Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dan Verner Got Me Thinking About Work

Dan Verner at Biscuit City provided an insightful post that lead to my following lengthy response.  Rather than clutter his blog, I am commenting here instead.

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Holy crap, what a talented family you have, Dan--not that it's any surprise, since they are related to you. And obviously, you taught them the same thing your dad did you--to have a good work ethic.  I was taught the same thing by my father and encouraged by my mother.  David is the same way.  We pass these values on, and because of that, I've got GREAT, determined offspring of my own who struggle with challenges but still achieve.  And believe me, they are rewarded for that.

What I try NOT to pass on to my loved ones is my frustration with not being able to meet my own high expectations or my disappointment when I can't seem to fit in anywhere.  When a good part of your identity comes from your job and you are prevented from working and meeting your mission, your self esteem takes a nose dive.  It's a common problem among "displaced workers."

As for creating work for other people, well,  I'm guilty as charged.  I'm quite good at pointing out what I see as glaring problems and would gladly take part in fixing those problems if I weren't dismissed as BEING the problem for pointing it out.  Such is the life of vocal, square pegs who have little to no support.

What I've discovered about most institutions is that it's much easier to discard the big mouths in order to maintain the status quo.  Change is painful, and many organizations resist it with ferocity, as if they were being physically attacked.  Kill the rebels!  Off with their heads! 

I'm not trying to be over-dramatic, and I'm certainly not playing victim here, but I've seen it happen too many times: creative people get labeled and booted because they are perceived as trouble makers, not innovative thinkers.  Recall that when despots take over a country, the first ones to be knocked off are educators and artists.  McCarthy era, anyone?  And its even worse if you have a disability because you're already marginalized.   

Not being egotistical here, and certainly not saying I am perfect, but I know my full range of talents are not being utilized in the workforce because I don't fit in.  And if I have to spend hours and hours marketing myself, I am still not earning any money.  I'm spinning my wheels trying to do something I suck at--selling myself.

At the moment, I am blessed to have a wonderful project to work on, one that gives me flexibility so I can meet the difficult demands of my family and still exercise my mind as I learn.  When that project ends, however, so will the paycheck, which is why I hate contracting.  You never know if you will be unemployed, and you probably won't be able to collect unemployment if you get laid off.  To boot, the paperwork is cumbersome and confusing, and people like me can't afford consistent accounting services.  Self employment has its advantages for sure, but it's risky, and not everyone can take that risk, no matter how many hours worked--and I work a LOT of hours, perhaps too many.

Thank you for helping me publicize my situation and comment on the workforce in general, Dan.  I hope more people will start to recognize and remedy this widespread issue.
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