I am looking for many things in life. Not all of them are more work.
I’ve once heard a feature interview on something called the “Generation Y” on the radio. For those of you who have never heard ot them: That Generation is, in opposition to the post-WW “Generation X” a somewhat lazier and more hedonistic one. Generation X tried to work itself up the ladder, from the dishwasher and everything to the selfmade man. But Generation Y is so very tired of this. They don’t want to be the “killing themselves” doctors and lawyer types anymore. They want to live.
I think, they make a good point. All our lives are matched to effort and reward. We are trained to be effective, productive and creative in an effective and productive way. We watch people go to Harvard on television and wish we would be like that but we’re not. I’m most certainly not, I’m German. Our aspirations will most likely outlive our real lives, still I believe, many can’t accept this.
I can’t accept it either. I love having aspirations, they make me go on. If I’m tired in the evening and I feel stupid although I spent the whole day studying n-dimensional manifolds or differential operators, then I think of even the slightest possibility of ever going to grad school and I’m good again. (I must say, I’m a really old student, I’m 31 and after being 5 years away from school, it’s a whole different thing to try and study 8 hrs a day again… it was one of the hardest things I ever did and I cannot recommend it to anyone without saying: Be prepared to get rid of all your hobbies – for real.)
But back to the Generation Y. This Generation, which maybe comes 5 to 10 years before mine (I’m born in the 80s obviously), and in my opinion also fits the description of my own Generation, they are misundestood. I think they do want to work. It is not that they don’t want to be effective and productive. But they want to be rewarded more. When I listen to stories from my parents and people older than 40, I always get the impression that they had to work very hard for all kinds of appreciation. And that appreciation in work would be the most important good.
Only, it’s not. Appreciation in life is. And that is not the same. Appreciation in work mostly means that you’re either a true professional or a true sucker. And since true professionals are truely rare… well it means: primarily the suckers make it to the top. Sadly, that seems to be the kind of person bosses like. In German we call those “Blender” (m, pl.). They come into a room, wipe all doubts away with their charm and make you think they’re explaining while they really just outline things with simple words. They really don’t know anything. “Blender” are good in the field of executive tasks and in talking: “If you can’t rattle them with wisdom, baffle them with bullshit.”
Therefore, appreciation in work might be hard to come by but it does not neccessarily coincide with real intellectual effort. While appreciation in life means: You’re a nice person. No one really ever likes a workaholic sucker. Of course I’m not saying that every successful person is a nodding prick. But there is some truth in saying they are adaptable to situations where they have to withhold their personal opinion, while they know how to superficially impress a superior. Is that really a talent to be envious of?
Furthermore, this point leads straight to what the Generation Y expects from its work environment. Being a successful sucker implies being unable to stay authentic for a personality-extinguishing amount of work hours. And that may be the reason for the Generation Y’s inability to adapt to overtime and self-sacrificing. The want no more nodding. Not if money and appreciation aren’t right. Which they can’t be. Today, a sole husband income is no longer the model (as we all hopefully have accepted by now). Most of us need to work. Need to. And there we have the next sort of Generation: The “Generation laminate“. People who can’t afford parquet floor. Along with all sorts of other high quality living items.
The neccessity of work thow is widely misunderstood as an honor of usefulness. Unemployed people show the highest levels of depression. They feel useless. Because they have no work. I can understand that, but what I don’t understand is why it is widely accepted. This acceptance may after all be the reason for such depression. Our society rewards hard work over hard thinking. You can’t be a great mathematician outside a university. You can’t be a great actor unless you have a great theatre to employ you. You can’t be useful unless you work for anyone. Which implies: You can’t self-suffise.
I’ve seen many people almost break under the burden of unemployment and I’ve always wondered what it would do to me. Would I go crazy? Would I waste my time believing I had to do something against being unemployed, being driven to search for work even if it wouldn’t matter wheter I spend one or five hours googleing? I don’t know. But what I do know is that no one should feel like that. Useless. Being unemployed doesn’t mean you’re useless or that you’re the property of the employment office. It means you should try to enjoy your life no matter what.
If I was unemployed I would most certainly try to do that. I would finally have time to read all the scientific articles that I can only run over the abstracts of these days. I would repair the sink or write a book. I would not be the slave of the employment agency. And that is in fact, why I decided to be unemployed for a year. I will live in a very cheap appartment in a country that some people consider off limits and I will enjoy the crap out of life. Whithout a job, without the neccessity of making myself be appreciated by colleagues and bosses I’d otherwise never bother to even have coffee with. I will self-suffise. And I think everyone that has even the slightest opportunity* should try–be crazy–and do the same.
*random link from Google. You’ll find a way. You really don’t have to be rich to be free. Mostly, but not always. I just have to believe in that.