Under-Earning?

Under-earning? Is THAT what it’s called? Well NOW you tell me …

It is what I’ve been doing ALL MY LIFE! I had no idea it was a categorized phenomenon, a “thing.” Is it a “thing”? Does anyone have any other information, leads, directions to look towards, for my edification? Evidently childhood trauma can lead to lifetime under-earning, but that’s pretty much all I know about it. That, and, well hey! I do it! I’m an expert! At doing it.

So, I just heard this term under-earning for the first time, in the context of a You-Tube video that was offering help for people who might have had childhood trauma. Childhood trauma? Well, I like looking for beneficial therapy and helpful information wherever I can find it, although I’m pretty sure my childhood wasn’t particularly traumatic relative to some people’s (my “Adverse Childhood Experiences” score is probably a zero or a 1 out of 10, whereas some people have 8s or more, and it’s generally suggested that people in the 3-or-more range look into the possibility of childhood trauma).

So, I’m a master under-earner. My experience is, generally, I simply can’t hold down a decent job, can’t stand the idea of regular work, can’t suffer through what most people would consider “normal” or even “fun” working conditions. If it has to be done for someone else who is my boss, or for income, and especially if it has to be done REGULARLY and day after day, well then, I just get EXTREMELY depressed about it, or angry and resentful, or otherwise somehow dysfunctional. I try to be a good employee, I don’t pick fights, my distractability is usually under control, generally my co-workers enjoy my friendship and treat me as a valued team-member, my work production isn’t ever totally sub-par (though there are episodes …). In the short term, or, if considered task by task, I’m making ADHD work for me, am getting my work done, am being a typical office worker. But in the medium term, and in the longer term, if considered as a longer arc, my work experiences are disasters. People can tell that I’m not happy, no matter how hard I try to lead the double-life of pretending that I really LIKE getting up at dawn and being beholden to someone else’s stupid ideas all day long forever all week. I try to pretend. I fail. I’m not happy. They get rid of me. Sometimes they’re nice about it, sometimes it’s blunt, sometimes it’s a surprise and sometimes it’s just an absolutely predictable outcome. Usually it’s at the 18-month point, or a little earlier, that I get so stomach-churning unhappy that I start being unable to continue the act.

Thus, I get fired. I fail to GET jobs, because I can’t act like I really want them (I don’t, honestly; I want an income). And I fail to KEEP them, because someone is going to figure out just how unhappy I am and start poking around under the covers and figure out that I don’t value Crest more than Colgate (or was it supposed to be Colgate more than Crest?). I’m 53, I have two legal licenses (I’m a lawyer in good standing in New York State and in Louisiana), and yet I simply can’t get an income. I run screaming, or the bosses cagily figure out that they should suggest I take a permanent sabbatical some time before I start to run screaming. Whenever I’ve been “asked to leave,” I’ve always felt a great sense of RELIEF, saying to myself, “Well, thank GOODNESS I won’t have to go into THAT miserable place ever again!” My IRS statement about lifetime earnings that will contribute to my Social Security check when I retire, states, bluntly, that I haven’t yet earned enough to even get a check. I will receive zero per month, they tell me every year.

What is under-earning, in a more grand sense? A lack of an adequate sense of self worth? An inability to fit in? A failure to care? A refusal to sink as low as to involve myself in a quest for mannon? Hence, grandiosity? It’s clearly a biological or psychological malady, but, since I only today ever heard the term, I figure I should look into it.

How does under-earning relate to ADHD?

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I am sorry to hear about your situation.

I myself am in a similar situation. I am a freelancer but my adhd has gotten in the way of getting more clients and sometimes I have little ridiculous slips in otherwise great works and that tarnishes my profesional Image.

It sounds to me, that you are in a tough spot right now. I’ve recently finished a coaching certificate and I don’t have much experience yet, but if you would like to figure out what is going on and what to do I will gladly do it for free. We can do it over skype or some other Voip app. ALso english is my second languaje and is heavily accented, but it might help you.

