thebitterbabe

never married, over forty, a little bitter

Month: May, 2014

overwhelm

A whole new field of research is beginning to look into why overwhelm matters… entire presentations laid out the inverse relationship of increasing role overload and declining birth rates all over the world, which means many societies will soon have a worrisome surplus of old people and fewer young workers to support them. In the United States, the fertility rate began falling when the economic crisis hit in 2008, but it had already dropped among those with a college education to a “crisis” level. Steven Philip Kramer, a professor of strategy at the National Defense University, warns that countries that fail to address gender equity, redefine traditional families, reform immigration, and pass government policies that help men and women more easily combine work and family “do so at their own peril.”

[…]

As I pored over the time studies searching to understand why the feeling of being overwhelmed was on the rise, one central truth emerged clearly: When women began working in a man’s world, their lives changed completely. Yet workplace cultures, government policies, and cultural attitudes, by and large, act as though it is, or should be, 1950 in Middle America: Men work. Women take care of home and hearth. Fathers provide. A good mother is always available to her children. But obviously, life isn’t so sharply divided anymore. And until attitudes, however unconscious, catch up with the way we really live our lives, the overwhelm will swirl on. Nowhere is that disconnect between expectations and reality more apparent than when a women has a child. Time studies find that a mother, especially one who works outside the home for pay, is among the most time-poor humans on the planet, especially single mothers, weighted down not only by role overload but also what sociologists call “task density”– the intense responsibility she bears and the multitude of jobs she performs in each of those roles.

— Brigid Schulte, Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, pp. 24-25

enough

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/01/29/pension-schmension-retire-on-your-own-terms/

Absolutely not! It not stupid to walk out on a pension. What is stupid is staying in a job that you don’t love, when you no longer need the money.

All of this hinges on the concept of “Enough”. It’s a tricky one to grasp if the television has done its job in raising you to be insatiable. But if you work through your own bullet points like the ones above, and you’ve got enough, then dude, trust me, you can go ahead and quit.

When you take early retirement, you are almost always walking away from a whole bunch of money. Salary. Benefits. Bonuses. Stock options. I’ve often recounted how I’ve “lost” least a million dollars of potential income since quitting in 2005. Even now, I am forced to turn down more work opportunities almost every week, and Mrs. Money Mustache does the same. Early retirees seem to have a way of attracting unwanted work opportunities, almost like the casual man who walks into a pub with no desire to hit on women. The employers can almost smell your freedom, and it makes them want to offer you additional money. But unless the work offered is your true love, you will gracefully decline.

We are deliberately sacrificing extra savings and security in our distant futures, for continued free time right now. We’re throwing away the equivalent of many good pensions. Oooo. Big deal.

To gain the ability to quit your job, you have to learn to lose your addiction to artificial security. You may think you’re building up additional financial strength, but really you’re just indulging a psychological weakness.

More money beyond the reasonable guidelines noted above does not make your life better. But spending an extra 10 years working a mundane job, setting the alarm clock and droning away on the conference calls because you are afraid to quit does make your life worse, unless that is truly what you were born to do.

[OTOH, in terms of finding employment as a retiree: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/columnist/brooks/2013/08/26/retirement-encore-careers-age-discrimination/2693259/%5D

the equation

http://www.salon.com/2014/05/23/is_baby_fever_killing_my_chance_to_have_kids_partner/

I’m not saying that biology doesn’t matter—of course it does, and I don’t think women should ignore or put off researching their window for fertility and doing their best to accommodate that. The sad reality is that women can’t wait as long as men do to be sure whether or not they want kids. But biology isn’t everything, and simply warning us that our fertile years are waning isn’t actually helping create healthy families; in fact, I’d say it’s adding to women’s stress and fear about this issue. Biology is one part of the equation, but gaining life experience, figuring out who we want to be and who we want for our partners in love and parenting, and what they want, is just as important.

the curious

http://www.salon.com/2014/05/22/dear_graduates_dont_follow_your_dreams_commencement_speech_for_the_mediocre/

See, commencement speakers are the outliers — the most successful, interesting people that colleges can find — and their experiences are the most inspirational but also the least realistic. Even worse, they tend to be far too willing to dish out the craziest, worst advice, simply because it somehow worked for them. “Follow your dreams” and “live your passions” are insanely unhelpful tips when the bills need paying or the rent is almost due. Invariably, commencement speakers tend to be the lucky few, the ones who followed their dreams and still managed to land on their feet: Most of us won’t become Steve Jobs or Neil Gaiman, regardless of how hard we try or how much passion we might hold. It’s far more likely to get stuck working as a waiter or bartender, or on some other dead-end career path. Most people will have to choose between “doing what they love,” and pursuing the more mundane promise of a stable paycheck and a promising career path. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making the latter choice; in fact, I’d usually recommend it.

