21st Century Brontë #3 by Brontë Bettencourt
The Money Problem
I work a standard, grown-up 9-5 job, with an hour off for lunch. Management trusts me and my fellow workers to get our time-sensitive work done efficiently and accurately. There aren’t cameras monitoring us, nor a mechanized system with which we clock in and out every day.
I work for an unemployment office. There’s room to grow and improve, and if I want to, I could eventually become a hearing representative–to represent our clients at the assigned hearings. Or I could be an account executive.
My current responsibilities, you ask? I schedule hearings, send out mail, and coordinate information between the representative and the client. It’s pretty chill.
If one wanted to, one could make a satisfying career out of this totally relevant and reasonable job.
But then why does Daria Morgendorffer’s words resonate with me still?
From 1997-2001 on Mtv, the high schooler Daria responded to others and her environment with biting, deadpan sarcasm, critiquing the disappointing social constructs that ruled her world.
I didn’t really think about this quotation myself until after college.
Was there a point to attend college, accumulate over $30,000 in student debt, only to secure a job that doesn’t much utilize any of the skills I’ve learned? All the extracurricular activity, including running the English Honor Society and the Anime and Japanese Culture Club, and all my study and writing and examinations have resulted in a standard, 40-hour work week.
I had been told that classes, internships, and extracurricular are all stepping stones to careers in our field.
In a good story, the struggle leads to a meaningful climax, a resolution based on the particular, individual character of the hero. If I stay in this job and advance the ladder of achievement here, will I have made it by the standards of my family and friends? By my own standards?
If you’ve ever played The Sims, the game where you create characters and their surrounding environment, you’d be familiar with their goals. Aside from making sure that their basic human needs meters are filled, there are then wants and fears that each Sim has. These can consist of small hopes such as calling another Sim or buying a new television, and you earn different amounts of points depending on the emotional weight of that need being met. But each Sim has an overall major goal of their life. Do they want to raise 5 children? Be at the top of their career track? Sleep with 10 other Sims? If you can complete their major life goal, the meter that fills with Sims Points will turn stark white and freeze for the remainder of their life.
They are permanently happy. You have done it! They can pass on from their animated Sim life totally content.
Maybe happiness is in the wanting, in the striving, in the questioning.
Writers are notorious for being unemployed, or struggling to find work to pay their bills. There is something deeply ironic that my job is about the determinations made about who will or will not receive unemployment benefits. By all rights, I should be a client more than an employee here.
For many writers, teaching pays the bills. Or almost pays the bills, the academic workplace relying more and more on poorly paid adjunct and lecturer positions. For me to go broke being a teacher, I would need to take out more loans to get an MFA, and then a PhD, in order to hope for teaching work.
Maybe this unemployment job is the perfect job for a writer. Maybe I can learn a lot here, and pay my bills, and find that elusive balance between writing and the rest of the necessities of life. Or maybe find happiness in the wanting, in the striving, in the questioning.
Brontë Bettencourt (Episode 34) graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelors in English Creative Writing. When she’s not writing or working, she is a full time Dungeon Master and Youtube connoisseur.