Living in a Bartleby Age, Part 4

In some posts back in August 2004, I mentioned the idea of us (meaning people in general, but perhaps people living in America specifically) living in an age in which Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener is not only tolerated but also encouraged, even if not consciously nor obviously. How else to explain people complaining how lousy their lives are when, if you look at their behavior, it is their choice *not* to do what needs to be done which exacerbates their misery? Is it out of laziness? Stupidity? Fear? I don’t know. But here are some things that I’ve observed:

1) People going into college and not doing any work such that they fail and drop out anyways. As a teacher, this boggles me. Why are you wasting your time? Why are you wasting my time? Even if you hate school in general, at least *fake* liking the classes so that you can get some modicum of work done, skate by with a “C”, go into an “easy” major, graduate, and get some job that doesn’t care what you majored in, as long as you got a Bachelor’s and did some office-type work as your student-worker job. Really, if all you want is a piece of paper at the end, realize that you’ll have to do at least a more than half-ass job to get it, and that it’ll take four years to do it. If you can’t invest four years of your life to do so, and failing left and right such that you have to *repeat* classes, thereby increasing the likelihood of getting stuck in the dreaded CollegeLand longer than you’d care, then get out *now*. You’re just fooling your teachers, your parents, and your friends. You don’t belong in college, and you know it.

2) People preferring to stay unemployed rather than getting a job because it’s “not in my major” or “it’s beneath me” or “I don’t do that kind of work”. So you don’t want to work in a job that you think you’d hate. Well, welcome to the club. The majority of the work world feel that way — why do you think the American Dream often includes being your own boss? But until then, you have bills to pay, you have a family to support (and that includes a family of two — yourself and your spouse), and you have savings for that home business, house, kids’ stuff, retirement, whatever, to think about. Sure, it’s not fair that nobody’s hiring you out of your brilliant mind and your amazing, unique skills. Tough noogies. Sorry, my friend, but human resource departments don’t give a flying flip about what you want — it’s all what they want, and whether you can give that to them. What you need out of them is MUNNY MUNNY MUNNY! No work — as long as it is not criminal — is beneath you. Work. Save. Plan. Your job isn’t *you* — it’s a tool to build new skills and to fund for the next job switch. Work as close to 40 hours as you can, even if that means working two part-time jobs. If you are a full-time student, treat your student status as a full-time job — finish your classes on time, turn in all of your work, and advance as quickly as possible. I don’t care if you have to work for WalMart, 7-11, or Six Flags — *work*. Nothing, and I mean nothing, builds your spirit like an honest days work, even work that you hate. At least you can say, “I hate it, but I get paid, and it’s only temporary until I get a better job.” HR departments *like* that you’re looking for a job while you’re working, as opposed to looking while unemployed. Why? Shows that you’re hardworking and that you can multi-task, that’s why! If you are at least 30 years old, you know this already. You have no excuse.

3) People complaining incessantly of being in a dead-end job and doing nothing to change it. Either a) change your attititude, b) find some insider connection that will leverage you to a higher rung on your job’s ladder — and, yes, that means doing *extra* things in your job that isn’t part of the job description but is the next level’s job description while — and this is important — documenting *everything* that you do to show that you are not only capable but doing the *job* of your next promotion, and showing that evidence to someone with authority, c) do professional development in your work or outside your work — i.e., go back to school *while* working if school won’t pay your bills or go back to school full-time (i.e., quit your job) if your school can pay your bills and you know you can finish the program quickly so that you can work again ASAP, d) start looking for a new job *while* still employed so that there’s no break in your pay when you quit your Job from Hell to your new Job in Purgatory. Whatever you choose, choose and then *do*. It’s okay to complain about your job every once in a while. It’s okay not to like your job, as long as you see it as a gig to fund what’s really you. But if it’s really that hateful such that you can’t see *any* positive thing out of it, then *change* it! Sheesh. It’s really that simple.

These are just some observations that I’ve seen. Some of these are from first-hand experience, so I’m not just talking out of my ass. If you live in America, aren’t severely ill (physically or mentally), and aren’t so afraid of your life that you can only think of basic survival, like “where am I going to eat and sleep today without getting shot,” then you have the freedom and the power to change your condition. So do it. Look in yourself, berate your laziness or your stupidity or your fearfulness, take a deep breath, pray to God, Allah, Buddha, Ahura Mazda, the Bob, or whatever transcendent being your believe in, and do. You never know — you just may succeed. You’re miserable right now. What have you got to lose?

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