Well, for the first time in almost six years I am officially and unashamedly unemployed.
I knew this was coming – it was all part of the plan. But it’s only been twenty-four hours, and, fuck me sideways, is it ever strange and unsettling.
I’ve been working since I was 13 years old, when my old man ripped me from the tender bowels of childhood and put me to work picking weeds and cleaning shitters at his golf course. I was making $4.25/hour, enough to eventually buy myself my first personal computer and my first Playboy from the older boy down the street. Which was kind of a big deal at the time.
The rest of my working life? Here’s a quick rundown of the jobs I’ve worked, and trust me – they vary:
- A&W fry cook and then kitchen boss (at the age of 15?!)
- Gas pump attendant and sandwich maker (I really only made sandwiches for myself)
- Rock star (as in we got paid gas to travel to our gigs and got fed a truckload of booze and a pound of weed for our troubles)
- Waiter (Kid you not – one of the toughest jobs I’ve ever worked. Tip your server!)
- Pipeliner (where I broke all the fingers on one hand and then, a few weeks later, accidentally shit in the hood of my winter coveralls)
- Oilfield shop worker
- Shady delivery guy (delivering even shadier coupons)
- Bulldozer operator (possibly my favorite job to date)
- Janitor at a curling rink (Oh god, this was the WORST. So bad that I need to write a blog on this experience alone. TBA!)
- Herbicide applicator
- Warehouse guy (living a real life version of the George Orwell’s book 1984)
- Museum curator (Where I participated in cultural appropriation LIKE A BOSS)
- Brewery worker (Not NEARLY as cool as it sounds)
- And most recently: A Team Leader at the City of Edmonton
Since adolescence I don’t think I’ve been unemployed for a period longer than maybe a few months, and I’m sure that’s a common thread for most people reading this. We all work, we all have bills to pay, and in its most simple form it usually looks like this:
Do Things for Employer > Make Money > Pay for Things Other People Make > Do Things for Employer > Make Money > Pay for Things Other People Make > INFINITY
Seems natural, right? Well it should, since you’re probably at home reading this after working your 9-5 job, having made enough money to buy that fancy 2-ply toilet paper you’re currently wiping your ass with.
But let’s step back a bit here. When you really think about it, isn’t it kind of fucked up? Take these real life examples:
You’re an accountant at a large firm, and your job is to punch a few numbers into a spreadsheet, hand in reports and call it a day. After work, the numbers you plugged into said spreadsheet earn you an overpriced escort and a couple porterhouse steaks on the open market. Yay, you.
You work at PetSmart grooming dog assholes which pays for your middling way of life. But when you consider that every dingleberry* you shave away is another box of Kraft Dinner, life really doesn’t seem that bad.
Or what about those lucky few cattle ranchers that jerk off raging bulls and sell their semen? They get rich off that shit – a few of them millionaires many many times over.
Like what the fuck?
The whole concept of "how" we make money is bizarre when you really think about it. But it works. Kinda.
Most of us work so we can shove food in our mouths, buy things we don’t need, keep a roof over our heads and have more than just a pot to piss in. This is logical, but abnormal when we consider the history of our species. For thousands of years the human race was a self-sufficient, although rather poor, civilization with very little trade (compared to today). But through the industrialization of the world, we became a dependant, over-worked civilization doing menial, specialized tasks with an abundance of trade (in the form of money). Then came the mass migration of families into cities to work in factories in order to mass produce goods, and then degraded further to where we are today: working often meaningless jobs for people we don’t like (or even know) in order to feed ourselves and live what we consider to be a “comfortable existence”.
But we’re no longer self-sufficient as individuals. If zombies ravaged the earth and threw our society into chaos or a solar flare wiped out our power grid, 99% of us would be proper fucked. We rely on society and all of its fuckery to keep us alive, yet it’s probably the only thing that keeps us all from turning on each other. We need each other, and we remain complacent and content spending half our waking hours working shitty jobs, feeling unfulfilled and believing it’s the only way of living.
Life = Go through the motions. Participate in the system. Be happy.
But what if you don’t want to be another cog in the giant wheel of commerce?
Before I continue, I know this reads like some entitled bullshit coming from a middle-class white dude. Even as I write it, I cringe at how this might sound.
However, what I’m talking about is NOT a complete removal of oneself from society. Humans didn’t go through thousands of years of hardship just for you to throw it away to the wolves. You don’t need to pack up all your shit, build a log cabin in the woods and live off the land like Bear Grylls.
It’s okay to rely on farmers to feed you, distilleries to make your whiskey, and planes, trains and automobiles to get you around. But the ways in which you choose to make money and participate in this modern system can change. You don’t need to fit into the model of industrialization.
All I’m saying is: TAKE CONTROL.
