Contortion for Cash

Last week I answered a call that I never wanted to answer again. The name on this metaphoric caller ID? Capitalism.

To be frank, the last six months have taken something out of me. I got a pretty hefty paycheck in the middle of January, thanks to my working ridiculous hours during the holidays, and things were looking good. Then I contracted COVID-19, and I sat in my room for two weeks, and I made no money. My chunk of change was shrinking, but I went back to work in the beginning of February. Sadly, I let things go from there. Despite avoiding food delivery the first two years of the pandemic, I obsessed over DoorDash after I suffered COVID; maybe I just didn’t want to get the virus again, or maybe I didn’t want to expend any more effort than I needed to in order to get food.

So instead of expending effort, I expended money. A lot of it.

I’ve written about my struggles with DoorDash, and I think it’s no lie to say that I was legitimately addicted to the service for a few months. My money was running out faster and faster, when BAM – my tax return came through right before March. I’d also contracted myself out as a dog-watcher for the parents of a friend, and they paid quite well. With the tax return and the dog-watching money combined, I had a big-ass chunk of change just sitting in my bank account. At least, I would have had a big-ass chunk of change, only …

I bought a used car right before the dog-watching gig.

And I kept ordering Doordash.

And I really like this very particular gacha game.

So my bank account experienced all manner of ups and downs throughout the spring. I always managed to keep myself afloat, but the summer has pushed me closer to the red than I like to be. Within the past three months, I’ve traveled to two weddings, and while that may not sound expensive to some people, for a part-time worker like myself, two distant weddings can add up. I pride myself on my ability to withstand a certain amount of financial whiplash, but the last wedding almost pushed me down to overdraft territory.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m hung up on the weddings for some reason, but my troubles go beyond two fun-yet-pricy adventures. I’m making car payments, and paying a little more for car insurance than I used to, and I had to register the damn car, and I hate – hate hate hate – working more than twenty hours a week. Call me what you will, but I’m firmly of the belief that human beings can’t stay productive beyond the four or five-hour mark; if a person works longer than that, their brain gets mushy and they can’t focus very well. Researchers keep concluding, despite the late-stage capitalist machine, that we’re not made to push ourselves to some ridiculous “full-time” work schedule. I’ve adopted some radical beliefs: I believe everyone should work no more than twenty hours a week, and I think the “work week” should only be four days long. That’s four days of work, five hours a day, for twenty hours total.

I realize all sorts of problems crop up at this point, mostly because, within the current culture and system we’ve created/allowed to continue, no one makes enough money to survive on just twenty hours a week. Well, some people do, but they’re the exceptions to shitty capitalist rules.

I know I sound like a conspiracy theorist, but these shitty conditions are exactly where the powers-that-be want us workers to be. Struggling, barely able to survive, holding onto whatever job(s) add up to forty or more working hours a week, and feeling too tired and messed up to go out and enjoy what little free time we have. This reasoning is why I try my damnedest to avoid working more than twenty hours a week – but oh, my bank account!

As I said in the beginning of this ramble, I answered the frightening call of capitalism. I was talking with my supervisor last week, before she left on vacation, and she mentioned the work that would carry our team to the end of the year. She said she’d need someone building some new stuff, forty hours a week. I said “Hey, you know that’s kinda my area, I could build our new stuff full-time.”

She looked at me funny, because she knows how I feel about coercive capitalist tactics. She knows I don’t actually want to work forty hours a week. And I was screaming at myself internally, because I’m pretty sure I don’t want to work forty hours a week …

But I said I would. So I started practicing: eight hours a day, for a few days. Just to remember what it’s like. By the time my weekend was over, I was still tired and fucked up. My time to rest felt so short. I went in on Monday, managed to stay relatively busy for eight hours, then returned home to crash. I slept in on Tuesday (yesterday), and, feeling a little ill, I texted my co-worker to let her know I wouldn’t make it in. I took it easy yesterday, but I still managed to stay up really late, and I slept in again today (Wednesday). Despite feeling mostly recovered, I decided to stay home again. The bulk of the stuff I need to finish by the end of the week won’t actually happen until Thursday and Friday anyway, so I can get away with my loose approach here.

And that’s my beautiful struggle: I’m a big fan of making things up as I go along, working only when I feel like it, and taking a lot of time to rest and recharge. I’m privileged that I can usually afford to do so, and this new push to work “full-time” is some half-assed attempt to fit myself into the mold that capitalism forces on us.

I hate the capitalist mold. But I did the math, and if I can manage to increase my hours from twenty to thirty-two a week, I’ll have so much extra money.

And despite the coercion inherent in capitalism, I gotta survive and enjoy myself in the shitty process. So for now, I’ll take the damn money. I’ll seethe at the system all the while, and think of ways around it, but I’ll work for that money too.

Fuck. Who have I become?


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