Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Lonely Tower

It's no wonder my last post, Spring Awakening, was dominated by an ode to a smokestack. I clearly envy its ability to tower above the mundane, keeping its "hands" clean now that it no longer spouts smoke. It doesn't have to worry about being stained by its own pollution or that of its fallen comrades.

For the past decade, I've been obsessed with achieving a kind of consumerist moral purity. I've tried to buy products that are not tainted by "sin." (I didn't want to put "sin" in quotes, but not doing so seemed unbelievably arrogant and self-righteous.) The sins I've focused on are those arising from the producers' inhumane labor practices and/or environmental degradation.

I've also sought occupational moral purity, looking for jobs with businesses (non-profits) that appear to be engaged in missions I believe in. But I've had very little success with that, always returning to the corporate world to work for a financial company whose guiding principles (making money, fucking everybody else over) I abhor.

A year after quitting my last corporate job, I'm still looking for work that will meet my moral standards and still allow me to afford a decent apartment in a decent neighborhood in the city (preferably, Minneapolis). I've come to realize that living with my parents affords me a certain moral leeway. For now, I needn't worry about "getting my hands dirty" by working at another big, evil financial company.

Of course, even when I was in the belly of the financial beast, I looked down my nose at a lot of people: my bosses, my bosses' bosses, my co-workers (I didn't say this was logical.), new parents (for adding to the world population of 7 billion), showbiz folks (for living my dream without showing constant concern for the state of the world) and non-profit workers (for dedicating themselves to projects that didn't meet my standards of importance).

But I finally reached the point when I couldn't stay on the sidelines anymore and critique everyone else's life like a holier-than-thou armchair quarterback. I had to get down off my high horse (not to mention my soapbox) and actually try to practice what I'd been preaching. Hopefully, this would give me more empathy and understanding for other people's choices.

Approximately one year into this Grand Experiment, I think it's safe to say that I've succeeded on those counts, although I admit to remaining deeply disturbed by many of my peers' occupational choices. But, considering the Dantean tour of hell I've been on for most of the past year, I can't really fault people who stay in the corporate world.

It's been incredibly difficult to escape that matrix, primarily because my parents are so committed to the idea that corporate work is the only viable path to long-term financial security. (In the previous sentence, "corporate work" includes non-profit or public sector office jobs.) The friends I most relied on emotionally have disappeared from my life, leaving me incredibly dependent on my parents for approval.

I have two friends now who are very dependable and supportive, but I don't feel the same emotional connection with them that I felt with my old friends. I'm learning to appreciate them more, though, and, as I strengthen my relationship with my parents, I'm becoming more confident and less reliant on external validation.

The view from my ivory tower is impressive, but, if I stay up there too long, I get lonely and stir-crazy. It's long past time that I came down and mixed with the "rabble." I think I'll find their company quite edifying and entertaining, and, hopefully, they can give my life the meaning it's been missing.

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