This week I am staying with the Grandparents at their house on the south coast of Spain. They’ve lived here for almost seven years now, they love it but they miss the grandchildren, so I try to visit them at least once a year. My Grandfather is a smart man, a retired businessman with a strong mind. We usually engage in debates about something or other as we sit under the stars on the porch, his traditional conservatism contrasting with my postmodern liberalism. It’s a great bonding tool. A topic that seems to have dominated our conversation this week is the topic of careers. ‘What do you want to do with your life when you leave university?’
The truth is I have absolutely no idea what I want to do… Here in Spain the recession has hit harder than most places, surprisingly even worse than in the UK. People are running around looking for any kind of work they can lay their hands on, men even walking the main roads clutching hand written signs, offering to clean your car inside and out for a mere €3. The desperation is shocking. A person’s job is often central to their life. In most cases people would argue that their job is their life, financial income being their source of food, housing and health care. As well as bringing such security, our jobs seem to play a huge part in our identity and our social life. When we introduce ourselves to people we often say our name, age, and what we do for a living. When we make friends, we are more inclined toward those who have interesting careers, keeping useful contacts to boost our social framework. It is so easy to judge a persons entire personality based on what they do for a living.
So those of us who are holding that pin, where do we want to place ourselves upon the map of socioeconomic institutes that make up the working world? At the moment I don’t want to do anything. But simultaneously I don’t want to do nothing. So where do I go? I’ve been discussing various careers with my Grandfather and he has been suggesting areas of work that pay well, careers that haven’t been threatened by the recession. I feel I suit none of his suggestions. I find myself considering these jobs merely out of necessity rather than real interest. But then I think: why should I do something that has no real worth? After all, what is money gained when precious time is spent? I’m with Morrissey on this one: ‘I was looking for a job and then I found a job, and heaven knows I’m miserable now… in my life, why do I give valuable time, to people who don’t care if I live or I die?’
So does having a job mean sacrificing your spirit? Too many people today are doing jobs because they ‘have’ to, the stress and competitiveness of the work place driving people insane. People have forgotten about the things they really love. How many people have you heard uttering phrases such as ‘I always wanted to do this but…’ and ‘I wish I’d have tried this when I was younger’? The pressure of finding a career smothers any real flame of passion that might have burned within us, many of us going for life roles that bring us the greatest financial gain or the strongest sense of security. Following this comes the death of spontaneity.
I’m not saying that this is the case for everyone. I’m sure that there are many people that love their job and are quite happy to work hard in a career for the majority of their lives. I’m simply saying that perhaps we should question the system: how do we know it’s right? I’m no economist, but it seems to work economically (most of the time), but how does it work for the soul of the individual? We are not inclined to ask such questions because we are all born into this system, and we are taught from a young age to live and work for our future. We go to school to learn the basics to then move up to secondary school, then we work hard to attain enough GCSE’s to get into a good college or sixth form, work even more to get sufficient A Levels to get into a good university, and then get lost somewhere between 1st class degrees, masters degrees and PhD’s. Then you compete to get into a career, work your ass off, retire and die. The idea is that you can’t have fun until you retire, but then only during the time between hip replacement operations and queuing for your pension to pay for your TV license before (heaven forbid) you can no longer watch Corrie and Strictly Come Dancing!
It’s depressing to even think about let alone to live it out! To me it seems clear that the system is all wrong. Working nine till five in one job doing one thing, day after day after day, is the most torturous idea I can imagine. Where is the freedom, the passion, the spontaneity. Where is the living in ‘making a living’? I know what you’re thinking, ‘what a ridiculous sensationalist idea!’ but why does it have to be so?
‘…and if you must go to work tomorrow, well if I were you I really wouldn’t bother, for there are brighter sides to life and I should know because I’ve seen them…’
- Steven Patrick Morrissey