With older Americans delaying their retirements, my generation is getting shut out of the workforce according to a gut-wrenching piece in this weekend's New York Times. There are fewer jobs to go around, and we've got the least experience. It's like a game of musical chairs where we just keep on losing.
So I suggest we make a virtue of necessity. When I was in college I had a friend who grew up in Murmansk, a very cold place in Russia that you never want to go. Now this guy really believed in the Soviet Union, and ordinarily his communist folk-wisdom wouldn't be too helpful. But since our economy is falling apart and increasingly being nationalized, I figure right now we've got a good bit in common with the old USSR.
My friend used to say that we didn't have real freedom in America because some occupations paid better than others. He would tell me that true freedom is what they had in the Soviet Union: when you know that no matter what, you're going to be poor, you have the freedom to do whatever you want for a living.
There are a lot of ways in which that statement is crazy. But I'm looking for any little bit of solace in this economy, and in a weird way it makes sense. For now, material success is just not in our grasp. And when that's totally off the table, we can start thinking about doing other things.
My friend's father in the USSR became a sailor. He could've done anything, put since he wasn't a party-insider the pay was always going to be about the same, so he picked the job he really enjoyed. Ordinarily the idea of doing what you love makes me throw up a little in the back of my throat. But for now maybe we should embrace this perverse version of freedom and have some fun, since we're certainly not going to make a lot of money.
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