If you were born before 1990, chances are you fondly recall the swansong of 20th century cinema and one of the most important films of our time, Office Space. Our lovable anti-hero Peter Gibbons loathes not just his corporate job at Initech, but his whole career, so much that he just blanks when his friends ask him what he’d do with his life if he had millions of dollars.
“I’d do nothing.”
Then he recalls when his guidance counselor asked people what they wanted to be when they grew up, and that apparently that choice is what they’d aspire to in their adult lives. Michael Bolton refutes, “That lady’s full of shit because if that were really true, there’d be no janitors, no one to clean shit up. PC load letter? What the fuck does that mean?” All while in one of the most poignant and truthful scenes ever immortalized on celluloid, Peter utters “We don’t have a lot of time on this earth, humans weren’t meant to spend it this way! … five years of your mid-twenties, just gone.”
I’m the poster child for why the whole “do something you hate so you can make money to do what you love!” phenomenon is made of more fail than Freedomland. Thus I love to stomp on its wicked little travesty of a heart that’s been blackened to a crisp.
I think it’s really sad and pathetic that so many people really think we need only four careers to function as a society: engineer, doctor, accountant, and high tech. Those are the fields vaunted by the people tell all those kids who got degrees in virtually anything else to just suck it up and do something they hate and/or lack aptitude just for a paycheck. And I’m here to tell you that while I can’t speak for the other three fields, I can definitely assert that “Just get an accounting degree, you’ll never have trouble finding work!” is complete bullshit. It was true for me up until 2009 or so when people were still reeling from the crash and the degree itself became the new law school, ie, oversaturation; the particular vagaries of the tax profession notwithstanding. I had a “stable” job for such a laughably short timeframe it wasn’t even funny. So 500+ job applications later that spring, I figured that if I experienced THAT much economic insecurity in the career people said was supposed to subsidize doing what I love, then I should actually just do what I love if I wasn’t going to have stability either way.
But money and stability aside, society simply needs tons of jobs, professions, and work arrangements to survive. Would you know what to do if you got locked out of your house and no one nearby had keys? Chances are you’re calling a locksmith unless your home has flimsy locks that can be picked with a credit card. Do you have a business and you’re very busy so you dread updating all your social media and find yourself falling behind on getting back to people? Clearly you need a social media manager or a virtual assistant. Like watching movies and TV, playing games, listening to music and going to shows, reading books, and the like? Well, you need writers, artists, graphic designers, game developers, animators, composers, and other creative people that society loves to dump on to make all those awesome things for you that can range from entertaining a few to changing the world for many.
No, society can’t function on every single person becoming a doctor, engineer, accountant, or tech worker. It’s just not possible. Who will make the content you like consuming? Who’s growing and preparing your food then getting it to grocery stores and restaurants? Who's selling stuff you need and want, bringing it to your door or taking your payment? What everyone misses in the long-running minimum wage debates is that we need people to do these jobs and the need for those jobs doesn’t go away by punishing workers with wages and hours they can’t live on. What the hell is the point of working if you still can’t afford to live? But I digress. This post is really aimed at creative people who are trapped in jobs or careers they hate.
It begs the question: just what do we accomplish as a society when we tell everyone that your talents and desires are basically worthless if you aren’t suited to one of four professions or if casting a wider net, four professions plus anything else that pays well in a corporate setting?
We get doctors who go into the field for the money and not because they actually care about curing disease and helping people, in spite of accumulating enough debt to mortgage a co-op in Midtown.
We get accountants who really stop giving a shit what gets posted to what account. Which could wind up costing their client millions.
We get engineers who design bridges that collapse after three crossings, in true adventure game fashion.
Most of all, as a society we lose out on so many discoveries that could be made and creative works that need to see the light of day. They’re hurled into the ether either on account of the creator needing a menial job or two to survive, or bowing to the pressure of going into a field they hate and/or aren’t even well-suited for instead of doing what they love. Either scenario drags you to your knees to be a wage slave.
This shitty quality of life borne of doing nothing but working and commuting creates hordes of miserable people who act out on that misery in some form or another via substance/alcohol abuse or perhaps a more socially acceptable outlet like unnecessary shopping because you feel you deserve it for your suffering; at worst. At best, it leads to strained personal relationships and problems at home. But this is misery that people just accept out of economic servitude.
Granted, it’s not always black and white as this. Some people truly like these jobs. And just like creative and menial labors, we also need these jobs to function as a society. But I’m speaking from my own experience and that of many other people I’ve spoken to who’ve attended my classes or read my writing and told me about how they were tired of going through the motions every day and that they really didn’t belong in the environments they were in.
Life is hard and you frequently have to do things you don’t like. It’s not all petting toads while having the best tacos ever. But I’ve always resented the whole “I have to do X” mentality, especially when it comes to things that really just caused more hassle in the end.
Hey, I don’t purport to have all the answers. I’m merely a hustler who didn’t quit. But I’d just like to point out that by taking risks on the field you love, you’re rebelling and this is a good thing. Even if it’s not a creative field subject to constant demonization like game development, everyone who goes off the beaten path will get so much hate and Sonic Toad is a place where you can go to get away from that hate. Whether you simply want to go your own way, make money without a job, or just figure out what you’d honestly rather do with your life, I created this space so that you can get away from that hate and find like-minded people to not just air your grievances with but to provide opportunities for each other. Random blog wanderings helped foster my new career, which you can read about in my free e-book by signing up for the Toad Tribune!
By refusing to kowtow to the “do what you hate to make money doing what you love” model, you’re setting an example that needs to be set!
Because really, do you want a society where everyone is just full of boiling resentment over what they do for a living, depressed and angry because they’d rather have done something else with their lives? Sure, not every dream is meant to be fulfilled but if you don’t at least try, how would you ever know that?
A lot of people also get this idea that having your own business is only worthwhile if it results in a six or seven figure income. Come on: do you really want to be like the people I once had to serve who just centered their entire lives around how much money they made and defined their identities and self-worth based on their paychecks and bank accounts? If there’s anything I learned doing taxes for people who had jaw-dropping net worth, it’s that you pretty much have a choice once you start making money beyond having basic financial needs are taken care of plus a comfortable amount of fun money. You can set your priorities and goals and think about how much money and material shit you really need to be happy and do what you want to do, or lose your soul and humanity going on this relentless request to acquire more money and think you’ll never have enough. Which well, often compounds the whole misery-inducing career path thing.
You take a risk on any career path, even one that seems “stable”. You don’t know if the economy will implode or the career you just trained for will soon be outdated or offshored. Then even if you do luck out and sock away a nice nest egg, who’s to say another stock market crash, fund raid, or real estate bubble pop won’t decimate what you worked for all your life?
If you have to take a risk anyway, you might as well opt for the path that will make you a happier person to be around: life’s too short to be in perpetual misery chasing after every last dollar.