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Great to hear that other people are understanding what my issue is! For now, I am simply glad to know that “under-earning” is actually a discrete concept, a “thing” that I can work on. I wish you well in that coaching career, too, as it moves forward. I am happy to chat but not sure how to go about arranging it or whether it needs to be an “official” situation at all. :slight_smile:

Hey there! I’m sorry to hear that you are struggling. My heart goes out for you.
And I can totally relate to the feeling of underachievement.

ADHD can get on the way of our goals and emotional dis-regulation plays its role too.
In my case I can’t stick to anything long enough to get good at it. Dr. Hallowell has an episode in his podcast with a few great tips like: Stop trying to get good at what you are bad at, and do what you actually good at! https://www.distractionpodcast.com/2019/05/28/the-7-habits-of-highly-effective-adhd-adults/ He has a point.
I guess what I’m tryig to say is: Yes you have flaws, nobody is perfect, but you have strengths ( You are a lawyer, its not easy to become one!, you went through a law school and passed the bar exams). And maybe you are just too hard on yourself?

It could be helpful to figure out why do you feel this way?
And I think childhood trauma plays a huge role in our life.

It doesn’t have to be physical abuse to inflict pain, even subtle emotional pressure can change us. Alice Miller wrights about it in her books, “Trauma of the gifted child” was eye opening for me. And of course famous cases are really extreme, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt if its not that obvious or not unusual.
I hope any of this tips will help you in any way, but even if not at least I want you to feel less alone in this struggle, because I’m sure a lot of us brains can relate, I do.
You just need to find your own unique way.

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Oh man I hear ya. The first thing I ever said to a doctor which triggered my adhd diagnosis was “I feel like I’m just hitting a wall with my career, I can never get past entry level jobs”.

I never got promoted or kept a promotion because I found the work sooo boring, and struggled to follow instructions. As soon as I was given real responsibility and accountability, I crumbled every time! I usually quit before I was sacked (although one time was a bit borderline… I handed in my notice of resignation and then got fired a week into my notice period :joy:).

I do find that treating my adhd has massively helped my career. A combination of medication, life coaching and mindfulness have now led me to start training as an educational psychologist :slight_smile:

So, for me at least, my under-earning experience has been pretty easily explained by adhd symptoms. Losing interest after a few weeks, not following instructions, pissing off coworkers with my impulsive mistakes, forgetting things, being disorganised, quitting out of boredom etc. Nothing to do with my motivation or knowledge, I just couldn’t get the dopamine from the job like everyone else did.

Thanks for the further replies …

So umm, yeah, I totally agree, can’t “get the dopamine from the job” like everyone else. In fact, I’d go so far as to say, the problem is THE VERY FACT THAT there is a job. For me, the fulfillment and/or thrill and/or desire to continue and/or need to get started and/or interest and/or sense that I’m not wasting my life and/or existential dread of having to go into that EFFFing place again without really wanting to buy an assault rifle and shoot it all up and/or … all those things, are associated with the very things that give money. If it’s income, it’s not fulfilling. My experience in a nutshell.

This of course is very frustrating, but at least I’m articulating it. Another way that I am learning to put it, is, that all the advice out there is not helpful. The advice is, how to make a job or career or income-stream become productive, on the basis of learning to be more productive myself. But I don’t want advice that teaches me how to do miserable tasks in a way that makes them more remunerative. I want advice that lets me do un-miserable tasks in the first place. Even when I hit a really good ADHD channel about work and business and income, even when they’re telling me stuff that is directly applicable to an ADHD person, I am still thinking, “Well, yeah, that might work, but why would that make my life BETTER? All you’re telling me is, that there are already six billion drones on this planet work-a-day working their lives away and I’m not one of them, but if I just buckle down, put my big boy pants on, and really really stop expecting to have a good life, then, I, too, can be miserable just like them.” They suggest Pomodoro. I try Pomodoro. I end up doing something I really really hate doing, for twenty exact minutes. Congratulations, Pomodoro worked! Before learning about Pomodoro, I was doing less than one minute of something I really really hate doing. Now, thanks to Pomodoro, I’m doing at least twenty minutes at a stretch, of something I really really hate doing. Why exactly should I consider this to be an IMPROVEMENT over NOT EVER doing something I really really hate doing? More of it is worse, if I really really hate it, right?

