’m afraid of what the solution will be. If I have to wear a certain brand of shoes or buy expensive custom orthotics, I won’t have the flexibility in style that gets me taken seriously as an adult. I’ll just be that loser in those shoes – pay no attention to that lady in the corner; she knows not what foot fashion is to the essence of a grown human, and thus she is still in that job that doesn’t pay as well as ours.

I know that physically I should keep in shape and that requires investment in time, discipline, money, and overcoming pride around other people. I don’t want to lose a lot of weight, but I want to maintain a level of control over my body and make my arms stop jiggling when I gently wave. I would need to join a gym, which would require facing my fear of being judged, and commitment, which would require an established plan through a trainer, which costs money. But look at me – I’m just a schmuckette with a schmuckette job (with a feminine suffix because the collar’s been dyed pink so it can be cast aside as merely an accessory to Real Business). I don’t have the right story to tell people whom I may meet at the gym. There will be no common ground. Thus, I don’t make the adult move of taking adult responsibility over my adult health and paying for professional advice on proper equipment. When I run, I just go on a 10 minute jog around my neighbourhood. Everybody can see me, so I’m more invisible. I avoid the adult move.

But I’m not even avoiding it properly. I’ve stubbornly stuck through running before – in spite of/because of a sore leg/ankle/foot/head/arm (yes, even arm); in spite of/because it was raining/snowing/extremely cold/extremely hot – and that’s just in the past 20 months since I decided I was going to spite my reluctant participation in bare requirements of high school gym class by running more out of choice. I got to wrap a scarf around my head like a ninja, which made me feel like I was doing this too immaturely. I wasn’t buying proper winter jogging equipment because the way of running I chose wasn’t of adult responsibility. I couldn’t spend adult money on the adult move to take adult responsibility for my fitness.

1171936_549017165174005_1810451845_n

So that’s the rut I’ve been stuck in for 31 years.

Money and Martyrs

Standard

In the more menial work I’ve been doing over the past few years of my career, I’ve seen just how much some people are willing to work in overtime. Not only do they work this overtime, but they don’t not work it later – or, in less unnecessarily confusing terms, they get it paid out instead of banking it to take off another day.

The Monday to Friday 8:30 to 4:30, or whatever your local economy’s culture deems standard business hours, is a very artificial, and modern, construct, but it’s been fought for. It’s been fought for by the proletariat through unions and legislation, to ensure that they can not only afford to feed their families but spend time with them as well.

You should never have to choose one or the other – “full time” work of 35-40 hours per week (well, I think that should roll back even farther to be maybe 28-35) should cover basic needs and some wiggle room for personal or family priorities. Bertrand Russell’s “In Praise of Idleness” portrayed his ideal of 20-25 hour “work” weeks with “leisure” time spent on deeper things, however naive it was in assuming some of the luxuries of upper class white lifestyles could/should still be kept in place.

A lot of people still have to work more than full time, either overtime in their jobs or additional jobs juggling shift schedules every week, to keep their heads above water, and that is not okay. The labour movement for living wages in today’s jobs of the working poor is causing enough of a ruckus to gain momentum, as it should. But what I’ve seen in both private and public sectors is cultures that glorify excess working hours. It isn’t just corporate cultures enforced upon employees by intimidation to keep working harder and harder and longer and longer. People choose to go into fields, sometimes literally, where the work schedule is taxing but the wages are high. Some people go in with a plan: put in a few years in able-bodied youth, make six figures, save up as much as possible, and coast through the rest of life with slacker jobs but slick luxuries. I don’t know of many success stories, but that may be more my fault than the fault of the logic these people use. I tend to tune out from hearing about the lives of people who have very little in common with me, to the extent that their choices conflict with my values. Call me out for keeping myself sheltered from other people’s truths.

Oil sands, mining, trucking, prisons – people can earn a lot of cash in these fields if they overexert themselves. And it may be out of fear that there might not always be work for them. I can only guess that the mentality is quite different for physically tolling blue collar jobs than it is for people who are educated into cultures of high-prestige work – lawyers, doctors – that demand higher billing hours out of not just money but competition for status. I find neither of these cultures healthy.