But for all of those young graduates who look out today and see a limitless horizon of excitement and opportunity, I hate to be the one to say it, but you probably won’t get there. And I’ve often wondered if, perhaps, those of us who ended up waiting tables or working the dead-end office jobs would be better suited to offering real advice to new graduates, advice tailored toward the majority, those who won’t attain the loftiest heights of their dreams — but still must find meaning and value in our imperfect world. And for those people, the rest of us, my advice is quite simple: Stay curious and keep learning.

Your job might be terrible, it might be horribly boring and physically draining like mine was. You might work in a terrifying corporate culture that stifles creativity and punishes independent thinking. You might be forced to watch round after round of layoffs and budget cuts, wondering if and when the ax will fall on you. And of course, there are plenty of other terrible ways that your life can turn sideways, too.

Stay curious. Keep learning.

[…]

I’ve always valued learning intrinsically, as an end unto itself. And more and more, that seems like the key. Curiosity provides life with wonder and excitement beyond our crummy, quotidian routines. A passion for learning, an unqualified commitment to pursuing your interests — and seeking new ones — will carry you through the good times and bad times, the rich times and poor times, the miserable times and happy ones.

the plan

I’m starting to think of myself as on the “ten years more or less” plan. Meaning, I’ll probably retire in ten years (more or less) and so am settling in for at least that long. I suppose I could try for an even higher level position in five years, but that would entail moving again and starting over, and I’ll be close to fifty at that point. And I’ll have moved up the pay scale and accumulated significant vacation hours, so I’ll have even more incentive to stay put.

So here I am. There are several reasons I’ve been struggling. Moving again in my forties– not easy. Taking a high-level post that requires me to be more guarded, political, and circumspect. Spending more time with higher-ups in other fields that generally attract more conventional/conservative personalities (and being the only childless/single one amongst them). Living in a region that is more conventional and less culturally interesting than the places I’ve lived in the last two decades. Working with colleagues who have been living in this region and working for my employer for fifteen years and upwards. And on top of all this, going through a midlife identity crisis.

It’s interesting how “done” I was with L.A. when I left. I was fascinated by the region the first time I moved here and spent tons of time exploring and reading about it. Now I find myself disinterested, although I do some small amount of research on the new area in which I’m living.

I’ve continued to enjoy being a hermit. In all honesty, it’s made my friendships much easier, as I have zero expectations of people. When they call, it’s nice, but I never feel angry when they don’t, as my “retreat time” from socializing has become my greatest solace.

I do have plans almost every week to get out and socialize and a trip planned over Christmas (yes, I’m doing it my way this year) that will put me in close contact with people. So, we’ll see. A decade is certainly a good chunk of time to give things my best and then to move on if nothing sticks.

bored games

http://theroadlesstravelledlb.blogspot.ca/2008/03/do-not-pass-go-do-not-collect-200.html

The thing is — the structure of our lives may not have changed very much. But the point is, we wanted it to change. We were ready for it to change. We had established our careers, bought a house in suburbia & gotten a start on paying down the mortgage. We did the “DINKs in the city” thing. We were ready to embrace 2 a.m. feedings & sippy cups. We were ready to turn the spotlight over to a new generation, to have the world revolve around someone else besides ourselves for a change.

And yet here we are, stuck back in the land of the eternally childless/free, while everyone around us is moving on, skipping happily off down the yellow brick road of family life, picking up one child after another along the way, sharing new kinds of experiences with other parents — and not giving those of us left behind much thought. (I keep thinking of Monopoly: “Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.” Sitting in “jail” & waiting out a turn, while everyone else advances around the board & gets richer.)

skulkers

I took my first full-time job in my early twenties, during the pre-internet days. I had moved to a sleepy city where I didn’t know a soul. I survived by reading a lot, but I remember the workdays feeling excruciatingly lonely and long until, near the end of my first year, the magical invention of e-mail arrived. I was then able to have intermittent communication during my day with my old college and high school friends, which was a lifesaver.

