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I'd like to preface my response with my general attitudes towards work and career in general.  Ever since I was a young child, I've had a deep antipathy towards the notion of the all-important and all-consuming career.  From about age 6 or so, there was nothing that I wanted to "be" when I grew up.  I thought the question itself was pretty stupid.  I've never wanted to be my work, and have always thought the notion of deriving satisfaction from one's work was a cruel joke, and the very notion of "career" a tool of class reproduction at best, and false consciousness at worst.  Obviously, I learned how to describe all this later, but I nonetheless think this a fairly reasonable description of my attitudes at the time.  I was an angry, cynical, and spiteful child.

Nonetheless, I ended up starting college at 12, and stumbled into an endless grad school/academic career.  The internal contradictions between that environment and my deep antipathy towards careerism eventually became too great for even heroic levels of willpower and self-denial to manage.  About 4 years ago I snapped, and quit grad school, and have been wandering around aimlessly ever since.

I've had discussions with people on these topics, many times, and am always kind of surprised that people don't agree with me.  Even reading the responses here, I have trouble understanding, at a gut level, the notion of finding real and abiding satisfaction in a career.  Part of me thinks that people who enjoy their jobs are just lucky, and that one can't reason from the lucky few to the suffering masses, whom I am certain I will someday join.  Part of me thinks that I'm just wrong about everything, even if I can't understand why.

I also find myself in yet another state of cognitive dissonance, as I sort of enjoy my current employment.  I teach English to Japanese schoolchildren.  My job is really quite simple.  I spend little time in preparation, no time in evaluation, and no time in meetings.  I get paid a fairly reasonable salary, have some of my expenses covered by my employer, and am fairly well taken care of.  The teaching is fun, the kids are nice, and I get along well with my other teachers.  Furthermore, a lot of the time at work I have nothing to do, and am free to do more or less whatever I want.  In many ways, it's like a dream job - I get paid to do next to nothing.

Because it's so nice, I can't bring myself to think of it as "work," because I know in my gut that work is some horrible, miserable, soul-destroying thing.  Furthermore, I feel really uncomfortable with the thought of staying on in this job past the current extension of my contract, becasue nothing this good can be "Real," and somehow it's important to get a "real" job and do "important" and "useful" things.  Being young, I had a few years to waste doing something like this, essentially being played to socialize and travel and play computer games.  Now that I'm getting on in years, I should get a "real" job, one with a "future," etc, etc, etc.

My main frustrations currently are, one, that I don't know where I'm going or what I'm doing with my life, and somehow feel that I should.  Two, that I'm really not allowed to do as much at my job as I could, or be nearly as effective a teacher as I could, due to the structure of the Japanese educational system as a whole.  Three, I seem to have exactly what I always wanted, but I can't stop thinking that enjoying it is funamentally immoral on some deep level.  My fourth main frustration is that I'm more or less permenantly single, and thus quite literally frustrated, but that's a somewhat different issue entirely.

I realize that I'm fairly screwed up.  Any suggestions?  :-)

by Zwackus on Sun Apr 22nd, 2007 at 04:13:42 AM EST

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