The 24-hour Work Day
What’s the difference between today’s young professionals and those of just a decades ago, not to mention when our parents first started working? Due to the development of instantaneous communications technology through a variety of methods (E-mail, text, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Twitter, Whatsapp, WeChat, Slack) and device continuity, we are expected to be on-call every minute of every day, from before we clock in to after we clock out. There is no such thing as a work schedule, a 9 to 5; we work from the moment our eyes open to the moment they close and sometimes, if our bosses are demanding enough, even in between. That goes for if you have just one full time job or a variety of part-time ones. I have three part-times, all of which pay above minimum wage and none of which include any benefits in addition to studying full time and attempting to be a writer in the minutes I get in between. And, of course, in those few moments when we are not working for a salary, we have to network: meet business partners, friends, classmates, and colleagues at a variety of social events in order to build a web of professional intercommunication, so that when a position opens up in that Fortune 500 company you always wanted to work at or at the magazine or journal that will catapult your career as a writer, someone at that executives meeting will think of you and offer your resume first. And when we are not doing any of that, we are studying (the majority of people between the ages of 20-30 are completing some sort of degree), dating, catching up with family, or cleaning the big apartment we worked so hard to get and never spend any time in so it’s always collecting dust.
The problem with contemporary communication technology is that people want you to be available all the time, they expect you to be, and yet most of the time when you receive a message in the middle of the night it is WORK related. No one ever says: “Hi, how are you? I just wanted to know about your day because you are a person and not a robot.” Nope, not a single text message today was in any way phrased that way. My bosses say “Hey” and wait for me to respond with a “Hello, how are you?” just so they can then send a list of requests they expect to fulfil within 30 minutes. Say hello to the 21st century my friends and goodbye to anything even resembling human warmth.
Spring Semester 2016
It’s about that time of year again…you know, the one where you have to accept the fact that despite your neighbour’s reluctance to take down their inflatable Olaf, the holidays are truly and officially over and the real world, as in graduate school, working every day of the week, and getting back to the gym, has come knocking. Now is when we lament the fact that, despite our promises that we would get ahead on next semester’s readings and investigations as well as finally edit those old research papers so we can submit them to some obscure journal that will only reject it or request a million revisions, all we did over the holidays was catch up on our favourite series or the newest shows on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. In less than twenty-four hours I have to wake up just a little bit after dawn to do an hour of yoga, have an actual breakfast, clock in four hours, at least, of research for my assigned graduate professor because I have accomplished about 10% of the tasks she gave me last semester and did NOTHING over the break, and then go to the clandestine job I have (due to my RA position being funded by taxpayer money I am not supposed to have a job outside the university even though the stipend is nowhere near enough to live off) as an office assistant four another four hours, followed by a three hour lecture, and then home to begin readings for my independent study and pray the student loan payment goes out soon so I can order books for the semester before the first assignment is due. I can only hope that I won’t be called in to tutor one of my students at the last minute (third job is as an at-home tutor) because then my whole schedule will just off whack and I’ll give up on accomplishing anything that can remotely be labeled as productive for the day. Alas, this is the life of a graduate student. Or it’s my life at least and I really hope I am not the only graduate student trying to balance three part-time jobs, a full course load, and publish research papers at the same time while maintaining some semblance of a social life and reviving my love life (which went nuclear over the holidays because stress).
Really, it’s becoming increasingly clear that I need to set aside some time for a therapist because Xanax and Adderall might become basic life necessities this year. Or maybe I’m just an overachiever? Probably the latter, but that doesn’t mean that drugs wouldn’t come in handy or that I’m not actually clinically insane. Maybe if you all keep following me and reading these posts you can let me know? Sometimes it really feels like I’m on the break of losing my mind. Or does every twenty-something feel like they have to be in three different places at the same time and have more responsibilities than hours in the day?
