Friday, 29 November 2013
toil and trouble
Photo by Louis Cesteleyn (this photo has nothing to do with the text, but anyway)
It´s a truth universally acknowledged that as soon as one part of your life starts to go right, something else will come to bite you, to paraphrase Bridget Jones misquoting Jane Austen. I´ve been amazingly happy lately: perfect new place, perfect home life, my sister moved to Barcelona so I even have family nearby… so obviously I was due a backhanded slap from life. This has come, in all its banality, from work.
The last couple of years I´ve been working as an editor/proofreader/translator/general English speaking person at a publishing company. Since my job was basically “anything and everything in English” from translating contracts to writing 20 page introductions to books on bamboo, I´ve had a chance to do a huge number of things and learn so, so much, all while working flexible hours, with the option of working from home (or from Canada). I guess it was never going to last. Anyway, the publishing industry is in crisis, we´ve got a backlog of books, and me and three other people have been given ambiguous “at some point” marching orders. I´m still employed, but probably not for long.
Luckily, since everything else in my life is going so well, I´m taking it with as much equanimity as can be expected from someone living in a country with 27% unemployment.
But I´m mad as hell, and not with my boss or my company, but with the world of work as I´ve known it.
It took me 8 months of searching, interviews cancelled due to financial crisis reasons, and discarding jobs that required me to work 12 hour days while speaking 5 languages for minimum wage, and being as poor as a church mouse to get this job. I was just in a position where I could start saving.
When I read the newspaper, I hear that my generation suffers from feelings of entitlement, and from “special snowflake syndrome” and that we refuse to work our way up because we feel everything should be handed to us on a plate. My actual experience of working has been that I am chronically either a)underpaid, b)undervalued or c)not accepted for jobs for which I am overqualified on account of not having done the exact same job for 5 years previously. Or d)some combination of the above. In jobs that I have had, I have frequently been paid late, subjected to contracts that leave me unemployed for large swathes of the year, not given contracts at all, and been forced to be freelance when it was blatantly obvious that I was going to the same company to work every day. It´s well established that my generation will not live as well as our parents, and while I don´t think that´s entirely a bad thing (the world could not sustain all of us living like they do), I resent that the alternative should be that I have to live as my grandparent´s grew up, and they grew up in the Great Depression. They also fought years and years to get us some of the advantages (universal healthcare, sick leave, gender equality as such in the workplace) and I see all of these being eroded away before my eyes. Don´t believe me? Example: due to my ridiculous pseudo-freelance status, I won´t qualify for unemployment benefits, and last year the Spanish government tried to pass a law that would have kicked me off the country´s health care system. There was a public outcry and that was shelved, for the moment. Similar things are going on in my home country, and throughout the Western world.
Anyway, if this comes off as whiny… well it´s not whiny to complain about things that genuinely screw you over. I don´t think I suffer from special snowflake system particularly, or if I do, I save it for my hobbies. I know I´m luckier than most. But I know that the things that have plagued my working life in Spain are also present, though less obvious, in Canada and anywhere else I might go. The contract work, the instability, the juggling two or three jobs, the people with masters and doctorate degrees who can´t get jobs because they´re overqualified, the workdays that extend into your personal life.
I´m sure I´ll work something out, but in the meantime, I´m mad, bad, dangerous to know, and definitely my political scientist father´s daughter.