So, umm, yeah … that dopamine thing … yeah. Glad people are understanding me, at least. Rant rant.

As to NancyN, who suggests I figure out (not just HOW I feel, above paragraphs, but also …) WHY I feel that way … umm, don’t want to get into total self-psycho-analysis here on the web boards. But it comes down to … DON’T CONTROL ME, don’t take up my time, don’t tell me what to do next, don’t push me down underneath your thumb. Is what I want to scream at the whole gol’darned world, whenever I have to go do something at a location or on a deadline. Locations create the same feeling as deadlines; having to do something that’s due at a specific time in the future is a temporal restriction on me, having to go somewhere like offices or workplaces is a geographical restriction on me. It’s a pair of straight-jackets. And I feel constrained by them. I am not ME, I’m just VICTIM of the CONTROL. That’s what I sense is the root-feeling behind my aversions. I could go farther, but this is already not “why” I feel that way, as much as, “what is the core feeling.” The “why” could have something to do with traumatic childhood, whacking my head too often, getting paint inhalation symptoms when I was twelve, or any of a number of other factors. Maybe my mother didn’t love me? Yaddah yaddah …

I just heard from “The School of Life” (YouTube Channel) the following apropos comment:
“Our boredom is a vital tool. It’s telling us what’s slowly killing us, and reminding us that time is monstrously short.” At time-index 3:45 in video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJhUs1L_RQo .

I really believe that. My ADHD does me the FAVOR of making sure that I will NEVER EVER be someone who spent too much time at the office. You know the old saying, that on your deathbed you will be VERY unlikely to say to yourself, “I wish I’d gotten to work more regularly, spent more time at the office, made less waves, been more consistent and reliable.” People never say anything like that to themselves on their deathbeds. But they DO make the mistake, of DOING that to themselves BEFORE they get to their deathbeds. Well, thanks to ADHD, I think I’m highly unlikely to make the mistake of being at the office too much.

Not to be awkward after this opening, but: I do like the working life so far. Granted, I’ve only been in it for about half a year and that was after two years in Germany’s reeducation and re-integration program which is a lot about bullying one into accepting any kind of work just to get out. Also, I’m working part-time like a smart person.

The sudden accountability works great for me. It’s what’s been missing from my previous endeavours - nobody complains when a webcomic is a week late, nobody is really waiting for that website update. Now somebody is and I have to account for the time I put in.

I can’t see myself in a full-time drone job either. I’m well aware of how lucky I got and sometimes pinch myself. Yeah, sometimes it gets a bit dreary. But it’s work I enjoy and have a knack for, it’s variable enough to not get bored for too long and we’re a small company where any kind of boss/employee antagonism just wouldn’t evolve.

I’m not sure if I’m underpaid relative to my colleagues. Probably, but I’m new and have yet to prove my worth. (Or that’s what the bosses said when I signed up at about 80% of what I’d asked for.) Thing is, though, I have no idea what’s appropriate to ask for because in the 49 years preceding this job, I’ve never done that. And yeah, both that insecurity and the never-held-a-job-ness it’s rooted in have ADHD written all over them.

For me, it’s never really been the prospect of work that held me back. I never rejected paid work when it was handed to me. What I’ve struggled with is the prospect of getting work. And, the further I got into my low-budget freelancing lifestyle, the prospect of committing to something I wasn’t convinced would be good for me while abandoning everything else.

Also, I must have dozed off when everybody else got the “how to be an adult” lecture and didn’t have the first clue how to get started, how to present myself without coming across as either a show-off or a brownnose, how to use aqquaintances as a network (I’m still not convinced I want to know that) - any of these transitional things. Money bores me, or it did until it ran out. I was never interested in careers. (I noticed that again reading job ads that promised career opportunities, thinking: “why should I apply for a job just to move up from it?” Really, I’m glad nobody asked me the “in 5 years” question. I just don’t think like that.)

