Between the longing for love and the struggle for the legal tender…
In 1976, when Jackson Browne’s song The Pretender came out, I was 18 with a bullet.
That is to say, I thought I could do any and everything (except, because I had had diabetes since I was 13, be an astronaut). I spent the summer working in a factory. Not the worst job I’ve ever had, but not exactly what I wanted.
That autumn, I entered the University of Minnesota, ultimately graduating with a BA in sociology. From there, I went in 1981 to the University of Chicago, where I earned an MA in sociology and advanced well on toward my PhD in the same, met and married T, and we had our first child. We moved to upstate New York, where we began teaching and I discovered that I might not be cut out to be an academic. I became a software engineer instead, a cowboy riding the range of the early World Wide Web before Windows 95. When the company was sold, and most of my department laid off (I was one of the survivors) I left with my family to celebrate the end of the millennium in Wisconsin, where I continued to do software work. Then that company was sold, and I decided to go to law school, dragging my family back to the East Coast.
I went to work as a legal assistant.
I passed the bar.
I kept working as a legal assistant.
I hated my job.
I finally quit.
I’m happy. Relatively poor, but happy.
The impetus for this whole post comes from some Ted Talks and commentary I was listening to this afternoon on NPR. One of the commentators was pointing out that it wasn’t until the advent of the factory as a model of production that we began to believe that people were solely motivated to work by money.
I am now in the midst of my third or fourth or fifth career, depending on how you want to count. I don’t work in a factory any more. And I don’t work as a legal assistant.
I am an attorney at the beginning of my career, an experienced mediator, a sometime website builder and maintainer, a freelance bicycle mechanic and photographer, a musician, a philosopher and blogger.
Karl Mark once observed that an ideal society would be one which
makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.
I have a secret for you. We live in that world today. No, it’s not a way to get rich. But I do think that we live in a world where it’s possible to pursue the longing for love, and spurn the struggle for the legal tender.
Dirty Harry once asked a punk if he “felt lucky.” Yeah. I do.
It’s not about the money.