Wednesday, September 13, 2017
A bit of navel-gazing brought on by my 37th birthday
Zach's been going through the process of searching for a new job the past month or so, something that got me thinking about my own "career"... and remembering that I don't have one. It has been a full decade since I last held a paying job. If I had to write up a resume and try to get a job right now, I would have zero marketable skills to put down.
This recent realization hit me like an 18-wheeler. I instantly felt two things, very strongly:
1) Shame, that I've "wasted" these past 10 years with no professional experience to show for it. I even got a letter from the social security office recently gently reminding me that I haven't paid in enough money to qualify for benefits, if/when I should need them. In a world that measures your worth by your earning potential, this means I am an utter failure.
2) Pissed Off at this capitalist system that measures your worth by your earning potential. Because I DO value the work I have devoted these past ten years of my life to doing-- there is intangible value in this time I have spent with my children, with my family, it is priceless to me. Not to mention tangible financial value in the childcare costs we haven't paid (because I've done that work) and how my work here in the home has allowed Zach to follow his career wherever it's taken him, whether across the country or across oceans, or to small towns in the middle of nowhere to get an advanced degree. He would not have been able to do those things had I had my own career that we had to worry about and negotiate over. It sucks and pisses me off that those things don't "count."
So what do I do with those feelings? Do I want to seek a paid career? What would that be, and in what sort of a time frame? What steps do I need to lay out and complete to achieve that? How would I juggle that with homeschooling? How do I figure this shit out with my limited mental energy & free time?
Which kinda brings me to the other thing on my mind these days, as Zach goes through his job search process and I am reminded yet again of the disparity in opportunities for those who are able to jump through certain hoops, and those who can't/don't-- hoops such as going to a top tier MBA program that required you go into six-digit debt, but opens up doors to ludicrously-well-paid jobs afterwards. That's a hoop we were able to jump through thanks to a combination of hard work and lots of good luck, and now gets to reap the benefits by being in the top 10% of earners.
Sure, I could say that Zach has earned this, that he has worked really hard and he is super talented and that is why people are willing to pay him the big bucks. All that is true.
And yet, why does he get to enjoy & benefit from that, when so many others who are just as hard-working, just as talented and smart, get paid much less, or don't get hired at all, don't even get the chance thanks to the layers of discriminatory housing, schooling, and hiring practices rampant in our past & current laws and culture?
I talk about how I hate the way capitalism values people based on their "profitability," yet I am very much complicit in this system that I benefit from simply because I managed to marry a guy who went on to win the class lottery.
(Excuse me while I cry my rich white privileged tears into my starbucks latte)
So my life is deeply steeped in privilege of all sorts, and drowning in guilt isn't really productive or helpful to anyone. So what is? How do I use this privileged position to help others in a way that is meaningful, rather than just assuaging my own guilt? I feel like the work I do now (donating money, doing my homework, helping educate others) is just the very tip of the iceberg, the bare minimum I could be doing.
So those are the things I am pondering on this 37th anniversary of my arrival into the world. I have some vague, nebulous ideas, but not a lot of concrete ones. So I guess my resolution for the coming year is to sit down with these questions and hammer out some solid answers.