These days the first thing I do upon waking is peruse my email and the web. I actually look forward to getting out of bed in order to do so. In fact, I can’t imagine what my life would be like without the internet and all it has brought me– blogs, podcasts, email, forums, and the like.

Prior to the rise of the web, I looked for solace in books and in other like-minded souls on the serendipitous occasions when I could find them. I confess that in my youth there was a lot of hanging-out with people I didn’t have much in common with, who weren’t all that good for me, and who often left me feeling alienated and self-doubting. Part of that was youth, I’m sure, but part of it was that back then we didn’t have the whole ocean of human thought before us to dip into whenever we felt lost or questioning.

The internet gave me a great gift by letting me know there are many others out there who think and feel as I do– who have the same politics, the same sense of humor, who get enraged by the same things. I feel like this enables me to “speed up” my evolution as I don’t spend as much time “lost in the woods” as I might otherwise.

This, of course, has a potential downside. Perhaps the internet is enabling me to stay solo, for better or worse. Without it would I have married someone I wasn’t gung-ho about out of the sheer need of human connection? Is it keeping me from befriending people I don’t have much in common with but might grow to feel affection for over time? Or do both those things spell a lifetime of frustration from which the internet liberates us?

And as much as the internet can make me feel less alone, it can in other ways– particularly via social media– make me feel more alone:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/05/is-facebook-making-us-lonely/308930/

Her conclusion suggests that my sometimes unhappy reactions to Facebook may be more universal than I had realized. When I scroll through page after page of my friends’ descriptions of how accidentally eloquent their kids are, and how their husbands are endearingly bumbling, and how they’re all about to eat a home-cooked meal prepared with fresh local organic produce bought at the farmers’ market and then go for a jog and maybe check in at the office because they’re so busy getting ready to hop on a plane for a week of luxury dogsledding in Lapland, I do grow slightly more miserable. A lot of other people doing the same thing feel a little bit worse, too.

Still, Burke’s research does not support the assertion that Facebook creates loneliness. The people who experience loneliness on Facebook are lonely away from Facebook, too, she points out; on Facebook, as everywhere else, correlation is not causation. The popular kids are popular, and the lonely skulkers skulk alone. Perhaps it says something about me that I think Facebook is primarily a platform for lonely skulking. I mention to Burke the widely reported study, conducted by a Stanford graduate student, that showed how believing that others have strong social networks can lead to feelings of depression. What does Facebook communicate, if not the impression of social bounty? Everybody else looks so happy on Facebook, with so many friends, that our own social networks feel emptier than ever in comparison. Doesn’t that make people feel lonely?

the untethering

http://www.slate.com/articles/business/psychology_of_management/2014/05/best_buy_s_rowe_experiment_can_results_only_work_environments_actually_be.2.html

For Moen, the issue is redefining the culture of the workplace to fit the changing times. “We’re using concepts that were developed in the 1950s when you were tethered to a phone or desk or assembly line,” she argues, “and that’s simply not the case now. And the workforce also isn’t the same. It used to be the average full-time worker was paired with a full-time homemaker, and now neither men nor women have full-time homemakers supporting them. We need to get up to date by redesigning how we work in terms of the clock.”

the periphery

I’m feeling much better– my intense anger has left– and I’m more or less back to my original self, even on a Monday.

Although my job has it’s sticking points, there are definitely some good things about it– some avenues of creativity and fun. I will say, however, that although I’m extremely grateful to have it, the relief of knowing that abstract figures are replenishing my bank account cannot compensate for the inevitable feelings of dislocation and loneliness that have resulted from making a move at this age, especially since the move was to a place that does not readily offer the same types of social avenues I’ve built an identity on over two decades.

Although I don’t feel this bad, I found some solace in this:

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2013/08/dangers_of_loneliness_social_isolation_is_deadlier_than_obesity.html

Over the winter I moved from New York City to Portland, Ore. The reasons for my move were purely logical. New York was expensive and stressful. Portland, I reasoned, would offer me the space and time to do my work.

Upon arriving, I rented a house and happily went out in search of “my people.” I went to parks, bookstores, bars, on dates. I even tried golfing. It wasn’t that I didn’t meet people. I did. I just felt no connection to any of them.

