Is it worse to be unemployed, underemployed, or over-employed?
Is it worse to be unemployed, to lose one’s sense of self-worth, to constantly live in fear, to have no money and rely on the kindness of others, to amass endless amounts of free time that no longer are pleasurable as the weather gets colder, to gain weight by consuming food to fill the void that work and its sense of purpose once provided you?
Is it worse to be underemployed, to work one job that barely covers a week of living expenses, to work many jobs but still lack health insurance and a somewhat balanced schedule, to jump from menial occupation to menial occupation in the hope that a temp-to-hire position will actually pan out even though you know better?
Is it worse to be over-employed, to have a full-time job and still struggle, to collect part-time gigs with stipends that may or may not arrive sometime soon in the mail to make up for the expenses that inevitably arise and are out of your control, to work so much that you take pills on a daily basis to fall asleep, to take up vices to fill that void that arose when you realized your life is your work?
Way too much to answer in a short, pithy reply, but I think this all hinges on whether you can, willingly, become one of those people who says “That’s why they call it work,” meant in a gallows-humor funny way but mostly tolling the bell, when one complains about their job.
Frankly, I don’t want to have that attitude towards something I do all day long. I want to be doing a job that I find fulfilling in body/mind/spirit. I think that’s a really important thing! I think that my parents - despite what struggles they’ve had and sacrifices they’ve made - have been in that kind of situation, they’ve gotten some succor from their work, and they’re a lot happier than other parents I know.
I haven’t detailed it yet but I’m in the middle of a job transition; even though what I’m doing is really lovely, ostensibly cool, and, even worse, kind of the culmination in what I’ve wanted to do my whole life. (That said, having a goal to write for a magazine that you would WAIT FOR DELIVERY FOR ON FRIDAYS in 1999 and is a mere pamphlet for the online presence in 2009, with features shrinking from 1500 words to 800…well, it changes things.)
Even though society tells you to go for the money and the things, you don’t need a ton of things to survive, really. It’s important to do what you can so you’re aware and enjoying what you’re doing in life. I want to think and experience things and I don’t want to be an automaton. I don’t want to be a computer jockey, either, I’m learning. I also want to NOT live with roommates. So, sacrifices.
I’ve spent a year being pretty miserable on a day-to-day basis; I hate how much I use and depend on my computer for entertainment at the moment; I am in no way at my fighting weight and kind of deploring that all the time. But I just made a choice that took a lot of weight off my back, that filled me with a lightness even though it’s scary.
That said, to straight up answer your questions. 1) isn’t unemployed, it’s depressed and unemployed and getting your self worth from that. Which isn’t necessarily the best route. 2) Underempoyed like that is tolerable if you’re on a good path, I think. Depends on the path and how much you need health care. 3) Again, if it’s going to pay off in something better, do it, but if you feel like a robot, inhuman, there’s no problem in saying goodbye to it. I may have kind of done something similar along those lines regarding a number 3 sitch, and part of it was due to the fact that there wasn’t quite a path that I could follow in this position. Nothing to quite aspire to, save my old magazine writer dreams and they’re really quieting down now.
Health care in America is so infuriating and I really envy the freedom my comrades in Canada and England have when it comes to the pursuit of the artistic lifestyle. Here we’re stuck with gambling if we really, really want it.