Fun is revolutionary (but is it impossible?)

We are raised to be walking, talking resumes. Kids these days are on Baby Einstein by the time they’re babbling, and taking on extracurriculars by the time they’re entering elementary school. You can’t just watch Power Rangers punch each other because it’s rad as hell, you gotta learn your ABCs with Dora and Boots.

You whole life is college prep. Hobbies become line items on a resume, which means you have to make sure you’re actually good at them in the way that society wants you to be good – competition. You can’t just play an instrument because you’ve always loved a good sax solo – you gotta have a recital. And you know what, that recital is a great cross-disciplinary opportunity, because you could also custom-code the website for it and put that on your resume, too. Push it hard on the local community and now you’re experienced in social-media marketing. But shit, man, what if all you wanted to do was play the sax? There’s no time! Think of your resume!

The whole time you’re working your ass off, you’re told that this is for your own good, that you work hard now so that you can find a job you love that will pay you well and secure your place in the American Middle Class. Give up on having fun now, learn to live for work, and someday you won’t have to!

Except that’s not how it works. That’s the carrot that you’ll never reach. SOMEDAY, you’ll get to stop working. Except that Social Security is bankrupt and we don’t intend to put more money in. Pensions are soooo last century. And you’re lucky if your employer offers you health insurance, let alone some kind of fucking retirement package. SO HOW EXACTLY ARE YOU PLANNING ON RETIRING? Wages are stagnant, the cost of living goes up every year, and those in power will just tell you to get a better job. But they won’t create a better job for you, and they won’t create the conditions for that better job to exist. So in reality, if you get a better job that just means someone else gets your old, worse one. They know that, and they like it that way.

Video games hate you, too

This trend has fucked up video gaming, too. Remember when you could pop in a cartridge or disk that says “Legend of Zelda” on the side and enjoy a contained adventure designed to tease and delight you? That shit is gone. I’m playing Breath of the Wild right now, and while there’s a lot to love there’s also DLC and endless grind-y Shrine quests. It all ends up feeling like work, too. That broke my fucking heart. They sold me more work, and then tried to sell me DLC for my side-work. But I can’t stop. I gotta get that last divine beast so I can fight Ganon so I don’t feel like I did all this Zelda work for nothing.

Singleplayer and MMO games exploit our cultural worship of “hard work” by making everything into a fucking grind. EVERYTHING. That’s just what we’er programmed for, now. And when we finally run out of patience for that goddamn grind, then they sell us the solution – a gambling mechanic! Put in $5 and maybe you will get better armor that lets you, I don’t know, resist lightning or some shit. Another $5 and you could win a sharper sword or a better scope or cool armor-piercing bullets or something. But probably you’ll just get a crappy skin for your dude that you already have 4 of. Better get back to work.

I don’t have a happy ending for you today

This started as an aspirational blog post about how we should make a point of having fun and learning to exist outside of the capitalist framework. I was going to shame myself at the end, to say something like “I know I need to work on this more, I’m so bad at it and I don’t know why.” But I think I understand why now. I have a job title with “director” in the name. I make more money than I ever have in my life. And I still barely make ends meet on my one-bedroom apartment in the crap part of a mid-size city. I have medical debt, I have credit card debt, and I have student loan debt. My employer doesn’t give me health insurance, and they barely give me any vacation days. I wake up at 6:30am to go to work and get home around 6pm. Given that I try to be in bed by 10:30pm, that means I have 4ish hours of my life to myself. I am disgustingly miserable, and while some of my friends get how draining and impossible it all is, the broader message from society and those a few years older than me is that the way out is MORE WORK. Build some skills! Put your resume out there! You may only have four hours at home, but you could stand to spend at least two of them on career-building!

The treadmill never ends. The carrot is never in reach. You work so that you can do more work. I am so sick of this shit. I am so done. I don’t have a great plan, but maybe we should figure out who took all the carrots and put them permanently out of reach. I’ve got some things I want to say to those people.