Wednesday, June 8, 2011

An Ode to the Normal Jobs of Yesterday

*angst alert* *angst alert* *angst alert* *angst alert* *angst alert*

Gone are the days of the "normal job." The 9-to-5 only, the check your briefcase at the door jobs that men and even women once experienced. I swear I didn't just imagine it. Once upon a time, eager young men and women graduated from school—high school or college—and with bright eyes entered the work force. They often began at entry-level, punched in and out for a few years, accomplished what was asked of them, pushed the limits a little, challenged themselves, showed great promise and worked their way up the corporate ladder.

And then, POOF.


Did all of those companies close down?? Did all of those CEOs move to Europe to enjoy eight weeks of paid vacation?? What happened to those days when men dressed in perfectly tailored suits and skinny ties filed on and off romantic-looking trains in the mornings and evenings and trudged homeward to attractive cookie-cutter houses, primped and pink-lipsticked wives, a couple of kids and a plate of meatloaf? (An aside: Did the whole drinking on the job thing disappear with these positions?)

Am I just wondering where the 60s went? I don't need a history lesson (read: I definitely do) from anyone, I'm just wondering when it happened that we crossed over from not-necessarily glamourous but solid, respectable jobs where you show up and give a good day's work a go and then head home at 5, to the madness of 80-hour work weeks, one-week paid vacation, never enough sick days, over time, work late, weekend work, the pressure the pressure, other duties as assigned, the bending over backwards, rat race, traffic traffic traffic, the water-cooler, bureaucracy, not-at-all-what-I-ever-saw-myself-doing-ness.

It's insanity. You go to school for 4 years, or you make the effort and get your masters, and you're still looking at an entry-level mayyyybe salaried position which barely covers your bills or leaves you any extra for a few beers out on the town, or a summer concert, or god-forbid a vacation you might actually take with your seven measly days off.

We're trapped. Especially those of us who are young and just starting out. Those who were being supported by their parents throughout college have been cut off and the rest of us who have been struggling to figure it out all along don't have plump savings accounts to fall back on. We are just trying to get by. Just trying to take it one step at a time. We don't want hand outs. Or Bentleys, or beach houses—I mean, don't get me wrong, it'd be niceeee. But, we just want to do an honest day's work and make enough pay to live on—even just barely.

Can we just go back? Is anyone really happy this way? Is anyone just tickled pink with making money but never really getting to go anywhere, or having to miss out on your kids' plays or games or feeling guilty all the time for "not really living your life" or being enough for your spouse?

My heart breaks when I hear David said "it's going to be a long night." (This coming from the man who has SLEPT, yes slept, in his office. And also worked over 30 hours straight.) It breaks again when a dear friend expresses some fear when asking for a raise that she ABSOLUTELY deserves. And then it falls into a million billion pieces when another worries about slipping down into the dark depts of "workaholic-ness" of getting stuck in a hole she can never get out of, of having to take a job that she worries could hurt her relationship.

It's madness. And I want to give us, all of us, a free pass to the successful, the fulfilling, the rewarding futures that we deserve. In general, I want to take all of the pain away forever, but that's for another time.

Rest in peace, you blissful thoughts of Mad Men's Sterling Cooper office. Rest in peace, long liquid lunches. Rest in peace, bonuses. Rest in peace, extended vacations. Rest in peace, carefree. Fare thee well, joy.

Maybe it gets better with age. Maybe everyone reading this is loaded AND even drives a Bentley. Maybe I speak for only 3-4 of us. But regardless, in my perhaps blissful ignorance, I will continue to pound my fists and proclaim loudly to all who are listening (not many): Give me a normal job, or give me death!


David Dangelico said...

I wish I lived in Mad Men too...but the blu-rays will do for now, I guess. One day though, one day...

Anonymous said...

AGREEEEEEEEEEE! Lordy. I long for the 50's and I was never even there! Unfortunately, it's just not like that anymore. Work makes us compromise family and friends and relationships, just in order to stay afloat.

I'm lucky enough to have found an 8-5 job, with no weekend work, and no required overtime. And I seem to be paying the bills alright...but jeebus, I haven't lived in the same city as my boyfriend in 9 months b/c he can't find a job here.


Erin Seabolt Bond said...

I hear you! I don't know if the ideal ever really existed, but I love to complain about the lack of "family wage" jobs. I don't need extravagance, but the ability to live in a safe part of town on one income and raise some kids would be nice.

Seems to me if we want to attack an entity for trying to dismantle the American nuclear family, perhaps we should stop looking at homosexuals and consider the companies who ship jobs overseas, reduce or eliminate benefits, and increase demands without increasing rewards. Perhaps we should stop freaking out that our country might look more like Europe and start becoming a little more concerned that conditions for our workers might become more like China or India (our competition).

Sigh. I suppose I feel I can be a little more outspoken about these things on other people's blogs. :) Sorry for the rant.

Lovelee7285 said...

Oh goodness. There aren't even words for me to describe how I can relate to this! Working as an event planner I know that my schedule will never be just 9-5 and that often times events fall on Friday nights (18 of them thi summer) an sometimes on weekends. What I refuse to accept is that my boss deems it okay to call impromptu meetings at 5:30 or 6 that she drags out till 7 or later (doing thing like drafting an email aloud looking at us for approval of every other words she writes) on all the days I don't have to work at night or an event. Or refuses to give her staff a raise until she gets one (when she's already making 6-figures, at least 3 times my salary). That she shows up to work at 11, sometimes noon, more often 2pm piddles around the office and then decides to want to work when everyones ready to go home. Or gets caught lying about going to funerals because as just doesn't want to come in. Or doesn't come in on Monday because she "worked out for 2 hours on Saturday." I wish I could make this stuff up. I easily work 60 or more hours a week, which probably drag my salary down to minimum wage equivalent. Luckily I do get good benefits and 2 weeks vacation, but when can I use it when I have minimum 3 events a week that I have to oversee? My favorite is that I'm outside most of each weekday for daytime, outdoor events, i.e. our farmers market, in this God-awful heat, and get to listen to my "I'm from NY so I can be a birch ad treat people like crap and laugh it off as 'oh it's just the New Yorker in me," complain about spending one day outside for a video interview an then suggest I spen more time "out on the streets" meeting the business owners and visiting the local advertisers f our magazine! Seriously? Let me go walk even more around the hills and hot asphalt streets of Rosslyn while you work 3 hours a day. Ok I'm done ranting! Ha and it's not just 3-4 people, Lia, it's our entire generation. We bust iur butts in school, accumulate astronomical student loan debt, and struggle to make a start in "the real world." America has surpassed the whole "Europeans work to live, but Americans live to work" and just become full-fledged enslaved yet somewhat voluntary workaholics because with this economy, there's always someone out there hungry enough for a job to take your shitty one. My theory is that the world is so messed up at this point that either America will collapse/self-destruct any day now and we will all just be homeless and unemployed. Or employed for free. Or we can all say screw it and take what money we have and move to Mexico or the Caribbean and lay on a beach drinking rum all day! I vote for the latter!

Lovelee7285 said...

And I just spotted all of my iPhone typos from ranting so fast and furiously! Please excuse :)