Here’s How it is

Well on Friday my current contract is ending and it will not be renewed.  I know this sounds bad, but really it’s OK.  In fact, I am very pleased with how this whole thing turned out.  I was hired originally for a one month contract and managed to turn it into a nine months of employment.  Right now, I feel as though I have sucked all the goodness I can out of this opportunity and it is time to move on to new adventures. I have gained a lot from this experience and I am leaving on good terms with: a letter of reference, a stronger resume, and some excellent contacts.

Though now that my time of employment can be numbered in a handful of days I find myself having to comes to terms with “The Fear.” What is the Fear?  It is a middle/working class fear, which stems from a belief that if you are not working than you are of little value to society.  It constantly whispers into your ear that uncertainty should be avoided at all costs and that financial security trumps all other concerns.

To those suffering under the influence of this neurosis unemployment is a very scary thing. Intentionally taking a couple months off to pursue personal projects appears as either folly or selfishness.  The Fear is a very pervasive thing and I am not immune to its clutches.

Meanwhile, the rich and powerful really don’t seem to suffer from this affliction.   Other people work “for” them or their money works for them. In fact, they don’t work that much at all.  Their self worth is not determined by how they spend their day toiling. Yet, these people (who do very little) are admired by society.  There is a contradiction here.

So why is the one class so desperate to find and hold onto a job (any job really) while the other class is unconcerned by this and is instead looking for opportunities to expand their influence and wealth even further while working as little as possible?

I suspect it is because The Fear at some point in our history was created by the wealthy to keep the serfs inline.  If the serfs began thinking about better ways to create wealth (in all senses of the word) and pursued them they would be a threat to the Elite in two ways:

1. There would either be no sheep farmers, blacksmiths, retail workers, and Tim Horton’s employees or they would have to be paid higher salaries.

2. A new elite might be created, which would replace the old (as has happened many times in our history).

How do you battle The Fear? The key is in how you define yourself and in getting others to accept that definition. You need an answer to the question “What do you do?” because it is this answer, which will determine your place in the greater social order.  Saying you are unemployed is a mistake.  Instead define yourself by your activities.  By this definition, I am a writer, a communications expert, and an investor.  I am also a musician and I am considering becoming a director.  Knowing when and with who to use what label is also important.

 The Fear tries to box you in so you stop looking at new possibilities.  It also tries to convince you that certain professions or individuals are smarter or better than you. This is all a lie. Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Catherine the Great, etc. are/were not at all exceptional.  They are just like you.  Define yourself accordingly.




30 responses to “Here’s How it is

  1. Paper Bag Princess


    That is some fine stickittotheMANism Wayne. I’m glad you’re glad the contract is over. I used to think I was the happiest in a little bit of a job rut, but these days I am thinking that most jobs have a bit of shelf life.

  2. >Right now, I feel as though I have sucked all the goodness I can out of this opportunity

    It depends what you want to do… if you mean you feel you have exhausted all the opportunities you can by having been a comms type, then sure, but I know of a couple of other people who recently managed to turn a short assignment into progressively longer ones and I gather there is talk of them becoming a long-term / permanent employee. The IS pay scale is attractive and there is no shortage of things to learn… but when the creative spirit calls, the sense of self-worth is the first to answer.

    As far as fear goes, I have a fear of sleeping on somebody’s floor because I’ve done it, so the stability (read paycheque) becomes increasingly attractive.

  3. Yep. I agree Terence. I have no problem with working in communications. It is just this contract I have sucked all the goodness out of. The profession as a whole still has lots of juicy goodness left in it.
    Though I am looking forward to a couple months off to pursue a few projects: playing an open stage, writing an article for a friend’s culture magazine:(, and possibly directing one of Sterling’s plays “Sunlight”.

    Sorry about the long addresses. Hyperlinks appear to be disabled in the comment box.

  4. PBP: I like the shelf life analogy!
    I feel the same way. By the way I am impressed with your commenting speed. You are almost always the first in. I appreciate it!

  5. isaacbickerstaff

    As a less-than-fully-occupied academic, I experience The Fear you describe on a daily basis. A hangover from the ol’ Protestant Work Ethic, perhaps? I think it’s more than just a fear of financial instability (though that is a concern!). I think there’s also a sense of uselessness that comes from not contributing to or participating in the capitalist system (either through labour or consumption).
    Dang, I really wanted to NOT use the phrase “capitalist system” there. Oh well…
    Either way, we should collaborate on some musical projects.

    • sterlinglynch

      Communism also relies on The Fear. Possibly even more so because there is no (or little) profit motive. Try not meeting your quota of grapple-grumitts on any given day and see if any of your comrades eat with you at the mess hall.

      The Fear is something that runs deeper than any particular economic system.

    • I enjoyed our first attempt at musical collaboration. I was a little rusty but Dr. Bickerstaff was very tolerant. We even made a rough musical recording. More of a musical idea than a complete work, but the good Dr. is planning on adapting it for his current band. I expect full credit for my part in the creation! 🙂

      Jay expect a call from me in the near future for a jam.

