There’s this term that’s become part of the common vernacular and it is “The Real Job”.
Used in a sentence: “I make copies all day and sit in a cubicle, I guess that I have a Real Job now!”
I’m not entirely sure that I’ve ever had a real job. I’ve spent the past fifteen or so years working hourly positions – even when I was working for The Internet Institution With The Free Books, I was an hourly employee. I considered that to be a “Real Job” mainly because when I told people what I did they would ask questions and tell me that my work must be “fulfilling” and “interesting”. Which it was.
But then I relocated and after a bout of being unemployed (the first time!) I found a job working retail. Friends from “away” and new local friends who did not work in the service industry would say things like ‘This is just for now! With your background, I’m sure that you will find a Real Job soon!’ and that always made me feel sort of terrible because my retail job WAS a Real Job – I had insurance, and PTO, and it was full time – which is kind of unheard of up here. Beyond that, I felt tired when I got home, like psychically tired.
The thing that really got me, and honestly it still rubs me the wrong way, is how classist the term “Real Job” is. There are some pretty sticky implications inherent in that particular terminology. For example “Real Job” implies that there are “Fake Jobs” or lesser jobs. I find it hard to believe that any one of my bar-tending friends would tell you that their job is “Make Believe”.
Now, obviously I am making my own assumptions as to what the term “Real Job” implies, but the basics are pretty clear: Full time. Benefits. A Title, probably with a nameplate on one’s desk and/or office door. A Salary. A 401k (or an understanding of what one is, I had to ask my mom the other day and I was pretty embarrassed). A “Real Job” is not making coffee, selling tchotchkas, painting, writing a blog, or scrubbing a toilet. Or really doing anything that requires serving someone else – like someone with a “Real Job”.
People frequently ask me what kind of work I am looking for, and on occasion someone will say something along the lines of ‘are you looking for work to tide you over until you find a Real Job?’ to which I always reply ‘I am looking for a job. So I can pay my rent. Any work is an improvement.’ Then they laugh and suggest that I apply at Whole Foods. Which I have done. I would be happy to work at Whole Foods. They have decent benefits. I’d be able to support myself again.
Here’s another sticky bit though. I’d be more than happy to accept a job at Whole Foods, but in the interest of being totally honest, that isn’t my Dream Job. My Dream Job is to work in a place where I am never too far away from a vault full of Old Things. I want to help people research their family history. I want to read the old scratchy handwriting of People of Note. It isn’t completely out there, and I’ve set a few balls in motion, so maybe that will be a reality at some point.
In the mean time I am still looking for that elusive “job”. A real one where I trade my services for monetary compensation. I need a job to survive, and so that I can afford to dream, and to make plans.
Real Jobs are expensive…