Yesterday I was talking to one of my younger mentees about a reading list I intend to drop on her. She was half joking when she asked if I also could give her some time.
Look, I get it. She has a full time job and is trying to break into writing. In fact, part of the reason for my interest in her is that of everyone I’ve taught ever she’s putting out more work in less time than… well, than anyone but me. And only me when I’m not fighting illness or depression.
I get completely how tired you can get.
Weirdly, I was also talking to a successful peer yesterday. He’s just slightly older than I, and he was talking about how every year he gets busier and has less energy.
In my experience, this has been my story, too. If I could have the work I have today, with the energy of my twenties, I’d be fine. Unfortunately life doesn’t work that way. And adults buckle up and do what they must (which neither my mentee nor my friend were arguing against, btw.)
However, I think a lot of this is embedded in the current ethos of “that’s not fair.”
Look, like has never been fair. EVER. Granted, for some and at some times, it’s more unfair than others. Right now, a lot of people are working more than they should have to, partly because of the socialist illusions that have controlled government for over 100 years (yes, even when Republicans are in power.)
Expensive government means it sucks the vitality out of the economy, makes it harder for the young to start careers (and demands they have more and more expensive and often useless education) and makes it harder to retire with any semblance of comfort. So my older friends are still all working: often working like crazy at five or six jobs, because ageism means they aren’t easy hires particularly in tech fields. And my younger friends are struggling to break in, and be paid, well… anything, since particularly in the “liberal” industries interns are supposed to work for nothing, even as their bosses agitate for a higher minimum wage.
None of this is fair. It really isn’t. Earlier generations had it easier. Yes, sure, most of mine went through the hell of rotating temp jobs before we found our path, but at least it wasn’t being unemployed and held out.
… but life isn’t fair. As long as you understand this, you’ll be all right.
Our monkey brains have this illusion of “fair” and that things should be evenly distributed or whatever. It comes from this being a good way to keep a simian band happy and fed.
But society and life in general aren’t a simian band.
And some people will always have it harder. That’s okay. With great hardship comes great opportunity.
One of the disheartening things when I visited Porto last year was the “arts and crafts.” Look, the city has gone touristic, and makes good money, good for it. The fact it obliterated the places I liked is neither here nor there. The city owes me nothing.
The disheartening thing is that tourist shop after tourist shop sold practically the same things (which a high ration of pseudo-folk penis and vaginas in various uses. Probably because they sell well to Germans, in chess sets, and folk scenes, all of it done in lumpy clay, of course.)
The reason this was disheartening is that I remember the seventies. Most people in my brother’s generation left school with degrees and there simply were NO jobs. So many if not most of them took up doing something. Most of them were UNLICENSED vendors on the street (it was a treat watching them pick up stakes as the police approached.) Their sales were unlicensed, and unsanctioned. But the thing is walking down the streets where they clustered, there was an immense variety of arts and crafts, most of them looking REALLY polished, (not lumpy clay) and really creative.
One of my brother’s friends made (unlicensed, natch) drawings of Disney characters, and wrote little motivational things at the bottom, for people’s birthdays and stuff. He was always backed up on orders. Another painted scenes in glass, from little ones used as desk ornaments, to wall or window ones. Sold on the streets. Others did everything from painted rocks (many, many in the beach, and I wish I’d then known the trick of painting them to look like animals. Could have cleaned up. Sleeping dragons or something.) Others made hanging figures in balsa wood. Picture frames (I still have some) in leather and wood. Stuffed animals (I might yet revive my business in lucky frogs ;)), jackets. Jewelry, from the conventional beads, to this guy who made earrings of tiny flowers embedded in resin drops. You name it, they did it, and the inventiveness was amazing.
Now, none of these people were in art school. Most of them were engineers of some stripe. Were they making crazy money from these odd jobs? Well, no. Particularly because the city wasn’t particularly touristic back then. But many were making car/gas/apartment money, as opposed to staying in mom and dad’s house, in eternal childhood.
And the products were good and filled a niche. Of course they were also untaxed, for obvious reasons. And of course it wasn’t an ideal situation.
But it was very much making lemonade out of lemons.
In 2008 I remember Jerry Pournelle writing an article that said something like: if you’re unemployed and can’t find work, DO SOMETHING. Find something you can make and sell or do and get paid for. Find a niche and fill it. And if you can’t find that, then clean. Make things really clean. Because when you find a job/get to work, you won’t have time to clean like that.
He was right, you know?
If you let go of the idea that life is fair, or should take a prescribed course, or that your degree “entitles” you to this or that, or that government should take care of you, you can accomplish great things.
As you let go of the “expected” your eyes open to “possibilities.” This might be a great main chance, or “Multiple, tiny streams of income.” (Lucky frogs!)
But whatever you do, brace yourself. The way things are right now, we both have to pay for the illusions of the past, and to build on the quicksand of fast changing tech.
Yes, our generations (the one before me, mine, the one after me) might have it harder than most because we, by definition, life in interesting times.
Did someone promise you a rose garden? Well, they were lying.
It’s going to take sweat, tears and toil to right this ship and maybe make it easier for our grandkids. Particularly toil.
Open your eyes. Then roll up your sleeves.
No one said it would be easy.
Build under, build over, build around.
Get started the sooner you can. You’ll have more energy. And the work will only get heavier with time.
But, hey, you’ll never be bored.
Now go to it.