I’m not in a particular position to judge, as I’m also not in a position to understand. I can, however, analyze and speculate from my fake ivory tower that the culture of the Protestant ethic, and competition, and a woe-is-me race to the bottom, and conflictingly just flat out capitalist/consumer greed all interweave to make people feel bad for working less. It makes me hate talking about this, because so many will play the martyr, and so many will pitch the hard-work-pays-off shpiel, all to shame the person who sticks to working hours 40 or less as having such luxury and privilege. Well, I do have privilege that has enabled me to sustain this on a living wage. I also think everyone else should be entitled to it as well. Nobody should be looked down upon for being lazy for wanting to own more of their time, and glorifying the overworked is encouraging unhealthy – as in, medically studied and confirmed over and over again to be detrimental to well-being – behaviour.

If we pick apart the culture of money and competition, and jealousy and righteousness, perhaps we can all come to an understanding that an individual’s assigned meaning to what and how much they do in their work is their choice to be respected. The ultimate value of work can’t be measured in time and the ultimate value of leisure or rest can’t be measured in money. It is the myth of capitalist patriarchy that overworking is macho success and it’s doing none of us favours.

So yes, I am taking my lunch break today and going home on time.

Economies of Sham

Standard

(Human beings are not rational creatures, particularly in the realm of conspicuous consumption.)

(Economics isn’t a hard science, and it’s founded upon social constructs with numbers haphazardly painted on.)

(The overall economic decisions of a large-scale society do not balance out to logical spending.)

(I’m feeling guilty over an indulgent purchase I just made. Can you tell?)

The Grass is Greener Lifestyle Dilemma

Standard

When I was in elementary school, I had an active imagination. That imagination led me to pretend my classroom was a workplace and my bedroom was an apartment, and I was an adult. Now, of course, I wish I could be in elementary school again because that shit was easy, yo.

Even when I was in university, with a flexible schedule and only 15 hours of in-class time each week, I longed for a future that didn’t require studying and writing papers in off-hours to be coordinated with a part-time job that took evenings and weekends in a varying schedule. That, and I wanted a real income.

When I finished university, I got a shitty job with varying shifts that included evenings and weekends. It met my ambitions in striving for mediocrity for my early-to-mid-20s with just enough pay to get by. Working at that job motivated me to strive for a regular day job so I could have evenings and weekends off.

But now I have that. There is so much that is lost to previous schedules when I could occasionally fit something into the morning or afternoon. Now I have to worry about how my own business hours mirror those of other places, meaning I can’t arrange convenient times for things, or avoid busy crowds by going places when most other people are at work. While I didn’t make much money during university most of it was spending money, and I at least had more flexibility in choosing what I wanted to do when, even with my classes. The length of the working day at my shitty job was shorter, meaning I earned less money but had more time. I got to spend more time at home when working that job, even if my apartment was shitty because my rent budget was lower.

Part of my current time problem is I take the long way home every day, because I don’t work as close to my apartment as I would ideally wish. But having been unemployed for many months of the past few years I know what the alternative is – having so much time but no money to spend, as well as no other purpose to justify getting up in the morning except to look for jobs. On these winter mornings when I have to get out of bed when it’s still dark, and it’s so much colder above the blankets than underneath, so I do think back to when I slept in every morning. I think back to that whenever there’s something I need to do or want to be able to do for things outside of work, but I know it isn’t feasible. When I was unemployed I want what I have now, with perhaps an hour of the time it takes up shaved off, but I shouldn’t be complaining.

Most of the time I’ve been satisfied with where I am, with my schedule and my purpose and my lifestyle as a whole. I think the winter months are getting to me, that I have to get out of a warm bed and that it’s dark by the time that I leave. I wish that I could get more bang for my buck with the rent that I pay by spending more time at home, so any other commitment that I have feels like a burden taking away value from what I have no choice but to pay for. I wish I worked in my community so I could enjoy it more, like that brief period when I could, in fact, walk home for lunch every day. But I suppose if my mid-20s ambition was for a mediocre job and little disposable income, my late-20s ambition shouldn’t yet reach for the stars. I have my 30s to look forward to for that.