I think a lot about how people choose to spend their time, particularly what they choose to do to make money. How, given the infinite options available to them, do people decide what to do, and then not agonize over that decision every day? Maybe they do. I do.
People seem to fit into three categories: they’re either content with their choice of work, not content with their choice, or don’t really realize they’ve made a choice. Some would argue for a fourth category – not having a choice – but that’s weak talk, in Western countries at least.
For many people a job is just a way for them to get money to make ends meet. They took the first job that was offered to them. It could be any job. When it comes to work, they are totally aimless and have little desire to improve their skills or prospects or become rich or respected. These people can either be happy, unhappy or somewhere in between – it depends on their general joie de vivre.
Others, mainly those in the office jobs it appears, have made a conscious choice and are not happy with it. Often they went to university, got shat out into the corporate system and – even though they are unlikely to admit it – are deeply unhappy with the miserable, fake humdrum of that life. Many have had the crushing realization that they’re useless and providing no real value to society.
The third bunch – usually people who’ve committed themselves to becoming masterful in something that has a positive impact on others – made a conscious choice and are happy with it. Think tradesman, movie directors, or those who dedicate themselves to genuinely helping people in need.
Some people stay in one of these categories their whole lives, some move up to the happy one, some get unlucky and move down. A biological essentialist might argue that we’re all just unconsciously playing our roles in society – roles we were born to act out and can’t escape from. It could be that no matter how big and complex society gets, attributes and predilections are doled out among people by mathematical formulas deep in our collective DNA. The problem with modern society is that the rapid transformation from agricultural to industrial to digital has confused our collective biology.
Anyway, here the blogger Meta-Nomad touches on the ‘any job’ mindset:
“They’re for slaves who adore being told what to do, people who not only take no pride in their work, but take no pride in anything, have no principles or ambitions and wish merely to grind until death.”
And later he analyzes the ‘unhappy choice’ office rat mindset, which he had chosen:
“There I was, dwindling away at a laptop, for all intents and purposes, pissing time away on idiotic nonsense. Creating little bits of bullshit to sell someone a tent, a tent which both I and the consumer have absolutely no idea how it’s made, nor where or who by. It is just a thing which I communicate we are selling. As far as I’m concerned the job was beyond meaningless, it was odd, a surreal experience of life in the office. Hell, to be quite honest. It was a person, sitting in a room, tapping at a small black object and not diverting their attention anywhere else for 8 hours. It was a being, with the potential to learn, help and form a self, dwindling their finite time away into a vortex of modern bullshit. It was, quite seriously, a mind-numbing form of sterilization. A slow death.“
Then he writes about the ‘happy choice’ he’s since made:
“Luckily a friend told me of a job going at a joinery place he worked at…I finish, prime, assemble and prepare bespoke doors, windows, stairs etc. for people who’ve ordered them. People need windows and doors and I’m part of that process. At the end of the day I can see the work I’ve done. I feel worked too. And no, I’m not one of these people who believes you should have to feel exhausted at the end of every day. But if you believe it is unusual to feel tired or physically knackered at the end of the day, if you come home and you complain, just one time, of feeling physically knackered, then guess what, your privilege levels are through the roof. You whine about suffering, but once you realize life is suffering then it no longer is. The more you keep it at bay, the more it will haunt your day.”
Not all university-educated men will come to understand why office work is not compatible with genuine masculinity, self-honesty and happiness, but for the ones who do there’s no going back. You either have to suck it up or get out.