The economy is crap right now. Everyone who has a passing connection to the economic world is aware of that fact. Everyone says it- to reassure one another that our unemployment isn’t because we’re unemployment, or to respond to that despondent friend, family member, or acquaintanceship when you sit comfortably from the valued ranks of employment.
But, it is hard to believe. It’s hard to believe when you tell it to yourself. It’s hard to believe when your parents ask if you have a job yet. It’s hard to believe when you fill out your 65th application for employment. It’s hard to believe that there just isn’t something wrong with you, and everyone else is doing fine (even when you take a look around at your friends and see them not doing fine as well). If the economy is so bad, why are there all of these job applications? If the economy is so bad, how come I’m not seeing boarded-up windows? Logic can tell you plenty of things, and your eyes plenty more but that doesn’t stop the very strongly internalized message that employment is a major source of someone’s identity, and money is a major determination of a person’s worth. I’ve sold things, things I didn’t even know were valuable to me, to get thorough my uneven periods of employment. I’m not even talking about my harp and a DVD Player. That sucks, but less of the loss of the items. I’m not even talking about the extortion at the hands of Sallie Mae, whom I’ve just ended up throwing away $150.00 so they could stop harassing me for a whole three months about the loans I am in NO position to pay back. I’ve sold a few of my morals.
A friend of a friend of mine is pretty high in a particular non-profit. In December, we were at a mutual Christmas party, and when he heard about my job difficulties, he told me to send him my resume after the Christmas season, and he’d see he could find me something. Last week I did. This weekend, I need to drive my dad about 3 hours away and spent the night at our old family friends, the Olson’s*. I have fond memories of the Olson’s of when I was a child, but I have less-than-fond feelings towards them as an adult. They are high in their respective fields, seemingly have no memory of being in their early 20s and struggling (for our middle class versions of struggling), and sneer at the fact a good chunk of scholarships are for “People who would rather not work rather than hardworking people”. They live in a place that I feel could easily be described as a “mansion” on a lake, take long, exotic vacations at least once a year, and have enough money to complain about taxes. I smiled politely at them when I was there, swallowed anything I had to say about how “lazy poor people are”, and quietly excused myself when they started talking about “Hajis”. I also sent them a Thank-You card for letting them stay at my house and to send me an email if they hear about any job openings.
I know a good chunk of the world would say “So what? You’re starting to network, that’s how you get jobs”. A few of you might even consider it maturing. But, think about what that innocent little word means. “Network”: I am not spending time with you because I like you, or because I enjoy your company, but for what you could possible get me. “Networking” doesn’t just mean that I’m possibly taking a job from someone equally or more qualified than me just because I’m tangentially connected to them- it also means that I’m viewing someone as a means to an end. They have gone from a friend and companion to the equivalent of a line on my resume.
And I don’t know where it’ll stop. I’m slowly selling values, and that doesn’t just cause cognitive dissonance. But I start wondering where it ends. A friend talks about a temporary job her company does that they don’t really advertise and I get it. Well, that’s okay, it’s just a temporary job. I start having friends-of-friends take my resumes. I write birthday cards to people I don’t even like so they can keep me in their mind. Pretty soon I’m censoring everything I say on a blog, or stop blogging all together, because that’ll keep me from having jobs, and deciding that red isn’t professional enough. Eventually I internalize it to the point where I think “Well, of course it’s reasonable to businesses to ban tattoos and earrings”. Or “my company really needs this by tomorrow, I guess I’ll just have to be late for my husband’s birthday because, hey, I got to have a job”. Slowly, but surely, I’ll start washing over, rewriting, and forgetting any morals, not because something has come up to change my mind, but because of fear. Cowardice will overwhelm any moral code. And that has to be the most expensive thing I could think to sell.
*Name changed to protect the family. Or, if it wasn’t, do you realize how many Olson’s there are around here?