TJ is a writer living in Portland, OR.

My lifestyle has already been designed

My lifestyle has already been designed

I was having a rough time at work lately, and I think part of it was because I read this blog post on Raptitude.com. Most of the post is about how the forty-hour work week traps us in an exhausting schedule in which creates a culture of unnecessary spending, it is of course, part of a larger system which exerts control over us.

Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work.

That’s all fine, but I was really caught by the idea that my lifestyle is 'designed'.

The thing is, some people in offices have jobs which satisfy their sense of altruism, line up perfectly with their skills and desires, or allow them to fund a lifestyle that brings them a lot of pleasure, like supporting a family or buying jet-skis. But for some people office-work is creating nothing real for the benefit of people who get paid more than you, which is disconnected from your actual desires, because without money you will be crushed by society. Also called ‘alienation of labor’ if you are Karl Marx. As a fresh college graduate I willingly made that deal because I was not naïve enough to expect to get paid to write lyrical essays, but naïve enough to think, “Forty hours a week is nothing, I’ll get so much writing done.” It turns out forty hours a week of sitting at a desk and staring at a computer is actually exhausting and now I roll my eyes when college-graduate-me says that line over and over in my head.

Work is not just the forty hours I spend at my desk, it’s my mandatory hour lunch break and hour of commuting each day. I can get little things done like, read the news, send out emails, or run errands during those fifty hours, but nothing substantial. Minus the eight hours of sleep each night, because I am thirty, I have fifty-seven hours a week to ration out necessary tasks: Cleaning (debatable, according to my boyfriend), grocery shopping, cooking food for dinner (and lunches for the week), and taking time to myself so I don’t burn out completely. On top of that I squeeze in going to the gym, reading, catching up with friends, and trying to maintain a healthy relationship. That seems very reasonable, you might say. Yes, but I’m also trying to be an artist, which is in itself another full time job. Most of my free time is consumed with writing, staring blankly at a screen wishing I could write, editing, re-editing, and searching for publishing opportunities. Turning thirty made me realize that I’ve wasted too much time half-assing my writing and I needed to either start getting serious or just give up and find something else to do. This requires that I actively decide each day what I spend my time on and what I do not spend my time on. I do not have time to tune-out.

There are a lot of perks to my job, I get paid well for entry-level work, pretty good insurance, a discounted bus pass, and I even have a tiny retirement fund started. I make enough to get by, pay the minimums on my student loans, and buy a few things once and awhile. In exchange for this stability I give up a large portion of my time which I would rather spend differently. When I was in Austin a few weeks ago I had some mornings to myself, during this time I would go to coffee shops, buy an ice tea, and write. I even had a freelance project to work on. It felt good to just be writing. Maybe it’s time I started to design my own life.

Pastime

Pastime

What kind of Asian am I?

What kind of Asian am I?

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