THE OTHER GREAT RESIGNATION
Many are talking about “The Great Resignation” these days. It’s one of the many silver linings of an otherwise harrowing and eye-opening pandemic. If we’re lucky we’ve begun to rely on our devices a little less and have begun to notice and interact with those around us, especially our loved ones, a little more.
Ironically, having worked for the same corporation for 23 years, I’d say there is another way of interpreting the phrase - The Great Resignation.
Whereas the Millennials and Gen-Yers of today are reportedly bailing out of The Cubicle Life in droves, my generation, the Gen-Xers, the Sandwich Generation have resigned to much of their life tied to a desk, so that we may eternally pay our debt to The Company Store, continue to run in the rat race like we’re on a hamster wheel, and keep on keeping up with the Jone-ses, if only, because we bought into the consumer culture a long time ago, not realizing the err of our ways and wayward mistake of foregoing the frugal lessons and living-within-your-means life of the Greatest Generation, the less-is-more life of our grandparents.
This is our “great resignation,” being that resigning not only means “quitting,” but “giving up” or “giving into.”
It’s the kind of resignation I know well, and which I wrote about in my book 25 Lessons I've Learned About Photography…Life! 16 years ago.
It’s also why I’ve taken much solace in reading The Dilbert Principle lately. I found it on the outdoor patio borrowing library at the Madrid General Store and it has offered many hours of laughter and solace, much as writing and laughing about life’s follies has always soothed my soul.
Hence, I’m sharing that bit of redeeming joy with you with an excerpt from my book about this, our vida loca.
LESSON 23: ENVISION
“I'm shakin' the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I'm gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Coliseum.
Then, I'm comin' back here to go to college and see what they know. And then I'm gonna build things. I'm gonna build airfields, I'm gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I'm gonna build bridges a mile long...”
- George Bailey, It's a Wonderful Life
Much like George Bailey in Frank Capra’s classic film, It's a Wonderful Life, I had fantastically ambiguous big plans, just as I was ready to begin my life as an independent adult. Just like George, however, money matters inevitably took precedence over these lofty plans.
Back when I had just graduated from college and it came time to get a job, I begrudgingly acquiesced to my father’s argument that writing, or anything art-related for that matter, was impractical. “How are you going to make any money doing that son?” he would say. Despite my chagrin, I knew he was right, for my dreams didn’t involve any resolve to roll in the dough, get paid, to make money.
At the time, I was quite inexperienced and had little understanding about how money makes the world go around. I was also ignorant of the fact that as we begin to accumulate obligations and aspirations, we also accrue a desire for more money to pay for them all.
Moreover, I had no notion whatsoever of the financial commitment involved in being a partner, a parent and a home owner—all of which costs a substantial sum of money, especially as you are increasingly pressured into keeping up with the neighbors.
Despite my dreams, I compromised, and for fifteen years now I have pursued a career in marketing, communications, and event development. I have not been able to apply my creative spirit and skills as freely and as often as I would have liked, but the work occasionally calls upon my creativity, and so it has kept me fairly happy. Moreover, I have had a fair share of success in the field, at least enough that financially I’ve been able to meet the demands of growing up and growing older.
Yet despite this success, I still neglected something that was much more important to me, because for most of my life I have repressed the urge to be a writer and an artist in earnest, and I’ve done what I thought was most practical and expected of me.
Instead of living la vida loca, I’ve traveled steadily along the straight and narrow: being studious and assiduous; finishing high school, college and then graduate school; getting a job; getting married, having kids, buying a home; and then getting a conservative and well-compensated corporate job, so that I could pay for all the things and obligations I had accumulated along the way; all the things that led me to this place, within these three carpeted grey walls, where I have spent 10-12 hours a day for the last seven years.
If you discount the personal and company holidays, that’s approximately 2,300 hours a year that I spend paper pushing; add 2 hours of commuting a day to that, and you’ve got 2,760 hours committed to work alone—every year for the rest of my working life. If I’m lucky enough to retire at 65, with only 26 more years to go, that’s a mere 71,760 hours more of cube time.
Guess it’s no surprise that, for a while now, I’ve felt stuck inside this narrow tunnel of destiny; it was hard for me to envision anything outside my most immediate needs, my father’s words haunting me: make more money.