So I kept on freelancing - for longer than I could afford because that also involved some of the skills I never figured out - because that was the easy choice. It was already there. And I figured out how to get along with less. I still think “simple” is a valid lifestyle choice.

So now, at age 49, I’m probably where others would be at 24 or less. Carreer-wise, lifestyle-wise, certainly financially. And if I go on like this, even if I manage to hold that job, I’ll still be at age-24 state when I’m 53 or so. I’m ookay with that. But, yeah, under-earning. Story of my life.

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This makes me think about that experience they did on people when they put them in a room with a button they can press that gives them an electrical shock, and people choose to shock themselves rather then do nothing but spend time with their own thoughts. So basically it’s proposed that it’s in our nature to choose pain over boredom. So combine that behaviour with ADHD! I feel like that explains why turmoil seems to accompany me everywhere I go. I get bored easily and need just about anything to happen, good or bad, to relieve the stress of boredom.

Yes, I’ve felt often that same sensation, that GETTING work is more daunting (or, more easily avoided) than DOING work for a position that I already might have.

This is, at least partly, if not entirely, an initiative problem, for me. Executive function, taking the initiative, call it whatever – the job search simply never “gets started” because (well, duh …) ADHD.

On a related point, how do ADHD people run their own businesses? I just don’t understand! They (Hallowell, etc.) say that being an Entrepreneur is something which many many ADHD people do, because we crave the excitement and the independence and variety. And yet, for me, the self-starter aspects, all of which are definitely required for successful Entrepreneurship, would be EXACTLY the things which ADHD would prevent. Time to set up an LLC! Nah, I’ll watch cartoons. Gotta build that business plan! OK, right after I mop the floor … no deadlines? No work done! I have TONS of great ideas about how to run a good business. I don’t ever get past the thinking-about-it phase, and I really don’t WANT to have to DO it. So, I’m a bit conflicted on the notion of Entrepreneurship and its relation to ADHD. On the one hand, yes, seems at first glance to be a good choice. On the other hand, but really, NO, no no, not a choice for me.

Yup. This is a hallmark (you may already know) of many mental conditions, syndromes, illnesses. “I just don’t know how to DO normalcy” is precisely the content of Jessica’s major self-revelation in her (important, very valuable!) TED talk (cf. video, I’m sure you’ve heard about it and probably seen it yourself). I too feel left out of the average, the normal, the “adulting” phenomenon. But then again – nobody is ever given the list of instructions for life in general. As a purely philosophical matter, unrelated to ADHD and its treatment, we ALL are born unknowing and unable to do anything other than use our own resources to figure out how to build ourselves while having to undergo the very act of building ourselves without having any resources because … duh … we haven’t built them yet! I sometimes think that having an ADHD diagnosis is just another new way to say, “Didn’t figure it out the same way that other people did” to a zillion common tasks – dating, picking a career, going to school, putting away the car keys, etc… The “5 years” question (where do you want to be? ON A BEACH DRINKING A COCKTAIL, AND NOT AT THIS FURKIN’ PLACE, CERTAINLY!) seems perpetual (there never will be a time in the future at which point a future five more years will not be imaginable; therefore, there is no answer, because there is no end to the “more” in the “5 years” concept) and pointless to me. One helpful person here on the forums suggested to me, in another thread, that we ADHDers need to look for jobs by thinking, “What position can I survive for the next 18 months without going totally bat-shoot-crazy in the interim?” If you go INTO the job interviews with that assumption, at least secretly inside your own mind, maybe the disappointment of inevitably going OUT OF the jobs themselves develops a different character to it? In five years I WANT to be so wealthy I never work again, mister Potential-Employer, and therefore your question is moot. In other words, the only way of thinking about work that makes sense to me, is how to do just barely enough of it that I get to end it. If I have to be at that employment for five years, well, that’s five years too long, but at least it isn’t six years.

As far as being OK with freelancing as you get up to my more advanced age of 53? Well, if you’re OK, then OK! I’m not, personally, OK with my situation, of the perpetual under-earn to the point of being unable to support myself. I keep feeling like some flood-wall will break, the dam will burst, I’ll crash through into a remarkably fulfilling and lucrative period of my life. It’s like, I’m looking to find the one subtle clue which will make it all turn out to operate properly for me; or even, the seventeen clues, a combination of things, which will help.

