So, let me bring up a few points just to create some closure. Or, perhaps, you may consider this not so much closure as merely further ranting. As you will …
I like the way you’ve addressed the distinction between career type jobs, on the one hand, and simple employment positions, on the other, in hopes of finding an industry or field I might be able to do, rather than thinking in terms of longer trajectories. And, alongside that thought, I also agree that jobs change, for most people, and that my thinking about jobs has been rather skewed toward assuming they’re more static than they need to be. That’s likely because my experience has been that I’ve never made it past about 12 months, maybe 18, before getting sacked / fired / asked politely to depart because “it is not working out.” I think by “change,” you may be indicating that over a 5 year cycle there are periods when things modify themselves; whereas, by “change,” I believe that I would need 100% daily novelty. Your 1825 days (5 years) compares to my 1 day, so I’m barely matching your statistical model. And when I pick “an industry”? I just get a huge overwhelming sense of paranoia, trapped-in claustrophobia, a belief that somehow I am being forced to reside in a cubby-hole.
This need for variability is a product (obviously) of ADHD, and isn’t something I can simply “get over” by force of will. Nor is it reasonable to expect any employer or employment situation to accommodate my desire to have something that fits me, better than it fits the average worker or the general market demand for products and services. I don’t claim I’m making sensible requests, of my job situation(s); I only claim, that these are the requests which my inherent biological make-up requires that I make, whether or not they can reasonably be fulfilled.
Your suggestions (f.e. adjunct professor; substitute or assistant school teacher; tutor) are good thoughts. And they’re in large part things I’ve tried. The problem with being (for example) an adjunct, is that you can’t afford to live, at all, on the sub-standard salary, without doing another job. It seems to me, that in exchange for having a LIVING WAGE (highly technical term) I must forego having, along with it, A LIFE. Adjuncts with Ph.D.s in most academic fields related to the ones I’m in can make around $5,000 to $12,000 per year, while working 100 hours a week or so on that job. It’s really a “journeyman” position, designed for people who are working their way upwards on the academic totem pole, and therefore the degree of poor payoff (the lack of fair trade-off between effort expended, and reward paid back in terms of salary) gets compensated by the fact that the individuals in those jobs are thinking of that lost effort as an investment in their longer-term viability in that field. I don’t think anyone believes that the adjunct-professor position, teaching loads of (for example) Freshman Comp classes for less than a LIVING WAGE (highly technical term) is anything that should be considered a good job, a longer-term plan, or a sensible arrangement between employer and employee. In fact, I’d consider it voluntary servitude, personally. Substitute teacher may be a bit less exploitative, and there are probably other fields and positions which fit your hopes of an example better. I understand your point, that I don’t need to think in terms of getting to the TOP of the totem pole in a given field (fully tenured professor, up the totem pole from adjunct and tenure-track positions); but I hope you’ll understand my point, that more and more what I am finding is that the lower-on-the-pole positions aren’t, actually, viable positions at all.
That’s because they lack a LIVING WAGE (highly technical term). For me, it just seems to be reasonable, to be able to afford to go to my job. If I am expending 80 hours or more a week on some sort of behavior that requires my attention, and am unable to perform any other tasks which I might deem fulfilling precisely because the time requirements of the job supplant those other fulfilling things, then I believe I have a right to demand that I not lose money on the act of going to the job. The POINT of the job, so I would wish it to be, is to pay for other things. My experience, however, has consistently been, that the point of the job is to have a job, which will thus occupy you so that you can say that your time has been spent legitimately and productively rather than by dithering it away at something other than a job. My experience in all jobs – adjunct-type positions, or not – has been that I simply don’t get a LIVING WAGE (highly technical term).
A LIVING WAGE is a highly technical term (not really) which I will now define. By that term, I mean, that my grand total annual take-home salary must readily and sensibly pay for me to have my own living quarters (a small apartment is reasonable for me, as I live alone), pay my rent for those quarters, maintain my automobile, with good brakes and so forth, and with adequate normal-level legally required car insurance, eat food every single day of my life, be in a clean environment with adequate access to hygiene such as running water, indoor plumbing, clean toilets, places to easily and quickly wash my clothing and my dishes, and so on, maybe have some small entertainment budget monthly which I choose to spend on live tickets to events, or on internet services and television streaming, or something like that, and enough spare income to cover medical emergencies, plus adequate health insurance coverage for all normal expenses of a normal person. Basically, I’m saying, I need to be able to afford a lower-middle-class lifestyle, at worst. Different cities in North America will have different amounts as a requirement. I’m not asking for a lot here. You see that I don’t say, I should have a right to be able to save for my retirement, or to be able to buy a house (to own the land and home, itself, outright myself, rather than to rent from someone else), nor do I say that I should be able to afford to go on vacations once or twice a year via air-travel to warm beach destinations. Most people of my social class and education, in my experience, would expect those things as well. Anyway, in whatever manner in specific you choose to define a LIVING WAGE (not really a highly technical term), you can see that what I’m getting at, is that the money has to recompense the employee for his or her time and effort lost.
