Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting
I hope you might consider this: What happened is inexplicably incredible. It’s the greatest gift ever unwrapped. Not the deaths, not the virus, but The Great Pause. It is, in a word, profound. Please don’t recoil from the bright light beaming through the window. I know it hurts your eyes. It hurts mine, too. But the curtain is wide open. What the crisis has given us is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see ourselves and our country in the plainest of views. At no other time, ever in our lives, have we gotten the opportunity to see what would happen if the world simply stopped. Here it is. We’re in it.
What is about to be unleashed on American society will be the greatest campaign ever created to get you to feel normal again. It will come from brands, it will come from government, it will even come from each other, and it will come from the left and from the right. We will do anything, spend anything, believe anything, just so we can take away how horribly uncomfortable all of this feels.
From one citizen to another, I beg of you: take a deep breath, ignore the deafening noise, and think deeply about what you want to put back into your life. This is our chance to define a new version of normal, a rare and truly sacred (yes, sacred) opportunity to get rid of the bullshit and to only bring back what works for us, what makes our lives richer, what makes our kids happier, what makes us truly proud.
I hope we don’t ever go back to normal.
Before this pandemic launched all of us—unwillingly—out of our routines, millions of people were already suffering. From an economy that works only for the very few, from a healthcare industry that can bankrupt you for getting sick, from a housing crisis that leaves hundreds of thousands of people unsheltered.
I hope we don’t rush back to how life was before and keep lying to ourselves that those problems can’t be fixed. We’ve seen that our government and businesses can work harder to support us. We should use this unprecedented opportunity to hold them to that and change our sense of normal to something better.
Are you willing to embrace that truly slight inconvenience — and maybe pay a few dollars more — so that a person’s job is significantly less shitty? Think about in practice: are you willing to wait five more minutes for an Uber so that, when you get in, you know that your drive has health insurance and is making a living wage? Are you willing to pay $4 more for your yoga class (YOUR YOGA CLASS!) so that your teacher, who you likely venerate, can have some semblance of the stability/peace you yourself are attempting to find BY GOING TO YOGA??? Are you willing to have slightly less so that others can have significantly more? Or, as I like to think about it, do you actually care about other people?
Lately, lots of us are thinking and talking about burnout. How our work and daily routines are making us tired and sucking the joy out of our lives. We’re starting to think about what actions we can take to alleviate the feeling of burnout in our own lives. But this article asks us to think about how our actions can create burnout in other people.
In a small sense, that means respecting the boundaries of our colleagues, friends and family in a golden rule type fashion (do unto others…etc). But in a larger sense, that means buying into systems that respect those boundaries and allow us feel like real humans instead of meaningless cogs in the capitalist machine. And maybe MAYBE making a small, slightly uncomfortable impact on our own lives in an effort to make a much larger, game-changing impact on someone else’s life.
I think this idea is so important and one we don’t often think about. Don’t we all just want everything cheaper, faster, bigger? If it comes at the expense of another person’s wellbeing and financial stability, personally I’d rather have it a little more expensive, slower and smaller.
I found this article courtesy of Jocelyn K. Glei‘s newsletter which always has really great links about work, creativity, and making your life more enjoyable.
Here’s a thing I read recently that I think is true:
“We’ve created this idea that the meaning of life should be found in work,” says Oren Cass, the author of the book The Once and Future Worker. “We tell young people that their work should be their passion. ‘Don’t give up until you find a job that you love!’ we say. ‘You should be changing the world!’ we tell them. That is the message in commencement addresses, in pop culture, and frankly, in media, including The Atlantic.”
But our desks were never meant to be our altars. The modern labor force evolved to serve the needs of consumers and capitalists, not to satisfy tens of millions of people seeking transcendence at the office. It’s hard to self-actualize on the job if you’re a cashier—one of the most common occupations in the U.S.—and even the best white-collar roles have long periods of stasis, boredom, or busywork. This mismatch between expectations and reality is a recipe for severe disappointment, if not outright misery, and it might explain why rates of depression and anxiety in the U.S. are “substantially higher” than they were in the 1980s, according to a 2014 study.
I’ve been struggling with this a lot lately. It seems right to want to love your work and find intense meaning in it. Most of us spend the majority of our waking life at work. To do something you don’t care about for 40 hours a week seems crazy and self-defeating.
But for most of us, work isn’t fun. We might enjoy it sometimes, but even us freelancers have to go through the daily slog of email and invoicing and often mundane projects that don’t even attempt to light up our creative brains but do pay the bills.
The article sees the solution to our happiness as working less. Once our culture shifts enough to allows for fewer work hours, we’ll be able to spend more time on our friends, family, and hobbies. That seems a pretty long way off for many of us who have piles of debt and insane rent prices to contend with and a government run by conservatives who are the worst at worshiping Work. Are we doomed to be unhappy until the economy catches up with our humanity?
That’s bleak. I’m still going to try and love my work in the meantime, because even if I’m only doing my job 15 hours a week, that’s still a pretty hefty chunk of my life. I’d like to enjoy that time if I can.