Status Quo

October 16, 2013

Sometimes, there are bad days. Days when I can't ignore the painfully wrong parts of our society and humanity. There are so many dumb societal "rules" that make sense when you look back and identify the motives and historical reasons, but don't make sense in a if we did this all over from scratch there's no way we'd have done it this way kind of way.

Why do I have to wake up before my body naturally completes it's sleep cycles, just because the "standard" weekday begins at 8am? Shouldn't we allow ourselves to wake up naturally and start the day when fully rested and prepared? There are certainly some companies who do this, or have flexible hours, but it's nowhere near the norm. Abusers of this system would have to make concessions, but a 9 or 9:30 day start is not unreasonable. Isn't it arbitrary anyway? Modern rules based on ancient or archaic ways of life.

Why is it that we take the environment of our work so personally, while the content and product of our work is void of personality? We should be pouring parts of ourselves into our code, our product, or our service, and leaving the rest in a safe place. Why should we feel scared to talk to our bosses or worried that a project isn't working out? Because the end result is that someone loses money, and we lose our job. Guh.

Why should I have to worry that I can't build a home and a family with my wife because I can't afford it with all of my student debt? Because college is how you get a good job...to pay for having gone to college.

Why should I worry that I need to work odd jobs to put away some savings because my entire paycheck goes to the bills and having a small amount of fun each month to keep from going insane, and to reward my wife, who works so hard and passionately for a job that pays her so, so little.

Why should I worry that my ideas - all of my ideas for fun, creative, ingeneous projects, projects that could help people in need, generate income, make a difference - will go nowhere, because I don't have the time or mental or physical energy to do them, after working all day and worrying about everything I already mentioned?

We live to work, and work to pay for living. We work on the things we hate because we're afraid we'll fail if we try the things we really love. We stay in places we hate because we're afraid to go somewhere new, with people we don't know. It's too much, sometimes. We yearn for a simpler life, we say. Sometimes we don't want a simpler life, just a more rewarding one, or an easier one, and why shouldn't we have it?

Why shouldn't the cooks cook and the climbers climb and the painters paint and the players play? Why shouldn't the writers write and the teachers teach? Why shouldn't the dads stay at home and care for their children?

Why should the economy be built on the backs of everyone worried about feeding and housing their families, while the lucky few who were born into "greatness" or were lucky enough to meet the right people at the right time, or take the right risks, gamble with the economy and the lives of the many?

What purgatory is this in which we work and we wait for the next reward for working? Hoping it'll bring us some joy for a short time before we move on? The land of the free is the land of the perpetually imprisoned in our own sick prison.

Some people do find that temporary joy - and sometimes it lasts a long time. For most it just puts a mask on the reality that they still endure underneath. The happy mom and dad who abandon their child for a eight hours a day - a third of our lives - to go to work, to pay for one more day, one more month.

But this is why we prioritize, right? We decide that a fancy car or a nice apartment in the city aren't important, so we're able to save more money, or spend more money on other things that make us happy. We decide to work hard and make an investment in an Education. What's a quick $40,000 in loans, even after getting a full-tuition scholarship, when you'll be making bank when you get out? You'll be working a job that you enjoy (well except for all the stress, after hours work, and mental anguish) instead of a part time job at some store.

You can scroll away your life on reddit or pintrest or tumbler, laughing at funny pictures or saving links to clothes you'll never afford. You can read away on twitter, seeing the accomplishments of some of the good ones - the outstanding members of your field who lucked or worked or found their way into a rewarding, fun, interesting, well paying job where they can be fullfilled and joyful as they work and tweet away their lives.

And we can take risks, or push ourselves harder. We can apply for those dream jobs, and move far away. We can overclock our brains working on projects that might never take off or reading about new technologies and trying not to become obsolete.

Sometimes, there's just no room for the risks, and no energy left to work harder. How do you ask the person you love more than anything in the world to give up her relatively rewarding job to move accross the world for you because you're not fulfilled? How do you tell your kids that you can't help them with college because your decision to buy a nice house didn't leave anything in the budget for savings? How do you look at your parents with too-young-to-feel-what-you-feel-and-know-what-you-know eyes and tell them "it's ok" when they can't afford to send you to math camp or have time to come to your football game because they're working too many hours for not enough money and too hard for some one or some job that doesn't deserve it? How do you talk to your family who you've neglected to call or visit for so long because you've been turned to eleven for way too long just trying to do something - anything - worthwhile?

We think about picking up odd jobs, or just working at a job that's not as demanding. With what reward? The tedium of low-wage jobs? An easier job that doesn't pay the bills? Spending our nights or weekends working a second job that doesn't pay enough to make it worth it, because it eats away at our minds and our bodies and our relationships and our hobbies, nulling all that is good in our worlds.

Even as I write these words I think "maybe I could make this a book" or "maybe I should be doing something productive," because the driving force of our society is that the things you do should make you money otherwise they're worthless. I loathe myself for it - for buying into the American Nightmare.

So we distract. Some parts of life are genuinely rewarding and and joyful. Some parts are just distracting. We sit and gorge ourselves on greasy food and watch TV and movies and sports - anything that distracts us from the fact that our lives are weak and fruitless. We count down our days left on this beautiful earth, in this miserable society, by ignoring them, and letting them slip one at a time, because one slipped is one less endured. It's one less day that we had to think about everything we don't have or everything we're missing out on, or everything we can't do, or everything we tried to do and failed, or everything we're too scared or tired to try.

And we have to be patient. Everyone knows there's no real get-rich-quick scheme, and the best economists say to "get-rich-slow." We save what we can, and we pay down our debt, and we plan for the future and every minute spent planning for the future is one more minute wasted in the present worrying about something that just shouldn't be so damn hard. Being patient is easy. Being a slave to working and paying bills and living the everyman tedium while being patient is not.

Cheer up. That's all it takes, according to the masses. I believe it myself sometimes. Good feelings come and go, and I honestly believe in the goodness of this world and the people on it. It's our rules and norms and greediness and neediness and discontent that I just can't figure out.