The Transactional Life (and How to Get Around It)
The simplicity that is the first ten years or so of life cannot be underestimated in its effect on the rest of our sentence on the planet. In those earliest of days, there is a stability at play that helps keep us in line, aiding the conformist mold of public education and the training for a capitalist worldview.
If one does X, then one receives Y.
Couldn't be simpler. If one mows the neighbor's lawn, the neighbor will reward you with some money. If you clean your room, you receive an extra Twinkie. Punch the bigger kid, get clobbered. Do the crime, do the time. Quid Pro Quo. If X, then Y. Call it The Transactional Life.
The difficulty in growing older or up or however you choose to look at the passage of time is that you start to see that this contract with the world, this Transactional Life, is not fair. Most of the time, the value you place on X is not in equal proportion to the perceived value of Y.
Walter spends a strong portion of his waking life learning the ins and outs of a skill. He becomes damn good at it. When Walter executes a task utilizing his skills—say, as an architect—the value of his work should include the years of learning. He knows things that a younger person cannot. That knowledge should come to bear when assessing Y.
Except it often doesn't.
The reality that crime actually does pay, especially if you’re rich to begin with, eviscreates the idea that the Transactional Model has even a code of fairness.
It gets truly tricky when personal dynamics come into play.
Julia is a spectacular pastry chef. Creative, years of high profile culinary training, easily one of the best in the business of making pastries. Except Julia is no nonsense. Her approach to the creation of delicious, sugary confections is all about the work. She is a bit louder than some, a bit more opinionated than others, and isn’t terribly pleasant to be around. These aspects of Julia diminish the value of her X and thus diminish her potential for Y. Jack is far less experienced but he’s fun. He’s not as good as Julia but he’s affable and makes people laugh. And he’s a He. His Y is going to be higher in value than Julia’s for no other reason than he plays a better social game.
As we grow up, the rules of the Transactional Life are effectively thrown out the window. You're told that if you buy that newest smart phone, you will be more productive except you aren't—you're more distracted. You're told that if you go to the gym and get in shape, you'll get laid but you don't. Go to college and get a good job. Wrong. You'll need algebra when you grow up. Nope. Enough virtue signaling online will make you popular. False.
This shift in reality exposes how terribly unfair things are and most become bitter, entitled, angry and vehemently self serving as a result. Dog Eat Dog and all that jazz.
So, how to adjust to this sudden change in rules and avoid becoming a self aggrandizing, vindictive piece of shit who assumes the worst in any transaction, any job, any relationship?
Approach Your Day with Reasonable Expectation
Easier said than done but what isn't? To live without (or at least with less) expectation is the road to at least some sense of personal balance.
We tend to expect personal fulfillment when we get a job which isn’t in the Y you sign up for. You should expect that you will get paid the agreed upon salary and nothing more. The job isn’t there to give you anything more so expecting happiness as a result is pointless and self defeating. The jobs that guarantee personal fulfillment traditionally don’t pay so well.
We get into a relationship by selling our best, most sexy, most attractive selves to potential partners and expect that the person we hook up with will be exactly their best, most sexy, most attractive selves at all times. Unfortunately, as we are not our best, most sexy selves most of the time, neither is anyone else. Amazing, non-stop boning usually comes with crazy and crazy tends to make the daily life a pain in the ass emotionally speaking.
We expect that our knowledge and experience gives us the edge in things. Most of the time, it doesn’t and life unfolds like a real life version of Survivor where the least capable succeed through duplicity, timing and popularity. If the idiots are the ones running things, maybe our expectation of how goddamn smart we are isn’t paying off.
The concept of the Transactional Life is (sort of) helpful when training an unformed brain to cope with the nuances of going from a crawling, mewling, shitting monkey to a walking, screaming, shitting chimp but the lesson is both fluid and false. Holding on to those unreasonable expectations is a guarantee of a life of misery.
Holding onto those unrealistic expectations threatens to make each of us petty and smaller than we could be.
Hope for more but expect less.