There’s the opening monologue of the 1990s movie, Trainspotting which has been resonating a lot with me these days.
“Choose life, choose a job, choose a career, choose a family, choose a fucking big television…”
On this blog a lot of the time I talk about regrets. I talk a lot about healing. I am usually optimistic about where life is heading, however, since for the most part, life has usually been getting better.
A few weeks ago, my day job announced upcoming layoffs. This is the University where I have spent the last 18 years as an employee, and let’s face it, four years as a student, working in the same building that shares where I currently work, I haven’t moved very far. Physically or metaphorically when it comes to my career.
In 2001, I was working at a call center. I landed a job at a place that paid roughly twice per year what I was making, answering 50+ phone calls per day. It was never my intention to stay forever at this University. But with kids at home and a wife who refused to contribute to the family income, I was locked in to my job, with no ability to move out of this place.
I was stuck.
I’ve gone over a lot of this before, but I was having a conversation about the disillusionment of our generation. The GenXers got sandwiched between two of the most selfish generations ever. In a lot of ways, we were raised with the viewpoint of the Greatest Generation, or probably more like the Lost Generation. The period of time that brought us the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, John Steinbeck, Frankenstein, Stein Cold Steve Austin, and many others. A generation of people who lived through the horrors of WW1 and said, “Well isn’t this just something?” while their children went off to fight the Germans again, and the Japanese, drinking Europe dry in the process.
I look at my parents generation as a lot of people who did what their parents told them to do, once they got back from VE, VJ, and VD Days. They went to school, then went to college or the workplace. Maybe they fought in Vietnam, maybe they bought a house, raised a family, did some recreational drugs, watched a crap-ton of television, moaned about being in their 30s in the 1980s. They brought us the Big Chill, and 30 Something, and they did everything they were supposed to do.
They worked hard. They paid into Social Security for 30-40 years in the hopes that when they retired, they would get back a fraction of what they paid into it. Because they were supposed to. In the early 2000s, a lot of the Boomer generation took a beating when a series of bad investment scams brought Wall Street to its knees. Entire retirement funds vaporized. So many Boomers were stuck with the prospect of living on the $1100 per month they get from the government or simply never retiring. At least the bastards who ran the economy into the dust in 1929 had the decency to jump out of windows. The ones who did it this go-around got a bailout.
An entire generation of men and women doing what they were supposed to do. School. Work hard. Kids. The American Dream. Retire. Die at some point. But so many of them are feeling robbed. That moment flashes on as to “Why did I work hard all my life to get this?” The system failed them. But as the subsequent generation, I had to say, I’m not sure why GenX is so dutiful in following our parents’ footsteps. We work hard at thankless jobs, a lot of the time because the Generation before us can’t, or won’t, retire to let us have advancement. Then we have the more Tech-Savvy Millennials, who swoop in with a lot of entitlement and a lot of participation awards to show for why their feelings are hurt easily and the only real competition they have is who has the newest phone and who can get the most offended.
In my situation, I hear a lot of “Well, you can’t do X because…” I’ve been told what I couldn’t do my whole life. I’ve been told what I should do as well, but looking back to the previous generation, what you should do hasn’t exactly worked out all that great for them either.
A lifetime wasted, making money for someone else, hoping one day to retire just to have enough money to sit around and wait to die.
That doesn’t sound like anything I want to be a part of, to be honest. I’d rather choose something else.
Giving someone advice in the hopes that they become just as miserable as you are one day isn’t good advice. It isn’t right. It isn’t healthy.
I put in the time at my job, and one day, either this week or two months from now, they will finally let me know that I no longer have a job there. What I want to do with the rest of my life is all up to me.
This wasn’t’ the life I signed up for. Living hand to mouth. Paycheck to paycheck. A human piggy-bank for an ex-spouse who never had to work a full-time job for very long because her hand was always in someone else’s pocket. Soon, the piggy bank will be empty. All I will have to show for nearly an entire adulthood of a “career” is a whole lot of stories I have gleaned about people for the last 20 years that nobody would believe if I told anyway.
But the cake, my friends, is a lie. You aren’t guaranteed anything. Not a job after college. Not a happily ever after. Not safety and security. So quit living your life like any of that is even real. Take chances. Think outside the box. Fuck shit up. And wake up from this dream while you still can.