"get a job"

We've all either heard it said to us, or been that person to say it to someone else... "get a job". In SF, it's usually followed with "ya fucking hippie", granted, but the sentiment remains the same.

It's an interesting one, getting a job. I got a job when I was 18, because I was living on my own and it was my senior year of school. I couldn't balance the full time job I needed with class, so I dropped out and got my GED, which fit my work schedule better.

I hung out with some gutterpunks both in California and Massachusetts, and met up with squatters and the Space Hijackers in London. I had fun, and learned a few valuable lessons.

1- getting a job is not so easy. And yes, I'm including shit jobs here, ones that barely pay your expenses (if they do at all, after taxes). In order to get a job, you need to have access to interview clothes, a shower, a phone number you can be reached at, sometimes the internet. To get free internet from the library you need proof you're living somewhere. You might need money for transport to and from the job (and that might come out of your meager food money). Never mind the fact that you have to be emotionally sound enough to hold onto a job in the first place (something I, as a manic-depressive Goth kid, was not capable of at the time, though thankfully I worked at a shop where they were patient with my mania and depression and gently taught me to be professional at work). Be glad most of you reading this are in a country where you don't have to worry about health care, because over here we had to add that to the pot. Most entry level, temporary, part time, or low paying jobs don't offer any health care or vacation in exchange for your 40 hours a week.

2-"get a job", as a sentiment, suggests that a job is worth having. Quite frankly, that depends a lot on how you like to live. If you are any good at freeganism, for example, your living costs can be vastly minimized- one of my friends here dumpster dives from the organic grocery stores when they close, and they toss things like soy milk because the corner is dented! He and his wife, both in their late 30s, haven't bought groceries for 3 months. This affords them more money to spend on things they like, and minimizes the amount of time they need to spend working. I don't work here in the States because I get minimal health care when I don't work... and it could be years to get health care at a job. For a lot of people, this means their medications, say, would no longer be covered- so yes, they might get a job, but even then, they might not be able to get access to their meds, or therapy, or STI checkups. Crazy, yes, but it certainly doesn't pay to penalize people to get them to go to a job!

3-"get a job" is usually spoken to mean "get a REAL job". A job in an office. A job where you have a boss. Personally, I love living on the fringes and not being a wage slave in an office. I get to decide what I want to do, for how much, if I want to trade for things and services I need or money for the things I can't trade for. I work for myself, I have an eclectic number of skills, and I survive acceptably on that. I've been told I don't take my job seriously enough, and maybe I don't- but I have enough to live on, and enough to travel here and there, and that's enough for me. Once you've lived on the streets, you know you need shelter, warmth, and food... pretty much the rest is optional luxuries. Baths are preferable, I'll give you that. ;)

I worked in an office 40 hours a week and, while the money was good, my quality of life was terrible. I felt ignored at best, and treated like chattel at worst. I was stressed, I had to look at the clock all the time, I had to constantly worry about the fact it was a temp position and I could lose it at any time.

Quitting and finding other ways to survive and thrive saved me. It might look irresponsible to some people, but I can promise you- when I look at the unhappy, pinched faces of commuters, I'm relieved I got out.

I'm no slacker. I doubt many people would accuse me of that. I decided early on that if the choice was 3 part time mall jobs or Dominatrix work for 3x the money, um... it was no contest. I do what I love, I decide on my rates, I work when I need the money and am clever about saving it, I decide on my limits, and I take vacations when I want to, even if my vacation is just to roll in the grass for a week. This also gives me the spare time to volunteer for charities like the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, or food banks here. I have time to garden, and to work on other little money making projects, and to write. Not having a job certainly doesn't see me sleeping all day or loitering around... but I could. And that choice makes all the difference.

All that said- if I managed to land a job somewhere that reflected the things I enjoy, like a comic book store, or the library? I'd be working again in a heartbeat. But I would never encourage someone to "get a job" for the sake of having one. I recommend get creative, and get comfortable with discomfort- you WILL live in a squat sometimes in order to make this work, and maybe that doesn't work for you. And that's fair enough as well- everyone makes their own choices. Following your heart and your dreams isn't a recommended thing for people who need stability and safety. But hot damn! I'm glad I did, for sure.

Interesting reading: 10 reasons you should never get a job. And "How to be Idle", and the Idler in general.

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