Some of you will be lucky enough to get actual grownup careers right out of college. Others, like me, will merely have "jobs," punching time clocks and wearing mandatory work hats for a couple of decades until anything like a career comes along. I don't think the people in either situation are ready for it when it happens.
Because the difference between "job" and "career" is huge -- a career isn't just a job that pays more and doesn't require an apron. You work toward it your whole life, but there are no actual teachers to tell you what to do with the Road Runner when you finally have his skinny little leg in your fist. Do you eat him? Make a sweet pimp hat out of his feathers? Fuck his beak off? It turns out there are a whole lot of things people don't tell you about the career thing, like ...
It was only a couple of years ago that I was working a physical labor job that kept me clinched tightly in the asshole of poverty while I tried to come up with new ways to convince myself that I had it all under control. But on the upside, my routines were pretty simple -- I worked, came home, relieved stress with games and beer, went to sleep ... rinse and repeat. Sometimes, I'd go back to work after a couple of days off and hear about some psychopath customer who threatened the workers and spin kicked a computer off of the counter. How they had to call the police, and it was just this huge fiasco, and "Man, you should have seen it."
But I didn't see it because I was off. And when you're off, work stays at work. That very idea is the difference between a career versus just working a job to pay the bills. I don't know exactly how far up it's located, but once you reach a certain rung on the work ladder, you will see the psycho, because you're the one they call when his feet turn into those little catapult switches in Portal 2 and start whipping computer monitors into space. At that level, there is no such thing as "work stays at work." For better or worse, your life is your work.
"Oh, shit, he's back! And he's going nuts on our Jenga game!"
The higher you climb, the more people need your input and help. And every person you add to that list takes away more of the time that is needed to complete the core duties of your job. Trying to explain this to someone who isn't living it is next to impossible, because they have no means of comparison yet. I have friends who still work those 9-to-5 jobs, and they can't fathom why I can't take one measly hour to visit with them.
I don't blame them, because they don't see the side of me that works from the time I wake up until 5 a.m. the next day. And that a one-hour visit means that I'm now going to be getting in bed at 6 a.m. The next distraction pushes that back to 7, and so on. They've never put that kind of commitment and effort into work before, so how could they know? It doesn't make them bad people. Except James -- that dude's a twat.
But because of that, they also don't understand that the reverse -- those occasional, spontaneous, off the cuff visits to me can wreck my day just as badly. Yes, it feels awesome to have friends over, and I never want to turn them away, but that's really the problem. Allowing it to happen freezes my progress and shifts my whole schedule to the right for exactly as long as they stay.
"Hahahaha! Oh, that's wonderful, you should fucking leave now."
I understand how horrible that sounds, but it's really not. It's a simple solution: We just have to schedule visits in advance. When you fully commit to a career, that time is more valuable than the money you receive for it. Everything in your life becomes a delicate, precise balancing act: chores, family, friends, entertainment, sex, even eating. Friends and family picture you working all day, so they feel like you've earned a break and owe them that time. Work thinks that as soon as you're out of their sight, you're out goofing off, showing strangers your dick or something, so you owe them more work to justify what they're paying you. The whole world turns into that teacher who assigns you a 20-page report because to her, you have no other classes or responsibilities. "It won't take that long. What's one little assignment?" Meanwhile, you have four other teachers telling you the same thing, and you're trying to figure out how to finish 100 pages without resorting to cocaine.
Why That's a Good Thing
Your ability to manage that time is what sets you apart from everyone else who is competing for the job you currently have, or are shooting for. Not everyone can do it. Hell, for that matter, not many people can do it, but that's why those positions are considered special and desirable. It's why people who make it to that level are respected.
And if you don't respect them, there will be fucking consequences.
The financial rewards are obviously a pretty awesome upside, but there's something so much larger to consider. A person's ability to manage time on such an exact scale will dictate what they get out of life and what they pass on when they leave it. Let's face it, in the grand scheme of things, we're not here very long. The more you get done, the more you leave behind, both material and in a namesake sort of legacy. Yes, there's something to be said about stopping to smell the roses, but hurry the fuck up. You have shit to do.
I used to love the shit out of World of Warcraft. I put more time into that game than I did my full-time job. If I could have gotten paid to play it, no one would have ever seen me again -- my kids would have been forced to get accounts just to talk to me. I would be one rich motherfucker, though.
I was able to play it so much because I worked eight hours a day and had plenty of time to kill when I clocked out. That's the upside to working a throwaway job where you're just another face performing basic functions. You can watch 12 hours of porn in one sitting when you don't have a crew of workers who depend on you to be able to show up at a moment's notice, sans boner.