Once social and upbeat, I became morose and mildly paranoid. I knew I needed to connect to people to feel better, but I felt as though I physically could not handle any more empty interactions. I woke up in the night panicked. In the afternoon, loneliness came in waves like a fever. I had no idea how to fix it.

[…]

When we are lonely, we lose impulse control and engage in what scientists call “social evasion.” We become less concerned with interactions and more concerned with self-preservation, as I was when I couldn’t even imagine trying to talk to another human. Evolutionary psychologists speculate that loneliness triggers our basic, fight vs. flight survival mechanisms, and we stick to the periphery, away from people we do not know if we can trust.

the scenery

http://moretht.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/non-stop-inertia-interview-with-ivor.html#more

(1) What does the title of your book, ‘Non-Stop Inertia’, refer to?

It represents a perpetual sort of crisis that people seem to be in, in everyday life. There’s this sense of always having to look for the next thing, having to sort everything out – this sort of endless circulating, networking, competing, and always passing through somewhere on the way to somewhere else. It’s sort of a vicious circle. But this is presented as ‘how it is’ or a self-imposed situation – that’s quite important, I think.

The title draws attention to the contradiction in that – in that we’re in a loop of anxiety and we’re not really getting anywhere. There’s a sort of frenetic activity and we’re not really achieving
anything at all. And there’s this sense of freedom all the time, but is it really freedom? Has this sort of mobility and availability and stuff – has it actually made us free in the way that we’re told that it has?

And I suppose I’m thinking as well, in the title, that there’s the implication that if we were to stop in some way, we could see the scenery clearly and see each other clearly, and that the scenery wouldn’t be blurred. We might be able to see an exit, or a way of improving things.

[…]

(3) Why have people accepted a society of non-stop inertia? Why aren’t they resisting it?

It’s clear that certain factors have been put together to stop people resisting it. You sort of feel helpless, that you can’t resist, that you have to go along, that you have to go with the flow. There’s a lot behind that. As an individual – in the face of the dismantling of unions, insecurity, the wage gap, etc. – you’ve got few resources to draw on. I think that all contributes to it. Now, obviously, with mobile devices and stuff like that people are encouraged to exist in their own little bubble and connections are very difficult to establish. But that push towards individualisation and insecurity has a lot to do with it.

[…]

(6) There’s also a psychological dimension to the term ‘precarity’ as well, isn’t there? In the book you say that it describes a fear of losing one’s job (because one needs the money from it) and a simultaneous desire to see one’s job end (because one’s job is boring).

Yes. Again, going back to what I was saying before about why resistance is difficult: You need the job to carry on and you also don’t want it to carry on. It’s having to carry that sort of contradiction around in your head in whatever tasks you’re doing at work. There’s that fear and all other stuff as well – like housing, the welfare system, etc. – which feeds into that fear. Yes, definitely, there’s a psychological element going on there.

[…]

(10) Another theoretical term you discuss in your exploration of the contemporary workplace is ‘emotional labour’. Could you explain what this is?

It’s an idea that Arlie Russell Hochschild was exploring in the 1970s. She introduced this phrase relating to the work involved in producing the product of yourself as a commodity – the smile and the appearance of customer service and all that sort of stuff. Also involved in emotional labour is the working up of a sort of synthetic enthusiasm for something, such as a product, which feeds into sales and jobs like that.

In the book, I look at how the term is applicable now, and, as with precarity, I think it seems to have spread a lot. In one sense there’s what I call remote emotional labour, which is virtual media work, advertising, marketing, etc., and call centres. I’m also thinking about – again from a personal point of view – how Hochschild’s traditional ideas of emotional labour – of selling yourself and of selling an experience to the customer – could be extended to the “jobseeker” and worker as well. You’re selling yourself to your manager and your boss through a performance of enthusiasm and immersion in whatever tasks you’re doing – looking as if you’re giving 110% and all that crap. That applies whether you’re in immaterial labour or in what would be old-fashioned manual labour: in a warehouse or something. It’s still there. It’s still a background to it – this sense that you have to appear to not just be doing what you’re paid for, but enjoying it and feeling that it’s the right thing for you.

As Hochschild also mentions, the effects of selling yourself starts to affect yourself and your identity. The commodified self starts to re-shape the real self. You come to believe your cover story, so to speak. Again, going back to what I was saying earlier about resistance – having to sell yourself has a huge impact on people, especially when you add a sense of self-failure and self-blame onto it, which helps people get into the part that they are playing.