This post was originally published on Medium.
I remember feeling a sense of entitlement when a barista at Starbucks got my order wrong, or when high school friends stayed in our hometown to work construction jobs.
Why didn’t they want to get a “real job”?
I was working a “real job”.
I had done everything I was told I had to do. My paycheck made me believe that I was satisfied. When I graduated with my bachelor’s I was so happy to snag a 9–5 job as an administrative assistant, wear the professional garb and get off the retail floor to sit behind a computer all day. This was it, this was making it.
My career continued to unfold in the office environment. I worked in a middle school then worked my way up to a database manager at a college, I was set. I had a title that sounded all technical n’ shit. Meanwhile, I spent every dollar I made, which in hindsight I’ve read, is an act of depression, an attempt to fill in the unsatisfied gaps in my soul. Work was f****** boring and tedious. I hated it.
With every new job, the same feeling would come back — you know, when you’re just over it and you start looking at job postings instead of doing your work?
But with every job description, I just kept thinking to myself — Marketing Manager… BORING. Event Coordinator… BORING. Social Media Maven… BORING. Each skill and responsibility listed was just a sugar-coated line of “Sit here and work your life away”; all while navigating passive-aggressive emails about what KPIs to track on social media or when to send out an email for some lame-a$$ campaign.
I was beginning to see every job the same. No matter how fun they tried to make it sound, or how enticing it would be to have it on my resume. America’s idea of “work” is bullshit. Especially the college dream that we are sold, only to swim in debt and feed a mindless, passionless cycle of busywork.
Let me ask you something important right now — do you know how to sew? Do you know how to build a house from the ground up? Do you know how to fix your own plumbing? I sure as hell don’t. If the world went into further shit, the only thing I’d be able to contribute towards society is my ability to clean and organize massive amounts of rows and columns on an excel sheet.
As my career mental health started to decline on the sidelines of this pandemic, I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony of it all. Two years ago, I would have loved a job title such as “Community Manager”. But now, what use is that role during COVID-19? Jobs like “Work Space Cheerleader”, are they even relevant anymore? What is the community manager of some techie startup doing right now? Probably ordering GrubHub, muting themselves on their Zoom team meeting, and watching Netflix.
Aside from the nurses and doctors, we are turning to grocery store workers, artists on Etsy who can sew face masks, janitors to maintain cleanliness, construction workers to continue housing projects, food delivery drivers, and truck drivers. All of the “essential workers” right now are people that given three months ago, if they had messed up your Instacart order, you would have scoffed at their efficiency.
The most basic needs of our country are not being met. Essential workers at one point or another lacked respect from the rest of us. Now we are praising them, as we should have before all of this. Now, since we’ve educated our youth to focus on non-essential jobs after graduation, our essential workers are being worked overtime. Jobs such as Community Manager exist because the bottom of the pyramid holds these positions on the top.
I wanted to become a gardener. But my parents and my education system told me it wasn’t a decent job and that I needed to aspire for more. In the days leading up to quitting my database manager role, I’d take walks around campus and envy the gardeners and facility crew while they walked around with a leaf blower and manicured the gardens. There was even a female worker who was so fit and beautiful while she worked quietly with her headphones on. I asked myself — what’s wrong with that job? Nothing. They got to be outside, bounce around in their little go-carts, and move around all day. I was gaining weight sitting in a dark office behind two computer screens not knowing the difference between night and day.
I guess my question along with my own personal gripe is… at the end of COVID-19, will a mind-shift in what matters in terms of education and professions in America change? Will we see the gaps and make adjustments towards a more self-supporting individual that isn’t financially maximizing? Can we have respect for all professions and see the supporting roles such as gardeners, grocery store clerks, and truck drivers just as important as a CEO?
These are my questions on a Monday night.