My whole lifestyle is a cop out. I’ve been given every advantage. I’m a straight white male. My parents paid for my university tuition. I’ve traveled extensively across the world. I’ve taught English in Asia, worked on farms in New Zealand, and took vacations in Europe. Yet, through it all, no line of work has ever satisfied me.
I hear about people finding their spark, their drive, and how everything falls into place once that revelation appears. I’ve never had that spark. Every job I’ve ever held has merely been a place holder. Just a way to make money and avoid living with my parents; rather than a creative outlet. I want to do something that inspires me to do more, give back, and lay a foundation.
Early on in college, I knew engineering wasn’t the right major for me. But changing paths halfway through my sophomore year, would have meant another year of tuition, housing, textbooks, and reliance on my parents. I felt guilty having them pay most of the costs in the first place, but didn’t see an alternative (even back then, people could see the risk of taking on so many student loans). So I kept at it, not because I enjoyed it, but because I was capable of doing it. When graduation came, and I was no longer bound by anything: debts, family, school: I did what any rational millennial would do: I hopped on a plane to teach English in Japan for a year.
“Recent work has reminded me that others’ priorities are different, and in my opinion, really depressing to consider.”
Making the choice to live abroad is what ruined me for stable employment. While I see the benefits of having a steady 9-to-5 desk job, I’d never been drawn to jobs without purpose. The kinds of jobs in which workers simply passed the time to get a paycheck, but gained no practical knowledge or satisfaction.
My problem has been finding that one true passion. I’ve been exposed to a lot of things that excite me, but I haven’t found anything that makes me want to do it indefinitely. I tried teaching, but grew frustrated by the low pay, the unwarranted scrutiny, and even mockery in the American media. I tried writing, but found I couldn’t make a living submitting pieces to different online magazines; even if I did so every day.
I know this sounds like an entitled first world complaint; and maybe it is, but I’m part of a generation that has, for the most part, rejected the traditional path to success. We saw dot com billionaires rise and fall, and people like us make a living doing nothing but filming their reactions to people playing video games online.
I don’t have a primary source of income, relying instead on a variety of high-paying, but limited gigs off Craigslist and websites looking for freelancers. My credit card debt is over $10,000 this year, and short of winning the lottery, or finding a position that won’t drive me insane in a matter of hours, I doubt I’ll be able to pay it off soon.
One of the ways I keep a flexible schedule, and get a little income, is by applying for a variety of usability studies. In the Bay Area, there are thousands of tech companies constantly looking for outsiders to evaluate their new apps. Some offer cash, but most provide Amazon gift cards. It’s better than nothing.
While I search for the right job, I’m going from one gig to the next. I worked as a home mover for a while. Working as a home mover is a great equalizer. Homeowners and laborers tend to work side by side in the heat, enduring tough physical work, all towards a common goal. There are obvious reasons why this isn’t my passion, and why I can’t keep doing it indefinitely. My back may give out for one, and it’s not mentally stimulating.
Another problem is, sometimes you have to shed sweat and blood for horrible people. I once moved a gentleman from a house in the South Bay to a penthouse in the city, and his first words to me about my co-worker were- “I’ll need you to take the lead: I think this guy is retarded.” I’ve been berated, insulted, and bruised working for others similar to him. Like the property manager in Texas: he threatened to shoot me unless I called to let him know I’d arrived, and was approaching.
I often ask myself why I do what I do. Of course there are needs to be met: a place to sleep, food, clothing, transportation. But it comes down to wanting more, and not accepting less until I get it. I can cut down on expenses. I can work menial gigs. However, I refuse to work my entire life towards goals that amount to nothing. I value time more than money. Not infinitely more, but it baffles me when I’m kept late for a job, and the employer spouts out something like: “Don’t worry; you’re still getting paid.”
I’m not worried about getting paid. I’m worried they have no respect for my time. Their belief is my life is centered around doing whatever tasks enters their heads. They don’t think for a minute maybe I’d rather be doing activities I had planned with MY time.
I value the freedom in my schedule. I may not have much income, but I can drop everything, and hop on a plane or take a road trip. Recent work has reminded me that others’ priorities are different, and in my opinion, really depressing to consider.
Right now, all jobs I do are just a paycheck to me. Not passion, and not inspiration. And while I have the ability to find a high-paying job, put a deposit down on an apartment, meet friends at the pub a few days a week, and be in a relationship: I’d feel trapped.
I enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Like waking up in a familiar bed on a lazy Sunday. Sliding over to the kitchen to cook up some eggs, and text a friend letting him know we’re on for the afternoon. But to accept what makes that possible; a job doing nothing more than providing a paycheck; doing that day in and day out for a lifetime, or even months at a time, is a horrifying thought.
I’m not afraid of hard work. I’m not afraid of sticking around. I fear complacency, of acceptance of the status quo. There has to be more. A purpose. A reason to crawl my way out.
Turner Wright is a freelance writer with an engineering background. He is originally from Texas, but usually finds himself in the Bay Area if not some random corner of Asia. He is currently the Digital Media Manager for Airbnbhell.com and TravelVisaPro.com. He enjoys running long distances, eating more than necessary to do said running, and traveling to other countries.
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