You Didn’t Fail Because You Don’t Have a Big Life
A few weeks ago, an acquaintance from my book publishing days posted a plea on LinkedIn. She’s been looking for work, tirelessly. She sent hundreds of resumes, penned as many cover letters. Worked her network, took more classes — she did all the things, and yet, she can’t make her mortgage payment. Her words cleaved to me because she seemed confounded by what she considered her failure. We are of the same generation and we were reared to believe if we got the fancy education, worked hard enough, handed over a pound of flesh and several pints of blood to employers who can fire as at will, we will prosper.
Though we weren’t taught the systematic (and systemic) inequities that make this fiction fantastic. We weren’t taught that the world is set up to revere billionaires (who, by default, profit from misfortune) and flees from people who aren’t able-bodied, healthy, thin, white, and well-educated. We were handed the biggest lie of all and it’s taken many of us decades to figure that out.
Many of my friends are in their 40s and 50s, and it feels as if they’ve awoken from a great, deep sleep. They take stock and measure of their lives and say, this is it? I work 60–70 hours a week to work through my vacation to spend time away from the people I love to buy things I need and more I don’t need? This is it?
And while Gen-Z claims to have discovered this concept as if it were new, they at least have the luxury of time. Many of us have fewer years ahead than what we’ve left behind and while there are oceans of regret, we still wade in dark waters to the possibilities, which feel fewer and farther in between.
Especially if you’re not pretty, thin, young, monied and white.
I felt for my friend deeply when she published that post because only a few months earlier I felt like an epic failure. What had I done wrong? Which turn did I take that seemed irreversible? I have the degrees and experience, but I also have the realization that I don’t want to work myself to death for a title. Equity in exchange for work is not appealing to me. Living to bolster someone else’s dream isn’t living. Although I’ve been masking for much of my adult life, I don’t like working in an office. It’s too…