By the time you hit fifty, if you've done things right, you've run into enough opportunities to compromise for comfort or security or money to know what kind of person you are.
You either fit into the machine or you don't.
The sentence makes it sound so simplistic. Fit or don't.
It is anything but simple, though. Choices are made every day that continue to blur things. Do you spend hours of your day working for someone else to scrape together enough dough to survive, thrive, and live the kind of life you see on television? Is that so-called life important to you or do you see some other version of it as the end goal? Do you work more hours than you are paid for in order rise in the ranks? Join the strategic plan committees and voice your progressive opinion in hopes that your ideas might find purchase on the plan?
Do titles matter to you? Status? Recognition of accomplishments? Autonomy to forge your own path within the confines of a group effort? Inspiration?
The Utopian Dream of finding a job at a place that inspires you is exactly that: utopian. Strangely rare is the gig that is both sustaining in terms of salary AND inspiring. As someone of the Generation X timeframe, I can want that utopia but also understand that, for most people and most jobs, labor is just that. The generation before me, for the most part, saw a job as a job and home as home. The generation following mine tends to see self fulfillment as the highest goal and are seen as whiners when they demand to be paid AND inspired.
Working for a living is a tough prospect in any case. Giving a corporation a third of your life, eight to ten hours a day, and expecting both financial compensation and personal fulfillment is often a pipe dream.
So, it often comes down to your personal line in the sand. How far are you willing to compromise your soul to feed your body?
There are people who go into work for insurance companies every day and slog through actuarial tables and spreadsheets hour upon hour and manage to keep their integrity. Someone works for the Trump corporation and somehow justifies it with the ideals of self preservation and providing for family. The Koch Bros. have thousands of employees. Plenty of people work as parking ticket officers and tow truck drivers and have figured out how to live with themselves.
I remember watching Roger and Me for the first time. The sheriff spends a good chunk of the film evicting people from their homes. I wondered at the time how the man can live with his choice of profession? How does he justify the willful destruction of lives in order to keep his lights on? And is it really that callous, this life among others, to simply compartmentalize others' pain for one's own survival?
To be fair, most employment doesn't require the drastic disconnect between compensation and morality. The battle isn't nearly so black and white. Generally speaking, for the vast majority of us, it isn't such a clear cut "selling of our souls" situation but more of a gentle entropy that calcifies our more flexible and curious connective tissues and ages the spirit.
Most corporate corrosion comes from the tone deaf chili cook-offs and Casual Days that attempt to distract the workforce from the bleeding wound of talent as it leaves the fold to pursue any sort of inspiration leaving the rest to pick up the slack. Not so much a moral decay but a gradual chipping away at the enthusiasm to even get up in the morning and face another day of false cheerfulness in the face of Corporate Indifference.
Are you Heller's Bob Slocum or Melville's Bartleby? Or someone in between the dismal acceptance of the grind and the refusal to comply with the demands that your existence is owed to the labor for something without regard for you?
I am just getting my fifties started. I know now what I did not know before. I am not my job nor does that job define me. I get up believing there is more life to have rather than more money to make (for myself or the Corporation.) MORE LIFE.
That is the line I drag my toe through the sand in, daring the CEO and the VP and the Senior Director to even try to cross. Where's your line in the sand?