But honestly nothing HELPS. At least so far, all the advice simply leads me toward how to capitulate to unhappiness. “Hey, here’s how to make yourself do things that cause you to feel miserable. You have to manage yourself differently in order to force that misery onto yourself, because you have ADHD. Most people are more capable of volunteering for the misery, but you need to use Pomodoro to enforce the misery. Either way, here’s the ticket to misery. Use Pomodoro! And a bunch of other techniques. Soon enough, you too will be just as miserable as you can possibly cause yourself to be.” Why would I want that?

I suppose the simplest answer is, because one must do so. For so many people, not working means, in some way or other, not eating, not paying rent, not having a safe home. I am lucky that my mother and father have only one child, and I am staying with them in order to aid their senior lives during their retirements. For a lot of other people, they don’t have the luxury of this situation in their lives. And yet, I find it hard to believe that the vast majority of working stiffs out there are getting only ONE reward from their work, the reward that they are being paid adequately. (In fact, the question of adequate payment is one which fuels much of my under-earning. I am often asked to “show your commitment” through under-paid or even fully free, volunteership, positions, for several YEARS before a permanent hiring will take place. I find that demand of the employment market to be quite idiotic. I’m NOT committed to something that doesn’t pay me adequately, duh.) I feel like an awful lot of people don’t have to go through the painful soul-searching, the death-knells of grief, that we ADHDers go through, just to get to the office in the morning. So, when the issue of “why do you go to work” does come up for other people, and then is compared to my situation, I do realize that my fact of not being financially forced into it, is a difference between me and them. But it’s not the only difference. The other folks are also having a much less burdensome EXPERIENCE day after day. They aren’t putting up with the level of misery I experience, ONLY for the money. They’re also NOT experiencing the misery in the first place! So, the money becomes this “extra” thing added to an already decent experience; or at least it is just one motivator, but not the SOLE motivator, for their doing it.

For example, some people choose to work when they don’t have to! I actually didn’t know, until later in my adult life, that plenty of people who have decent jobs would still do those jobs even if the pay dried up. “Sure, it’s who I am, it’s what I do. I mean, it would suck, and there would have to be lifestyle changes, but basically I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t have this job.” I find that IDIOTIC. I’d read Shakespeare again. I’d walk in the park, if I didn’t have to have a job. If I ever AM able to retire, I will do so as SOON as possible. I think for those people who like their work, they may stick around in the employment for a while after their financial status and age grow to the point that they CAN retire. They would actually … gasp! … CHOOSE to work. I’ve never felt that way. I think of working as the very thing which prevents a meaningful or worthwhile or fulfilling or enjoyable life.

Evidently, they somehow think of work as the thing which funds the life. When? How? I hope you see where I’m going with this: if they have the experience of working in order to improve their lives, whereas I have the experience of not being able to improve upon my life precisely because I’m working, then it seems to me that working for a living is simply an act one undergoes in order to be able to say that one is working for a living. For them, maybe not. For me, I can’t figure out any other benefits. It’s too expensive, in terms of time, life-energy, happiness, for me to go to work. It’s even too expensive in terms of money. Now, if I WERE making money, and were generating happiness, or at least the opportunity for happiness was somehow based on the positives that I got from work (including the money), then I suppose I might change my calculus. But it’s kind of like asking a fish to please stop breathing water, get up on the dry land, it will be so much better up there; without realizing, that the exact problem that the fish has with the land, is that it’s dry. Work is for me unremunerative. So, if people do it for remuneration, I don’t blame them. But I can’t imagine how remuneration and work would go together. They contradict one another, in my mind and in my experience. I can’t spend more time, energy, effort, life-energy, and money to help someone’s business succeed; he has to spend his money for me to help him; yet I’m still losing money when I go to work. What gives?

