The Unemployables

Original image was taken from @kimkardashian

Original image was taken from @kimkardashian

A couple of weekends ago, I volunteered at an event featuring a series of play readings. I'd participated in the planning of the event and, when two event volunteers dropped out at the last minute, it was all hands on deck. The event was held at a hip yoga-café on South Fairfax and ran from 11:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m on both Saturday and Sunday. I reported to the call of duty like the Energizer Bunny: greeting and checking-in attendees, setting up the catering, and helping the crew with setting up and breaking down each day. When there was a lull in the front of the house, I had a chance to sit in on some of the readings, which I found to be a suitable and enjoyable reward.

On one the afternoons, while preparing the guest list for a reading, I looked over at the bookshelf beside me and pulled a random paperback book off the shelf. Coincidentally, it was a play–Equus by Peter Shaffer. I'd recalled seeing Equus on Broadway in 2008 when the lead was performed by actor Daniel Radcliffe, and remembered the play being a very strange and bizarre story of a clinical psychologist and a teenaged boy charged with blinding six horses. Who would write such a thing, I wondered, realizing that I knew nothing of the playwright. When I opened the cover to skim his bio, one line in particular caught my attention: "... Convinced of his own unemployability, he returned to England and began writing his first play, FIVE FINGER EXERCISE, which opened in London and New York to critical acclaim."

"Convinced of his own unemployability"? Boy, can I relate...

To clarify, my claims of being "unemployable" have nothing to do with my work ethics or competency, I simply don't think I'm meant to work in a traditional 9-to-5 sense. I have no interest in working in an office, even if they offer ping pong tables and meditation rooms. If anything, I'm repelled by the idea and can tell you that this is a sentiment rings true from my very bones.

After I graduated from Parsons, I was offered a job as an account executive in the corporate offices of Chanel and thought that I had had it made. I went to a top fashion school and landed the ultimate fashion job. I was seemingly "set for life". Because it was so cushy, nobody in their right mind ever left Chanel. Employee perks included a 70% discount at the boutique, a great health insurance plan, and a 401k where the company matched your contributions. We were even allowed to expense our weekly manicures! It was no surprise that there were still women working there who'd been there since the New York office first opened in the late 1970's. They were real dinosaurs. I, on the other hand, lasted just under a year before resigning.

It was my first taste of corporate life and I quickly learned that I didn't fit into hierarchical settings or possess the sneakiness required to maneuver through office politics. But what I found most stifling were the unspoken rules: Although the workday began at 9:00 a.m., you'd get quiet stares if you breezed in the door a minute after 8:30 a.m. And if you didn't order a salad to eat at your desk during lunch hour–and decided to go out instead–you were often made to feel as though you were avoiding work. 

On top of that, it was hard for me to take my job seriously due to the absurdity of it all. For example, the entire office launched into crisis mode when Vogue requested a shoe sample for a cover photo shoot and the left shoe was discovered missing from the showroom. Where is the left shoe?! Where is it? Where is it??? Imagine the mayhem that ensued! Turns out, it was being photographed at a conflicting advertising shoot for Neiman Marcus in Dallas, Texas. Everyone was scrambling around on their phones and emails, trying to finagle deadline extensions and coordinating courier pick-ups and deliveries, practically sending the damn shoe on a private jet to the Sahara desert for the Vogue shoot.

It's fashion. Call me disillusioned, but we were hawking luxury goods, not saving lives. However, the fact remains: It's this kind of misplaced intensity that makes the world go 'round. 

Not having a "career" has been a looming insecurity of mine for many years. Most of my girlfriends have built legitimate careers in their fields. Every now and again, I'll even click around on LinkedIn and come across the profiles of my former colleagues at Chanel and, yes, they're still there–except now they're at the executive level. Meanwhile, I feel like I'm dilly-dallying along and stopping, here and there, to while away a little more if something catches my attention long enough.

What am I saying, I admire their commitment to stability, I really do. There must be an incredible sense of satisfaction and security that comes from a steady and progressive growth. It's something that I'm intrigued by yet unfamiliar with. After all, my own resume resembles something more like a patchwork quilt. I've worked for a luxury brand, private art dealer, private equity firm, contemporary artist, non-profit organization, fashion photographer and private foundation. I've filled in at my friends' boutiques, hostessed at restaurants, played babysitter, and even had a short-lived stint as a freelance makeup artist. This was all by choice, though. I've always had a knack for digging out the most unconventional jobs possible. None of them ever felt like "a real job".

For the longest time, I felt ashamed that I had no aspirations to move up the so-called ladder of success. Isn't the goal of being a modern woman centered on the concept of leaning forward, being a #girlboss, and having it all? It has certainly been shoved down our throats! But, you know what, it's just not for me. I'm unambitious in that way and used to be ashamed to admit it. 

Maybe I just like trying on different hats..

Maybe I'm super adaptable...

Maybe I'm a quick learner...

Maybe I bring with me a set of unique experiences and skills...

Maybe I like doing things at my own pace...

Maybe I don't belong in a group...

Maybe I don't care about becoming a CEO one day...

Maybe I operate more like Wonder Woman, where I go in, do what I need to do, and then I'm off to the next mission...

Maybe...

"What can you see me doing, job-wise?" I asked my best friend over the phone. I was lying on top of the bed, munching on popcorn and swinging my legs around. 

"I don't know..." she said, distracted by my munching, "What are you eating?" 

"Popcorn," I replied, "It's miniature popcorn, actually. It's really cute. I'm eating it from a porcelain bowl."

"I... Can't really see you working."

"My huckleberry friend once told me that he doesn't think I'm meant to work a job because he says it always makes me miserable," I said, taking a pause to contemplate this, "Do you think he's right? It's not because I lack the ability to do a job, is it?"

"No, you're not lazy. You're a hard worker. But I think he's right," she told me. "I don't know, I can't really see you working. I mean, I think it's kind of amazing that you've made it this far in life without a career."

"Really? I've always been embarrassed by that."

"You should just own it. I mean, you're rolling around on a bed right now eating miniature popcorn!" she pointed out, laughing.

"If only I could find a benefactor who'd want to subsidize my life just so that I could keep writing sporadic posts on my blog," I sighed.

I was just joking, of course. I'm still figuring out what my groove is. But, since we're on the subject... Any takers?