"I'll give you a hundred bucks if when he gets here, you hand him two hard hats."
Just a year and a half ago, I tripped and landed face-first into this job that sounds so ridiculous when explaining it to someone that I eventually learned it was just easier to say, "I work with computers." Before I knew it, I was being pushed up that ladder, and though I'm not complaining in the slightest, I found that the more responsibility I took on, the more of my life that job took up. Little by little, WoW got whittled down until it just disappeared altogether. That happens with any career, and because of that, it becomes increasingly more important to enjoy it, because there is a tipping point on that scale where your career becomes your hobby.
There's no such thing as a day off. You're as much at work at 3 a.m. as you are when you're in the office. If what you're doing isn't one of your favorite things, you're going to find yourself on the ass end of a nine millimeter, firing into open crowds and screaming out the names of former SNL cast members as each one falls. No, work is something you tolerate. A career is something you live.
"Oh, God, please make him stop screaming 'Chris Kattan'!"
Why That's a Good Thing
Look at it this way: Let's say that one of my favorite things in the world is writing comedy. I'm talking about loving it in a way that if I never made a dime off of my work, I'd still be writing just for fun. And let's also say that after doing it for so long, some crazy person noticed and said, "Hey, I like those words that you're saying. Here's some money. If you do it again next week, I'll give you some more money. We will continue this process until I run out of money or you run out of words. You don't even have to blow me for it."
Yes, I'll admit that my career started out of sheer luck, but what I'm saying is that these things are absolutely out there if you know where to look. Love numbers? Bam, accountant. Like messing with computers? Booyah, tech monkey. Enjoy showing your freakishly large breasts to strangers? Pow, stripper. I wish I had understood that years ago, instead of just accepting that I'd always be resigned to shitty jobs with shitty pay.
"OK, guys, break's over. Let's get back to juggling those scorpions."
Wanna see something completely fucked up? Check out the $55 million football player who had to petition the courts to lower his child support because he's so broke he has to live with his parents. Think his demise is an isolated case? Here's 15 more. Or how about this ridiculous list of musicians who have gone broke? Google around -- they're in no short supply.
As I see it, the problem lies in the fact that there are no teachers to show you what to do when the world suddenly jerks you out of a lower or middle class income and fills your bank account with what you'd have previously considered an unspendable amount of money. How could there be? How many people have actually gone through that?
"So who can tell me the proper way to transfer half a billion dollars from savings to checking? Anyone?"
Now, I'm not saying I'm rich -- don't get me wrong here. But before this job, my life was ground zero of a monetary A-bomb. By comparison, what I earn now makes it look like I hit the fucking lottery ... but even those "broke" stars I mentioned earlier would kill themselves if their income suddenly went down to my pay scale. It's all relative.
But even on a smaller scale of changing tax brackets or escaping poverty, it requires an extreme change in how you look at and handle your finances, and very few people are ready for that. I talked in another article about how people who aren't used to it tend to spend any extra money right goddamn now for fear that it will disappear if they let it sit. So it should come as no surprise when we see stories of musicians like MC Hammer filing for bankruptcy after blowing through $30 million in just a few months.
It definitely didn't go toward his shirt budget.
It's not something you get taught -- it's something you have to learn from failing at it in various ways. You're used to viewing money as a means of survival, so when you start to get more of it, saving for retirement and setting up emergency funds is a foreign concept. And if you fuck up, it will cost you everything.
Just this year, for the first time in my life, I found myself writing a check to the government instead of them sending me a tax return. That's huge, because that windfall was what I used to count on to bail me out of the debt I racked up the previous Christmas. It's how I bought gifts for the two birthdays that pop up in February. All big purchases -- car repairs, new glasses, computer upgrades, jade cock ring -- were held off until that check arrived, and it would be gone in a matter of days.
Hell, just paying my backup dancers alone is enough to break a man.
Going from receiving several thousand dollars to paying several thousand dollars has forced me to learn how to save money and resist my natural urge to spend it when I see it piling up. I can't view it as "extra," but as income that is waiting to be spent on the next disaster. It's my MC Hammer prevention kit.
Why That's a Good Thing
If tomorrow all of this is taken away, I now have the intellectual tools to start hatching an escape plan. I know not only the value of saving, but the necessity of doing so. I understand what it takes to live a certain lifestyle, and I know my limits on what I can spend. That's a lesson that I could only learn by living in both financial states. One taught me how to take a billion financial shortcuts, like how to make Hamburger Helper without milk or hamburger. The other taught me that I don't have to.
"What are we having for dinner tonight?" "Helper."