So, when I think of the fact that a large number of people are being FORCED financially into unfulfilling work, I also have to remind myself, that the lack of fulfillment does not lend them as detrimental an experience as I undergo. Basically, the general free market of prices and wages, has balanced things out to the point that people who do take a job, and do so for the money, are actually making a decision on the basis of trade-offs. They ask themselves, basically, “is this positive experience, in terms of pay, worth the negative experience, in terms of what I have to do in order to get the pay?” Would life (over all, including shelter, clothing, food) be better or worse, if I didn’t have the job and the pay? But for me, I don’t think I’ve ever felt free to be in the position to make that decision about trade-offs. The money has never been enough to live off of, I have a much more enjoyable experience when I’m not working, I have absolutely no positive things to say about any attendance at an office ever in my entire life, I only ever did it for the pay, and yet … as I started this sentence … the money has never been enough. What gives? Why am I not in the usual decision-making category, of “is the bad worth the good?” My category is, “Why on earth would ANYONE do this? There are no benefits, except the mere fact of being able to say I AM doing it.” One supposed way out of that one-way exchange is, the hope for promotion, and that’s always the theory which is dangled in front of me. Opportunity to have better jobs, chance to really make a difference, improve the resume so you can go do something that you think is important or worthwhile if this thing doesn’t feel that way. But I know pretty well, due to ADHD behaviors, I’m not going to be promoted, and I generally couldn’t afford the cost of volunteering which had to be done in order to get STARTED on the road to promotion. So, instead, I live at home.

But at 53, this is wildly un-independent in a way that I simply don’t enjoy. And I won’t be able to afford it, quite soon. So I have to find some way of getting something positive out of the career, the workplace, the lifestyle of working, or I’ll just go bonkers. In fact, I’m mildly worried about what will happen next, when my parents have passed away and I must again start to figure out how to pay for all the things they leave for me. I will promptly run out of money. And yet, if I start a job now, I will run out of money SOONER. If I have no job, I don’t have to pay for going to the job, doing all the job things, cleaning the clothes and maintaining a car and paying insurance on it and so on. If I do have a job and independence, then, the expenses will immediately add up, and they will be radically more than any job has ever paid me in my life. I LOSE money when I have jobs. So, again … the smart financial move is to make sure I never work. Right?

Oh heck I dunno … rant rant … thank you for listening … sorry to over-burden the boards with my re-re-re-edited posts all full of complaints … do you actually MAKE money, turn a PROFIT, off of workplace working? Wow. I’m impressed.

I guess there 's work and there’s work.

My job ist to set up websites for clients. Doing that wouldn’t even occur to me if they didn’t pay for it. On the other hand, I maintein about five or so sites for free, for projects I’m involved in myself.

My other work is wirting, drawing and self-publishing comics, and I can’t imagine not doing that, pay or no pay. (It’s what I work part-time for, to have some time left for that. And it’s what I’d fall back on, should I get fired, rather than shopping for the next web developer position.) It’s definitely work, but not in the sense that bystanders at protest marches mean when they hiss at one to “get a job”.

Then, of course, there are the mindless drone jobs, the 'bullshit jobs", jobs that basically only exist so somebody can do them because Western societies have this ideology that you need to be working to be worthy and it doesn’t much matter what. I never really bought into that. What a person needs from their work to feel like a contributing member of society isn’t that it occupies time or makes money. What we need is for it to be worthwhile in itself. But since we’re supposed to work for a living rather than self-fulfillment, most of us don’t get to set those kind of priorities, much less live by them. It’s a broken system, I’m with you on that.

Well, my expenses are pretty modest. I lived off welfare for two years and that was actually a step up from what I allowed myself to spend before that.

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Can I ask what sort of jobs you’ve tried?

I can’t stay in jobs that feel pointless. Any role that just exists to line the pockets of a corporate entity is a non starter for me, that’s the kind I end up sabotaging and getting fired.

I now only do jobs that are essential and help people. The kind where if I don’t turn up to work, vulnerable people suffer. I started off working in a nursing home with the elderly, then moved on to working with disabled children.

