Banking off Burnouts

My first job was UPS. I didn’t and do not like the predicament such work placed people in my position. You had to work nights for a few hours performing repetitive, laborious work that was vital to the company’s success for varying (usually 10-20) hours a week while getting paid peanuts to do it. Many of my co-workers had second jobs. The only redeemable factor was the opportunity for promotion — that good old lie meant to assuage workers by convincing them that if they fail in a company, it is strictly because they aren’t advancing towards a better (higher paying) position. People who were an unloader like me could become a driver eventually. I knew one guy who did. I saw him multiple times driving around while I was working the next job I got.

My second job was as a person who worked with special needs children in their homes and at school. I don’t know that I ever liked the job; for the most part I only liked certain kids. I did think I was really on my way towards something greater than my previous job. They hired me without experience or a degree — rare at the time. It was also important that I was a male because there were a few kids who were rough and difficult to work with because the protocol for dealing with them demanded someone to physically move them or prevent them from harming others. I was also optimistic about it and more than willing to work long days for nearly 12 hours in total away from home. I would start at my first session at a little after 8 most days, and end, with about 30 minutes of lunch and some drive time between other sessions, the last session at any time between 6:30 and 7:45 most days. This is the kind of thing only a young person would do, someone who needs money because they want to feel independent and support themselves.

Just this willingness to work has turned out to be very important to, I’m finding, more and more businesses. I don’t have any statistics on the matter because I distrust and dislike statistics in general. But every bar I go to, every new restaurant, my experience driving for uber, and my knowledge of charter schools (not to mention the high turnover rate for teachers and California’s shortage), I am left with the impression that it is mostly young people who work for these places and traveling a lot in LA. I doubt it is really different in other big cities. I won’t get into my unequivocal hatred for the recent influx in traveling and becoming periodic nomads.

I will say that we ought to see there is a problem with mostly young people being relied on for these jobs. Teaching and working with special needs children at home and school both amount to rather long hours worked. I know one teacher who has been doing it for years at a school that isn’t chartered and some days she still stays at work until 10 at night. Most of the people I knew to work with the special needs children were expected to and supplied far more enthusiasm and energy than I could on the job.

But in both cases — teaching and working with special needs children — the turnover rate is very high. Towards my last year at my job, I started to notice there was almost always someone changing cases/kids. Someone had left which caused things to need to be switched around. People also requested off of certain cases that were exhausting.

When people talk about work these days, not enough realize this is the reality: so many of us are being overworked. I specifically sympathize with, for instance, women working like 3 jobs just to afford to live in LA. Even if they’re staunchly liberal and would scorn me equally before and after I mention that sympathy. There’s just no one talking about this struggle and it leaves people to feeling trapped in a neverending plight for all the good moments they think are happening somewhere else. It’s fucking sad. People are spending their 20’s, not building a career, not establishing themselves, not even planting themselves in a city where they work and want to start a family, but instead just trying to make it through the day and working their ass off.

Some of the fault is indeed due to the fact that many are awestruck by the lights and glamor of the big city. They move away from a dull small town or the remotest edges of a big city, and then they have to work very hard to survive.

The fact that so many of them are convinced of this illusion doesn’t help either. They end up in a city with lots of newcomers whom they have to compete with for a living. Many don’t make it and just move back with their parents or, worst, they move to another big city and give it another shot.

People who believe in the salvation of souls should be talking about what this kind of restlessness does to the soul. They feel besieged by forces moving in and out of their lives. As Christopher Lasch said, “Those without power find themselves fighting phantoms.” Who of them really has the time to develop a moderate criticism of the democratic party? Not many. Instead they end up warring with the conservative party, and many conservatives are too blind to see they suffer the same obstruction of sight. But even if that is so, conservatives should be understanding of what effects such a reality has on hope, virtue, family relations, home ownership, and introspection. Instead they don’t.


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