Working when work doesn’t work
I’ve been working for myself full-time since 2012, though I’d been doing side work as my own business for years prior to that. When the pandemic and quarantine hit, I’d already had years of experience working from home.
There are a lot of things about the pandemic that have changed the old normal, and one of the biggest has been jobs. Besides the fact that so many more people have been laid off only to come back to companies that are more clearly valuing them even less than they pretended to prior.
I’m very privileged not to be in that category, but I am a knowledge worker who has made a lot of decisions over the past year and prior about how my work should work. Some of this has meant leaving money on the table, some has meant making decisions that are more focused around myself, my family, and my friends than on the needs of any one client. Not that I am perfect at making that distinction, far from it.
Last week Cal Newport of Deep Work and Digital Minimalism fame published a piece in The New Yorker titled “Why Are So Many Knowledge Workers Quitting?“. Though Newport does not provide a definitive conclusion, he does make several suggestions as to what the cause could be. Besides a lack of focus and clarity in previous roles, many who have left their jobs or professions altogether by choice indicate that they are willing to make some financial trade-offs to reclaim more of their time. It’s certainly a decision that I’ve made, but there’s more to it than that.
This is not solely an excuse to post a selfie of myself that I liked, but it’s also not not an excuse to do so. Check out one of the responses that it got when I posted it to Twitter though:
It seems a bit ridiculous to me that even now there are professionals with many more bona fides and experience than myself, such as Heather, who are unable to express themselves a bit because of a boss.
I’ve had negative comments directed at me in professional settings for my outwardly queer look in the past, but never from anyone whose opinion mattered for my employment. Again, I’m privileged to be able to say that I would avoid work arrangements like that, but I also think that we shouldn’t have to.
Whether it is choosing to work remotely, choosing to do so but not being tied to your home, or choosing to cut down on the number of hours or even days per week that you devote to a job, there are a lot more people feeling empowered to make that call. This isn’t over, and productivity itself may never be the same, with hustle culture being called into question by some of the very people who would have espoused it in the past.
We can do better with work. I don’t want it to be a necessary evil. I want it to be a healthy part of our lives to provide some extrinsic meaning, meet physical needs, and provide more equity regardless of the perceived skill level of the job. The past 18 months have been hard, unnecessarily long, and catastrophic. Us survivors owe it to one another to do better.
(also yes, I am cute, thank you in advance)
I really like the framing of this piece, down to the design of the dialogue itself. Treating a discussion about capitalism, post-capitalism, and our relation to both as a marriage counseling session makes it more interesting to me.
Pretty sure it’s a rule that all enbies are to be gifted swords.
Thank you to my friend Lisa for sharing this story with me.
This feels like a common theme among academics: spend more time thinking about the social ramifications of something more than the people building it, be ignored until your predictions have already come to pass.
Last week I virtually attended this event thanks to notice by Ryan Broderick of Garbage Day. Ryan is one of those thinkers who takes a pop culture understanding of the internet and can lay over more context in an accessible way. This event was more of that with five other speakers, all reveling in the fact that our internet is weird, but is ultimately an expression of who we are.
I’ve started sculpting again for fun after watching some really impressive nerdy things sculptors online. I found a channel that does really lovely builds that I’ve been watching constantly. Some of my favorites are the house from Link’s Awakening, the ruined Temple of Time from Breath of the Wild, a Hinox, and a Bokoblin Talus. Can you guess that I like Legend of Zelda?
I love seeing new episodes of Commune College pop up in my feed. This episode was as interesting and fun as any other, talking about yet another proprietary fruit and the company that created it.
Speaking of our changing economy, knowledge work, and post-capitalism, what do experts think that could look like? Rose Eveleth interviewed a few for this episode and it makes me hopeful that we will eventually get there if we work together.
I removed Reply All from my feeds when they went dark after the Bon Appetit scandal in February. I’m glad to have checked it out again since a few good stories have come since, especially this story about the creator of a simple game that has become so much more.
Just some music to listen to. Yes, I’m posting because part of it sounds like the Hue soundtrack, one of my favorite video game scores.
If you made it this far, why not share this newsletter with a friend? Or share with me some of the things that you found that you liked this week. Either way, I’m thrilled!