Counting Lives

Posted: July 30, 2011 in Psychology
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Counting Lives

Hermann Hesse wrote books about people who lived more than one life in a single lifetime. The last one was published in 1943. Since then, few writers have made transitioning to a new life part of their novels. The requirement that the protagonist of a novel needs to resolve some deep personal conflict is usually handled with a new job similar to their old one, patching a failing relationship or finding a new lover.

Nonfiction books on careers do a little better job dealing with this. Most of what they write requires that your first career pays well enough that you have savings that can be used to get a degree that launches a new career. That is a transition between lives, but it’s rich people’s lives. It’s not what the average working person experiences.

Working Class Lives

The average person doesn’t come from money and their parents don’t know much about careers other than those they’ve had themselves. Even if they get a student loan to pursue a university or college degree, they are as likely to chase a useless diploma as a profitable one. If degrees are available, there must be careers to match, right? Not at all. Most of the arts will get you nowhere. Competition is heavy for the few jobs related to each field. In some humanities, the only work is teaching the same subject to other hopefuls.

The average person settles for a series of min wage service or labour jobs. If a job is especially crappy, they might get as much as double min wage, but never a real living. Since each job requires a few different skills, their lives are slightly different depending on the work. Each new job, although not a career, is still a new life. A new work life, not a new personal life.

Those who make good money often think of work as part of their personal life. Those who work low paying jobs, see no such relationship. Most low paying jobs can be learned in two weeks or less. One crappy job is as good as another. Barely making the rent driving or barely making the rent working as a security guard have an equivalent effect on their personal lives.

Working class workers must choose cheap entertainments. They can educate themselves with books, but without a degree they aren’t going anywhere. There are exceptions, of course.

When a working class person counts lives, they are counting the different kinds of jobs they’ve had.

Middle Class Lives

Now we’re talking better money. From double min wage to about one hundred thousand a year. To a working class person, the middle class are rich. There’s enough money that life outside work is more than just scrapping by from paycheck to paycheck. They can afford good vacations and expensive hobbies. They can afford to switch careers and have the money to pay for the necessary information to insure that whatever degree they pursue will lead to another profitable career.

When a working class person counts lives, they are counting the different careers they’ve had.

Rich Lives

Someone making more than one hundred thousand a year may not even have a job. There are some jobs that pay that well, but once one’s income is that high, they can afford to start their own businesses. A successful business can be a lot of work, but once it’s up and running managers can be hired and the investor(s) can sit back and watch the money roll in. If the jobs in the business have the added advantage of not requiring a degree in anything, wages can be low because there will be lots of candidates. That’s why there are a lot of min wage jobs.

Without the need to be at a job, a wealthy person can set up any kind of lifestyle they’d like. When a rich person counts lives, they are counting the different lifestyles they’ve chosen.

So What’s the Point of All This?

The point is that, no matter what your income level, you are not stuck in your current life forever. Don’t let it get you down too much if your job sucks. You can always get another and should be looking for the next opportunity.

I have a three year limit on any job that’s not good pay. I don’t want to be constantly applying for jobs, so I may as well stick with the same job for a few years if there are no better opportunities. On the side, I’m working on turning my long term writing hobby into something more. My attempts at learning to be a prolific writer are revealed in some of the articles on my Writer On Fire blog.

University was a good life for me. Software testing was a good life for me. The other jobs I’ve had, not so much. Writing may be a good life for me. I’m sure you can say something similar.

Opinions on all this?


Article text copyright 2011 David Arthur Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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