Work, School, and Other Things
There’s something to be said about a job to which, on average, about 50% of the office shows up to perform and no one gets fired. This is called a “professional” job, to be differed from other jobs in that it requires a college education and a high-end wardrobe. It’s a “minimal effort, maximum rewards” job. And it’s also a pain in the ass, if you happen to be on the lower end of that job latter. Enter the assistant (that’s me). On a nice day like today, in which the sky is slowly darkening with ominous storm clouds and absolutely no one but three other women are in the office, I am stuck in my cubicle like a good little worker pretending to get sh*t done (I confess this job kind of pays well and I don’t want to lose it so I am doing some work). In reality, since I have no supervisor today (or, well, most days) I am also trying to finish a final paper for a philosophy seminar that was due last week but the professor took pity on our poor (both literally and spiritually) graduate souls and gave us a one-week extension. That extension is up today and I am still one page short of the maximum requirement (which in grad school is really the minimum requirement) and have read 50% of what I said I would. Welcome to my life. It’s 18 hours of work, one meal a day (due to lack of time, not funds because I do work I just don’t have time to spend the money), and zero social life beyond the guy who sits next to me in bed staring at his computer while practicing French (AKA: The Boyfriend). On most Friday afternoons and nights you will find us as we are now: finishing work for one of our three employers (at least one of those is ourselves because it is the 21st century and everyone has a start-up of some sort) and reading or writing for one of our graduate courses. It is our life long dream to never have to do this again. Or, at least to spend the time reading, writing, and working on what we love, but that’s the long-lost American Dream. Academia is dead, we’ll never find good-paying jobs with benefits (because we’re not into media), and we’ll pay for our vacations with our blood and sweat or loans. It’s supposed to get better after your twenties. It’s only another five years, if I’m lucky, but that light at the end of the tunnel sure looks far away.
In a few days I’ll be one step closer into official adulthood, at least age-wise in my mind. Soon I turn 26, thus ending my time as a “young adult” or “care-free student” and pass into the “burdened adult” and “professional student” categories, which suck and I definitely do not at all think I fit into those groups. Despite actually having two respectable part-time jobs in offices and running a small company whilst studying full-time, I feel far from being an adult. It might be because I still enjoy stupid fantasy novels, instead of culture literature (though enjoy it, just not as much as a mediocre YA dystopian series) and drinking too much for my own good. Nevertheless, I confess that I have made a few strides into the realm of adults; I drink wine that comes from a bottle in an actual wine glass which I purchased, in a set. I have credit cards and know my credit score (not sharing because you definitely don’t want to know). I pay all my bills on time (ok, most of them but I’m never late on rent and utilities) and I only call in sick twice a year when I’m hungover. On my desktop I have sticky notes reminding me of all my debts with a small budget and I have a real agenda where I write down the due dates of all my bills and school assignments. I own up to my bad behavior and anti-social attitude instead of making excuses and blaming my parents. I got over my mommy and daddy issues, mostly (I mean, it was a bit of a fucked-up middle class childhood and therapy can only do so much and I’ve only been twice). My plans extend past my next meal and my long-term goals are realistic. I have chosen two possible achievable career paths and have a back-up plan. And I have a savings account I have not yet dipped into (mainly because there’s barely anything in there).
A lot of my friends still live at home and barely make minimum wage at retail jobs while they keep switching majors or are just completed their bachelor’s degree. Hardly any of them have plans beyond earning more or the same as their parents did. Still, I am definitely not adulting. I spend more than I make because I am a true capitalist child who wants to look like I earn at least twice as more than I do. I binge watch Netflix instead of patiently and responsibly plowing through the mountain of work at my desk, so I’m technically getting paid for sitting in my PJs doing nothing. If I can get away with half-assing at something, I do. So, as I leave my early twenties behind I have to confess that I feel very unaccomplished. I’d like to say that I am committed to trying harder, like actually completing the work I am being paid to do and beginning my research when the semester starts instead of a week before the final paper is due, but I’m pretty sure I won’t keep that promise to myself. Even now, Netflix calls….