And yet as I look for job opportunities, I find that it does not. The daily commute is too expensive to get from a cheap-enough home to the workplace; or, travel to major conferences and trade shows in distant cities, though required for the job, are too expensive to be paid for by the person who has that job; or, after all taxes and costs of benefits are extracted from the paycheck, not enough money remains for both rent and food for the whole month, so the employee must become adept at borrowing snacks from co-workers, and eventually will avail himself or herself of the local food bank for free groceries merely in order not to die of malnutrition or starvation; and, generally speaking, this is the state of all employment that anyone I know has ever had access to. UNLESS that employment is also of the “career” sort.
Look, I know, other people are constantly cobbling together a little money from this and a little from that, or they have an amazing entrepreneurial spirit that allows them to find passion in something as mundane and soul-destroying as selling toothpaste to dentists. That’s not me. The hurdles listed by me above are things which are slowly becoming more and more the norm, in our capitalist culture. Often, merely announcing that you NOTICE these unreasonable arrangements, can get you derided for not being patriotic enough, for not being willing to compete with the best of ‘em. “What’s that,” says the big man from Texas with the ten-gallon hat, "you think your boss should pay for your trip to the conference? WHY DON’T YOU QUIT YER WHININ’ AND BUCKLE DOWN TO TRY HARDER, what are you a communist?" is becoming more and more our usual cultural assumption. I’m just reminding myself, in this thread, that I sadly (and utterly unemployably) reject that assumption. Taking from others is not the meaning of life. I reject competing (though I always reveled in it, on the sports field, and hated being on teams where other participants were not as dedicated to success as I) and I reject what it has made the notion of a “career” into. I’m not allowed, any more, to have pride in my work, or to do a good job, and that’s because we’ve all been out-competed into a position of having to do such maximum effort at such minimum quality merely in order to keep up with automation.
Work, they used to say, is the glue which helps hold society’s bonds together. I know what they meant, and it’s a laudable but now entirely ureachable ideal. Instead, I think, work is the solvent that helps dissolve society’s bonds, and drives us all further apart. And they used to say, about investing, that you shouldn’t do your own work, you should get your money to do your work for you. Well, my going to a workplace, is the way that Dick Cheney and a host of other evil stock-holders can FORCE me to help THEIR money do THEIR work FOR THEM, without me getting my fair reward too.
That’s what I feel, that’s been my experience, and that’s why all my analyses are tinged with cruddy and counter-productive assumptions. I know you’re doing your best, FranB, and your comments really are welcome. I’m just much less inclined to see the good in “the system” after having been the brunt of its abuse for so long, than you are.
Where we coincide, therefore, is in the understanding that it’s not going to be a longer-term “career” that makes things work for me (or anyone else). As you say,
I do try to think like that, as much as I can. And I should keep it even better in mind for longer by reminding myself of it regularly, as you have so generously done for me. My concerns then change, but they still remain nearly insurmountable to me.
The new concerns, in the “one year without burning up my soul” positions, are thus: IT’S JUST SO MUCH. I don’t get how they can expect me to be up so early, at work so long in a day, for so many contiguous hours without at least three weeks of rest between each individual day of effort. The requirement to crank crank crank doesn’t go away, just because the job-commitment is shorter-term rather than long-term-career-oriented. I know that employers are simply following necessary economic conditions and rather common-sensical rules, when they say things like, “I don’t pay you to rest.” But I need a rest, am a human, and therefore will rest. Thus, the employer has every right to conclude, “I therefore don’t pay you.”
I totally understand his point of view. But then, other people ARE getting paid by him, and THIS I cannot understand. How are all those other people not resting? When did they sleep? Where did they get magic self-washing clothing and dishes? How come they have spare time to go to movies? Why isn’t the movie industry completely destroyed by the fact that no American employee has ever departed from the cubicle for more than seven minutes at a stretch, other than traveling directly home to his or her bedroom for the minimum five hours of sleep that he or she will struggle to get, before returning to that same cubicle as fast as humanly possible at break-neck rate for another day of the same? How exactly does Hollywood continue to make profit off movies that nobody has the time to go look at?
So, ahem, I guess you see where I’m coming from … if you have a solution to the break-neck crank crank crank, then maybe we’d be talkin’ about somethin’ …