  6. Yep, first past the post – that’s me!! It is a great source of personal pride. (:

    My feeling lately is that I like to feel continually challenged at work. If I can’t get that or make it, then I would start to *think* about other opportunities. I make it sound like I am a lot more adventuresome than I am – financial stability is my first priority too. Mortgage and all…not to mention maintaining my bling fund.

    Just kidding about the bling fund.

  7. Oh and you and Sterling are going to collaborate on the play together?? That is so great!!!!

  8. My fear is more related to being poor when I’m old. I’m absolutely terrified that I will end up in a dodgy rest home. I want to have enough money to be able to afford a rest home for rick people.

    So, for me, if I’m not working and saving now it means I’ll be abused and neglected when I’m old. (in the most dramatic sense of things, of course)

  9. PBP: The play is still an idea of something I would like to do. I haven’t committed to it yet. Sterling is occupied with a lot of theatre at the moment;however, if he is available I would welcome any collaboration, help, advice he can provide. The dude has talent.

  10. Isaac: I agree entirely. Even with the use of “capitalist system” 🙂 I’m not opposed to the system, but I refuse to succumb to the Fear.

    Amanda: Welcome to the Many Faces of Wayne!
    I think you have touched on a very common fear, which is definitely connected to The Fear.

  11. Amanda, my husband has that same fear! The rest home scenario had never really occurred to me, actually. I tend to worry more about having x number of dollars in the bank in case the furnace breaks, in case I need a new roof, in case I or hubby gets sick… etc. etc. Kevin (hubby) doesn’t really think about that stuff. He kind of over-relies on me to take care of our finances! I don’t mind, I have some control-freak tendencies.

  12. sterlinglynch

    Great post. It is a nice change from the usual stick it to the man diatribe which somehow almost always ends up serving the man though its ineffectual rage. Your message is insightful and empowering.

  13. It’s easy to say that you don’t fear unemployment when all you have to look out for is yourself. But if you have a family to provide for then that fear is more justified. A young, single person may see unemployment as an opportunity to redefine him or herself. An older person is sometimes (wrongly) not seen as a desirable prospective employee to some when that person is looking for a new job. Plus they have more responsibilities.

    • sterlinglynch

      Jay, the key message of this post is that Wayne is saying he HAS The Fear. He does fear unemployment, despite his care free ways. So, yes, I agree, the Fear will be even more daunting for people who have responsibilities (especially if they are to others). I think that is part of Wayne’s point.

  14. I’ve found myself unemployed twice in the past 18 months.

    The first time I was devastated. I thought my life, my career, all job prospects were over. That was it, I had failed in my chosen field, I was moving back to rural Saskatchewan to live in my parents’ basement and marry one of the 50 year old bachelor farmers.

    Then I got a new job. That ultimately was selected out of desperation and because it came with a nice price tag.

    And now I’m unemployed again. But this time, I’m distinctly more angry at the particular circumstance as opposed to feeling destitute and afraid.

    I hate to admit that having a partner who can support me is key to this change. The Fear is mitigated by the knowledge that if I don’t find work in the next 3, 6, 9 months- I won’t be homeless, living in rags and eating beweeviled pancake mix.

    You’re right. Very middle-class.

  15. Thanks for posting Meg. I think anything that helps to mitigate The Fear is a good thing. It’s fantastic that you have a partner who will support you while you look for your next adventure/opportunity.

    I will definitely be posting more on The Fear and strategies to fight it in future posts.

  16. I know what Wayne was saying. I probably didn’t word my post very well. The point I was trying to make was that someone like Wayne shouldn’t worry as much about unemployment as someone who is older and has a family. Someone younger can see it as an opportunity.

  17. Paper Bag Princess

    I have been treated rather shabbily by the workplace as of late (not unemployment, but promises of permanence that never materialized). Like Meg I felt The Rage (more than I felt The Fear). It has been a good reminder that even when we think we have security, we are ultimately very dependent and vulnerable. Wherever we can reduce our dependence, all the better – through spouses, through our own ventures, through savings…

    Say, anyone need a shoeshine?


  18. Paper Bag Princess

    Darn right. Anyone want to collaborate on a bidness venture?

  19. sterlinglynch

    Maybe you could set up an on-line Jcrew / fashion re-sell service.

  20. That’s a good idea actually 🙂
    Go for it PBP. Realize, Monetize, fashion-ize!

  21. ha ha ha. But you know what, re-sellers are not highly regarded in the JC (J. Crew!) community. Besides, my heart is not in retail. I know that for sure.

  22. ha ha – 24 comments. This is what you might call a ‘hot topic.’ I was just thinking about The Rage, and how I get little twinges of it now and again. For example, every week I write and design/layout a newsletter, rather painstakingly. Nowhere does my name appear on it and it is distributed under someone else’s name.


  23. Sounds like a good blog post. Do you want to write that one?
    I definitely felt “The Rage” a lot when I was working at the CD store. Not feeling valued/respected by the public and management is definitely frustrating. It took me awhile to escape because of The Fear.

  24. Mmm, don’t think so. I never blog about work for fear it may come back to haunt me!

  25. You could always talk in general terms without mentioning specifics 🙂

  26. Pingback: Fighting The Fear: Round 2 « Many Faces of Wayne

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