For much of my adult life I have been searching for “the right place”, “the right job” – a role, a position, a vocation that was/is meaningful.
In my 20’s, I thought that place was the U.S. Army, and although I don’t regret those days – in fact I remember much of my service with fondness – I still could not say, at 29, that I had found my “dream job”. Perhaps “dream jobs” are a mirage? – the siren call that pulls us too close to the rocks of disappointment and shatters our sense of self, I dunno … that’s probably a bit dramatic.
My dad was a logger.
My dad claimed, while he was alive, that he loved this work, logging. I worked for him, while in high school, a few summers – back in the late 1980’s. I set chokers – these are steel cables, often frayed from use (piercing your hands like rusty hypodermic needles) that a person wraps around the end of a log in order to drag the log to the landing where it is loaded on a truck. I did not like this job, it was horrible. I never served in combat, but while I was in the Army I used to ponder the fact that the “Army life” felt net-net safer than logging – combat would have changed that perspective, but I digress.
So, my dad was a logger, a lumberjack – and yeah, I know the Monty Python clip, so stop it …
Yes – this is a funny song.
But no – being a logger, for my dad, was not funny. It was back-breaking work. He was not a fan of “safety”, and as such his work environment was anything but safe.
I recall the last day I worked in the woods. I was setting chokers, in a “rat’s nest” (a “rat’s nest” is a mangle of brush and small logs that is so knotted that one can only compare this to the natural manifestation of a Rube-Goldberg device). I set the choker, I gave the signal for my dad to begin pulling in the load, with the wench mounted on his skidder (a skidder is a 4 wheeled tractor used to tow a load of logs from a clear-cut to the landing). As the wench slowly reeled-in the cable, the “rat’s nest” began its magic and a small log, with a diameter of about 8 inches, swung around from behind and struck me, like God was swinging a baseball bat from above. The log hit me in the legs, I flew (yes – flew) end-over-end – like Wylie Coyote in some Looney-Tunes cartoon – and when I came to (from being knocked out) my left calf was the size of a basketball (luckily – my leg was not broken) and I could see stars or birdies fluttering about. And, yes, that was the last day I worked in the woods as a logger – August, 1990.
So NO – I did not follow in my father’s footsteps and I did not choose the life of a logger. Of course, being a logger is an honourable life – a life of hard work and danger – but a life that is not for everyone.
When I left the Army in 1999, I began to get into computers and programming. One thing led to another, and eventually I earned a B.S. in Informatics/Computer Science. For the first few years I believed I had found my “dream job” – I was getting paid to think, to imagine, and the pay wasn’t bad. And even today, despite the ridiculous nature of contemporary software engineering, and the chaos that is the IT world in 2015, I still love the work enough (mostly) and frankly I’m a bit old to dream of something different besides. But, if I am honest, I don’t know that I can say for certain this is really my “dream job”.
With 93 million Americans no longer counted as part of the U.S. workforce, we must adjust our notions of the ideal job. It would be nice if we could all get paid lots, for doing fulfilling work, and have time to raise that family – somewhere where the air is clean and the land is fruitful. Sure, I have pastoral dreams of a wonderland where my life and work both have meaning, but this is not helpful. We need to stop pretending that the “dream job” is anything more than another kind of contemporary illusion (delusion) layered on top of a broken set of economic relations.
Every once in a while I run into someone who says “I’m doing my dream job” – and never have I seen a more glassy-eyed countenance in someone on hard drugs. That blank, smiley, moronic affect present in their faces signals that the drug they are on is the hardest drug of all. I would love to have that drug, the drug of delusion, but I consumed too much delusion as a young man and it no longer does anything for me.
So I do the work I have. This is my reality – my “American Dream”. I count myself lucky that I make enough to live in a non-crappy apartment, in a non-crappy part of my deteriorating society. I know that the America I believed in as a kid was either a lie or simply no longer exists, and I know that the police state that has replaced it is welcome to many of my peers – folks more interested in “deflated balls” than the state of their once free republic.
No – there is no dream job for me, and I doubt those who say they have found it. In a world designed for sociopathic types, only the serial killer can say they are “living the dream”. The rest of us are on one kind of drug or another so we can pretend, or we are stuck in disillusionment and nihilism.
Despite this, and my own critique, I still fantasize:
I fantasize about food I could buy that might not give me cancer, and water that is pure and fresh and clean …
I fantasize about a work-place and life balance that is real and supported when it matters most …
I fantasize about business leadership that is heroic and soulful …
I fantasize about an income that does not ride the moving turtle of monetary debasement, currency war, and fiat collapse …
I fantasize about my dream job – and the world that would exist that could allow for that.
And then I wake up, and go to work.