It’s far more motivating for me because whether I like it or not, I know they need me there. I know that if I bunk off, there won’t just be consequences for me, but also direct consequences for the people I support. At the nursing home, if I didn’t show up to work, it would have meant that a few elderly residents would have to stay another hour in bed before getting up. They’d have to wait longer to have breakfast, and even to go to the bathroom. If I didn’t show up to my job at the special school, certain children could have a really bad day and face fixed-term exclusion or even worse.

When I’ve worked in a store, I literally couldn’t give two ****s. If I didn’t show up, maybe someone had to wait in a queue longer. So what? I did everything I could to sabotage those jobs because they felt pointless. If you’re in pointless jobs, no wonder you’re demotivated.

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I’ve wondered about this, too. The idea of entrepreneurship terrifies me.

A co-worker and I talked about hypothetically winning the lottery and we both pictured ourselves continuing to work in our current field (programming) for about 20 hours/week. We figured that was a good amount of time to be interesting and give some structure to the week. I like my field. My job has stressful parts and downsides, but it also does a lot to contribute to my happiness by challenging me and helping me keep various parts of my life in balance. I think I am luckier than a lot of people, but under the right conditions work can have these benefits.

I also under-earn. In my case it’s by staying at a company that is paying me less than the industry average because the job is safe. My productivity varies wildly but at my current job it doesn’t seem like anyone notices so I don’t get in trouble.

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Yeek! Scary! I think that I, personally, had better NOT sign up for something like that. The pressure of “having” to be at work in order to comply with the silly broken system already rubs me so far the wrong way, that any additional sense, that I would actually cause not only imaginary problems but also real problems for people, would probably drive me around the bend! I resent it so much in the first place for all its (seemingly) illegitimate claims on me. Last thing in the world I want to do is add to it some (seemingly) legitimate claims. I know, your theory is just the opposite – without the legitimate claims, there’d be no good reason to do it, I understand your point! But I’m worried, that if I put myself in the position of being really depended upon, then I’d simply end up either harming others or (probably more likely) harming myself in the process of avoiding harming them. Really pushing myself to do extra but not insisting on getting paid for it, thus allowing myself to be exploited (and even, in a sense, pro-actively seeking out that martyrdom) and therefore becoming resentful or just burnt out; or, getting there even when I have a communicable disease and ought to stay at home, merely because I can’t get my head wrapped around the idea that the work will get done by someone else in my absence; or, pushing to drive too fast to get there; or pushing myself too hard while there, etc… I understand the suggestion. I think it’s beyond my pale?

In answer to your question, I’ve generally done everything an English major can do. I’ve been involved, in one way or another, in writing, publishing, publicity, editing, printing, journalism, and other office-type word-smith work, off and on, most of my life. More recently I got a law degree and passed two States’ bar exams so officially I’m now an attorney. The “meaningfulness” component is sometimes there, sometimes not, in any office-type work. Of course an employee would probably be more readily able to manufacture that “meaningfulness” feeling in a job like attorney, than in a job like check-out clerk. But I’ve been unable to find much of a link to “meaningfulness” in ANY of the positions, whether of check-out-clerk type or not. I think a LOT of what drives me to feel that the work is not “meaningful” is, precisely, the fact that I am “forced” to do it, at a particular location of someone else’s choosing, during a particular time of day of someone else’s choosing, on deadlines of someone else’s choosing (and therefore to a degree of finish, or lack of finish, based on that deadline, of someone else’s choosing), for fulfillment of someone else’s choosing. I resent it because it imposes itself upon my autonomy, is a simple way to put it.

BTW, reminder, I know this is a silly position to try to defend! I don’t claim that my point of view is economically rational or in any manner a good way to choose to look at the free-market (or any other market) system(s) that we have in place for employment and payment and making-a-living-ment. I readily concede, that my feelings are rather at extreme odds with society in general’s notion of how to go about paying for dinner, which I will probably have to do daily. I don’t claim to have a better option. I just claim, I DO feel this way. End of reminder.

Glad you’re following my gist, then. I did get to ranting a bit, didn’t I? Well, thanks for the replies! I’m still trying to move on from, or move through, these issues, they don’t magically go away just because I’m not posting about them on the forums, but I did benefit from getting some of that rant off of my chest.