Posts tagged ‘money’...
Aug 25, 2011 @ 1:18 PM
As I sit and languish at the latest in my series of inconsequential desk jobs, it seems like a good time to post a long-overdue rant. I’ve struggled lately to find the proper inspiration and energy to blog, and I can’t quite figure out if the difficulty is personal, societal or perhaps a result of my crippling fear of earthquakes. In any case, I’m taking a break from my tepid plate of catered Indian food (turns out there is such a thing as a free lunch) to cryout a bit, so hello again, and welcome back to the cryptic labyrinth that is my mind.
To speak frankly, I’ve been in something of a rut these past few weeks, and said rut seems to be affecting a few different facets of my life. First there are the physical ramifications, which are not at all pretty. My hair is absolutely out of control (more so than usual), and all attempts to relax it have failed. Thanks to the copious perks — namely, free meals and snacks — offered by my new and super hip tech industry employer, my waistline and physical well-being have been severely compromised. I feel like my unshaven face could end up on my laptop keyboard at any moment, and I’m about three vegetable samosas and a few more cholesterol points away from becoming an actual solid.
Mood-wise, I find myself in an interesting place as well. I’m a pretty friendly person, so on the outside I think I manage to pull off an appearance of relative normalcy. But on the inside, next to the packages of pretzel M&M’s I’ve stored for winter hibernation, I feel lost. I’m good at my job, because it’s easy to be good at your job when the day’s greatest challenge is applying the correct postage to a piece of outgoing mail. Fortunately my colleagues seem to like me, because I’m cheerful and soon to be overweight + cheerful; the kind of chunky, bespectacled guy you want to lovingly poke like the Pillsbury Doughboy. Under the professional attire and forced smiles, however, a mighty existential river continues to flow, and I can’t help but wonder what purpose this is all supposed to serve.
I suppose, though, it should be obvious — money. We work so that we can get money, and so that we can use it to do other things that we actually like. Work, so that you might live. This approach makes sense, and yet it doesn’t all at the same time. Undeniably, we need to generate some level of hard currency to take care of basic needs like food, clothing and Netflix. Extras are nice, too, and anybody who knows me will attest to the fact that I enjoy extras. I haven’t necessarily been materialistic since a brief stint in private high school, but who doesn’t like some luxuries once in awhile? A nice dinner out, a cashmere sweater or two, a handful of Swedish Fish — extras are good, and of course the more there are, the more money we need to subsidize them.
21st-century America is a land that lives and breathes extras. It’s a place where we have so much we don’t even know what to do with ourselves, so we consume even more. I know girls (and some gays) that wear my monthly rent check on their feet, and my rent isn’t all that cheap. The sheer volume of items in an average supermarket or pharmacy is nothing short of stupefying. I’ve spent many a moment staring blankly at a wall — not a shelf, but a wall — of toothpaste, agonizing over which precise combination of dental protection might serve me best, and that’s just one item in my toiletry case. Headlines about the financial crisis provided an eye-opening look into just some of the egregious excesses of corporate America, and we’re bombarded daily with tales of famous idiots who drop millions like it’s no big deal. I personally don’t have anything against Jay-Z, and I kind of enjoy his music, but he spent $250,000 on champagne at a Miami nightclub a few weeks ago. He also tipped the wait staff $50,000, which was a cool and generous thing to do, but a quarter million on fancy booze? While this is happening?
I don’t begrudge people their success, but I think it’s all gotten just a bit out of hand. The problem with unbridled wealth and its venomous infiltration of popular culture is that everybody seems to feel like their self-worth is based on “making it,” and our generation is afflicted worst of all. In terms of jobs, this has led to a bottlenecking of careers that Millennials have identified — or been told to identify — as avenues to the good life, and this phenomenon has had a few dangerous consequences. First, it’s led people who might otherwise do something they enjoy to attend law school, get an MBA or pursue any number of other endeavors that are only a good idea when you actually want to pursue them. Second, it has perpetuated the all-too-familiar American mantra of self-interest, a philosophy that maximizes personal gain and minimizes consideration for the welfare of other human beings. It goes without saying that our society is in serious need of improvement, but how can we expect to move in the right direction while this kind of thinking rules the day?
The blame, while difficult to pinpoint exactly, appears twofold: it lies with us for being too cowardly to challenge the status quo, and it lies with our culture for decreeing that security and happiness depend on a willingness to grow up, sit in a cubicle and trade our lives for as much money as possible. An onslaught of technological advancement has cast its own sinister light on the situation, widening the rifts among us and intensifying this vicious fight for spoils. We’ve become a generation of distracted emailers and texters and tweeters, and nobody is actually connecting with anybody anymore. Maybe it’s just a function of age, but I’ve never felt more distant from my group of peers. During the day we busy ourselves with jobs that ultimately accomplish very little, and the rest of our time and energy — what remains of them — is spent staring at some sort of screen or existing anywhere but in the moment. In our misguided quest for the trappings of adulthood, we’ve lost track of one another, and we’ve lost track of ourselves.