Remember when you were a kid? You could watch TV shows you enjoyed, go outside with your friends and play games. You still had to go to school and, sure, you didn’t get a huge say over what dinner was most nights, but most of your activities were your own. Obviously some kids grow up with controlling parents but for me anyways, childhood was a very self-directed and involved many activities like video games, TV and movies that I enjoyed and wanted to do.
These days it’s much harder to make time for the hobbies I love. I’d love to speedrun Kingdom Hearts 2 more, write my novella more and spend more time on my backlog of video games. But all of these things are hard to do because of work. That one thing you likely didn’t do as a kid growing up (unless someone got around child labor laws) and you were better for it.
But now many of us have to balance our work commitments and our “life” commitments. It’s telling that the term “work-life balance” contrasts work with life. Hanging out with your friends, reading a book, playing video games, writing, meditating, going for a peaceful walk in a forest, these are all things that are part of living. But sitting in a chair for nearly 8 hours and having to live at the beck and call of others is decidedly not living. So what do people do about this misery?
Well, some of them quit their full-time jobs to pursue their passion.
But Janelle Quibuyen counsels otherwise:
Quitting your job to pursue your passion is bullshit. This messaging is only beneficial for privileged people and very dangerous for working class people.
The statement alone reeks of privilege. It confirms you had a full-time job to begin with. It confirms you had time to develop a passion (that you can capitalize off of, enough to meet your cost of living). It confirms you had the option to pursue something different because you feel like it. There are more challenges to being self-employed than just mental perseverance and grit.
We are predatorily luring working class people into an entrepreneur lifestyle as the answer to living a meaningful life and making loads of money.
It’s the new American Dream.
And like George Carlin said, “It’s called the American Dream because you gotta be asleep to believe in it.” And this period of sleep is more like a nightmare for those less privileged.
Here’s a fun fact about me: I’ve never held down a full-time job.
I’ve worked part-time from 20-30 hours in a week before with the most being in the upper 20s and maybe lower 30s but that was a rarity for me. I’ve never been able to hold down a full-time job because I don’t have that amount of executive functioning to spare. Nor would I even want to at any of the jobs (mostly retail) I’ve worked in the past 10 years or so.
So I have never been able to just quit my “full-time job” since I’ve never had one. That does bring me the advantage of having more time to work on my own hobbies. I’ve been able to make time for school (to the detriment of this site and my writing) but it always feels like a part of my work takes me away from the life I’d rather be living. Sure, my job is pretty chill and pays OK, but I could sit at a chair for hours listening to D&D podcasts in my own house and get paid for it.
And so this statement of “just do what you love, quit your full-time job” hurts folks like me. The people who are too disabled or otherwise not able to find full-time work. And even when it doesn’t harm those folks it can still make people feel ashamed that they’d rather not pour 40 hours into their week for a hobby they’d rather spend 5 hours on a week. Doing something that long can (though not always) burn you out and make you resent what you used to love.
Quibuyen goes on to say:
I am privileged to not have any student loans to repay. … I am privileged to have paid off most of my credit card debt while I was working full-time. I am privileged to be in a relationship with a partner that was working full-time. That I had a partner who I could live with. I quit my job because I was dealing with a family emergency with long-term responsibilities I had to wrap my head around.
I quit my job because I had the privilege to do so.
This is an important article because it not only speaks to the privileges you would need to say something like this but to also do it. I’m glad Quibuyen wrote this article as it’s an important one and it gets to the heart of their own privilege in being able to do what they did. A privilege they admit and are able to come to terms with in this piece. And using that newfound peace they were able to write this great article exposing another superficial myth about work.
This myth surrounding do what you love crucially revolves around the concept of live being different than what it is in reality. In reality, love isn’t a immutable thing, it changes, ebbs and flows with the passage of time and can go away just as easily as it entered. I’ve loved and lost many things in my life and to be able to try (for example) and take speedrunning as a profession seems disastrous to me. The amount of pressure I’d have to put myself under to make that work and the amount of money I’d have to invest just to maybe have it become too frustrating or have my love fade over time? That’s an investment that is much to risky these days.
That said, Quibuyen is wrong to say that “You have no one to blame but yourself if things go awry.” we can also blame the economic systems we live under and feel very little control over. We can take a look at how we got to a culture that constantly admonishes working class folks for not being rich enough to simply do what they love. And we can work to abolish the systems of power that keep in place the privileged above everyone else while they admonish those below them.
As Quibuyen says, “I’m not saying working class people can’t be successful entrepreneurs.”
And neither am I. I agree with them that although the ideal of everyone doing what they love sounds ideal, under current conditions it just isn’t realistic and that’s one of capitalism’s biggest failings when it comes to the topic of work. While we all put in massive efforts everyday we are being rewarded for less than we need to cover basic costs, for people we don’t like, inside of corporations we may not ethically agree with while working far too many hours under people who are overly-demeaning if not downright cruel and abusive towards us.
I guess what I’m really saying is: More Saturday Morning TV Cartoons, Less Capitalism.