Monday, March 16, 2015

The Dreary Extra Mile: Ambition, Dedication, and Other Twisted Values

I want to do a job that needs to be done and then I want to go home. I want to do it well and finish it completely and leave it where I found it. That is all. What I do at home is where life is and there’s no shame in being content with unremarkable things. I could move back to the country and get a job in a greenhouse or something; live in cabin and eat what I grow. But I am terrible with plants and I don’t do well in the sun. I’d rather be in New York, right in the middle of the circus, doing something that does at least a little bit of something good and keeping my eye on the chaos.

We live in a world of invented needs. I feel comfortable saying “we” because anyone reading this blog is, I presume, in my general socio-economic spectrum. From that invented need come businesses to fill it, and within that business are more invented needs, the need for everyone to pull their weight and do a little more than is comfortable in order to yield success and maintain the jobs and salaries that brought everyone there to begin with.

I don’t want to clamber for accolades or raises, or spend my free time worrying about whether or not my achievements are impressive or even appreciated. I don’t want to care about something just because I’m in charge of it, or be in charge of something just because it seems like I should be. I only want to be in charge of something because I care about it. But caring is a funny thing when it’s paying your bills.

To be a good person, in Brooklyn at least,  you need to shop local and buy American made brands and look like you crawled out of a garbage can in 1956. To afford peace of mind as a consumer you’ll either need to sell your soul or simply stop wanting things altogether (so simple!). If you have to shop at Target you should feel so bad about it that you want to work harder to make more, so you can spend more on the warm and fuzzy products that save babies who weren’t born with your blessings.

So call me lazy or selfish or uninspired. America wants me to want to work- to want to be professionally impressive- so I can succeed and live my dream and be someone worth editorializing. My unrest is someone else’s profit masquerading as my own. Wanting more is the oldest American tradition. Hard work is King- America was built on it! Actually, America was built on exploitation- of slaves and immigrants and women (lucky to be working! even luckier to be getting paid at all!) and now of anyone who wants to “get ahead” and do a lot of extra work at a high emotional cost for little in return but respect- or simply for not LOSING respect. It's hard to reconcile and I have hardly found any answers, but I have found that I'm happiest when I don't let anyone take advantage of my free time just because I have it and I think more people should think for a minute about what direction that "extra mile" is headed before congratulating themselves so heartily for going it.