I’m unemployed not because I’m unemployable, but because I am CHOOSING to step outside the normal and take control of my life.
For the next 9 months, I am going to be travelling across the world, making money ghostwriting novels, producing material for websites and editing everything from posters to entire biographies. I’ve been doing this on and off for the last year as supplementary income, and I’ve made a pretty penny in doing so. Now I’m going to dedicate 40+ hours a week to run my own business, work for clients I want to work for and complete projects that I’m excited to work on. It’s risky, freeing, borderline stupid, and it’s absolutely necessary at this point in my life.
However, it’s not all vaginas and roses, ladies and gentlemen. This has all come at a huge price.
Over the past three months I have:
- moved and rented out my condo – a place and location in Edmonton that I genuinely LOVED. I can no longer afford the mortgage, but I am blessed to have found a wonderful renter.
- As I mentioned in an earlier post, I quit my job at a well-paying, easy, yet unrewarding job.
- I have sold or given away all of the useless shit that I've accumulated over the past ten years of my life, put everything else in storage and now live out of a suitcase and backpack in preparation for my trip to Southeast Asia in 2018.
Yeah – so this is why I haven’t been posting regularly on Dustin Does these past few months. Life’s been a bit of a shitshow.
This wasn’t and still isn’t easy, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be. I’ve had countless nights of internal pain and struggle, mental episodes in which I’ve felt lost and out of place, and panic attacks that I’ve never experienced before. It’s like my mind is rebelling against the change and my Lizard Brain* is kicking into full gear, trying to keep me safe and out of harm. I’ve also been remarkably horny as of late, which is also my Lizard Brain telling me to put a baby in someone, make a shelter for my new family of Bilyk’s and MULTIPLY.
I’ve been living with friends for the last few months, and while they’re fucking amazing, loving and hilarious people, it’s still weird and so difficult to make that transition from living alone in my condo and the freedom that came with that. I’ve had to get used to feeling like nothing’s MINE, but this experience is preparation for my nine month journey in Thailand and beyond, where literally nothing except what I carry on my back will be mine. I think this is a healthy transition, and I’ve already started to make that mental leap away from the need for possessions and space.
But God it’s scary; almost scarier than that one time drunken, vigorous love-making rubbed a bit of skin off my wiener and I woke up the next day thinking I’d contracted an STD overnight. ALMOST scarier.
So this is why I have made the decision to become unemployed in the traditional sense. I’m making a transition toward a life in which I feel in control of my place in the world and its economy, and while it’s painful and difficult, I think any change worth making should be.
So I’ll ask you, faithful readers:
Have you ever thought about stepping outside your comfort zone, selling/giving away your possessions, quitting your shitty job and doing what you want to do?
If the answer is an affirmative YES, then what the hell are you waiting for?
Does it sound scary? Fuck yes it is, but what’s the worst that can happen? Try this little exercise:
Envision your realistic Absolute Bottom – Your Worst Case Scenario
Is you Absolute Bottom something you can’t come back from? Are you dead? Addicted to meth? Do your family and friends hate you? Did you abandon your newborn child at the nearest fire hall and now they’ve been adopted by some weasly, fat cunt named Kent? Are you on the FBI's Most Wanted List?
Unless your Absolute Bottom falls into the above categories, just go for it, man. Find that thing that you know will make you happy. We all have one life. We are all going to die. We are all going to be lying on a hospital bed someday thinking about our life’s work and whether we should have taken that risk and REALLY went for it.
But by then it’ll be too late. One short life, and it’s your decision on how you want to live it. It’s not your parents’, not your friends’ and definitely not your boss’ decision. There is only you, and I realize that if you have a spouse and/or children, this will be a much tougher decision, but it's still one that you need to make. A happy household is not a happy household when one or both caregivers are completely miserable at their day job. Anyone can make this change.
And maybe that worst case scenario you envisioned actually happens and you fail. Then what? Try considering this quote:
This coming from a woman who was physically abused by her partner, was rejected by countless publishers with her Harry Potter books, and then went on to become the most successful and influential author on the entire planet. "Rock bottom" isn't something to be feared. Sure it's something to be avoided, but there is never a path that you can't come back from, and this knowledge should erase most, if not all, of your fears.
Take the leap and join me, because at the end of the day, unemployment isn’t that scary. Really, "unemployment" is just another way of saying:
I am done with the old me and I'm about to embark on my newest experience and adventure.
*Dingleberry – poop attached to the anal hair of an animal . . . or your mother.
*Lizard Brain – the part of the brain responsible for fight, flight, feeding, fear, freezing up and fornication. So pretty much any time you’re functioning primarily with your Lizard Brain, you are going full Charlie Sheen. Remember that.