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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

29

The "Do What You Love" Problem

This piece at Jacobin, by Miya Tokumitsu, is a knockout:

There’s little doubt that “do what you love” (DWYL) is now the unofficial work mantra for our time. The problem is that it leads not to salvation, but to the devaluation of actual work, including the very work it pretends to elevate — and more importantly, the dehumanization of the vast majority of laborers.

[...] “Do what you love” disguises the fact that being able to choose a career primarily for personal reward is an unmerited privilege, a sign of that person’s socioeconomic class. Even if a self-employed graphic designer had parents who could pay for art school and cosign a lease for a slick Brooklyn apartment, she can self-righteously bestow DWYL as career advice to those covetous of her success. If we believe that working as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur or a museum publicist or a think-tank acolyte is essential to being true to ourselves — in fact, to loving ourselves — what do we believe about the inner lives and hopes of those who clean hotel rooms and stock shelves at big-box stores? The answer is: nothing.

Yet arduous, low-wage work is what ever more Americans do and will be doing. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the two fastest-growing occupations projected until 2020 are “Personal Care Aide” and “Home Care Aide,” with average salaries of $19,640 per year and $20,560 per year in 2010, respectively.

And from the end: "DWYL is, in fact, the most perfect ideological tool of capitalism. It shunts aside the labor of others and disguises our own labor to ourselves. It hides the fact that if we acknowledged all of our work as work, we could set appropriate limits for it." Yes, yes, yes, yes.

[Jacobin]



29 Comments / Post A Comment

sissyemily

thank you for posting this! i was just listening to npr's ted talks millenial discussion and was so frustrated to hear from one of the speakers that you can dwyl by doing unpaid labor and living in your parents basement (literally, thats what he said!). and he's even writing a book about it. npr can be so off sometimes...they never once asked him, for example, about how his privileged position allowed him to live for free in his parents basement OR even how someone who had to at least work part time could still dw[they]l. i certainly claim a status of privilege being white and middle class, but i cannot simply drop my full time work to do what i love. furthermore, doing what i love requires a masters degree, which is even more complicated and costs more money than it would for my parents to just pay me to leave in their basement. i digress, thank you thank you for providing link to this article as i have been getting increasingly frustrated with my peers and their "just do it" mantras.

Lily Rowan

@sissyemily Yeah, that's ridiculous. Even my middle-class parents do not have a basement I could live in or enough extra money to support me indefinitely, and I grew up with a ton of privilege!

deathcabforcutes

@sissyemily Yeah, that's crazy and selfish. What are your kids supposed to do if you haven't planned for their future because you were taking advantage of your parents?

champignondeluxe

@sissyemily I heard that too! I came down here to mention it and I'm glad to see that someone else found it troublesome!

Leila Stephaine@facebook

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Jaya

Yes! Ok, so I was sort of thinking about this while watching the movie In Time (I KNOW, LEAVE ME ALONE). Basically, it's a future world where time literally is money, and you pay for things with minutes/months of your life, and get paid in that, and the rich are immortal and the poor live hour to hour. Anyway, spoiler alert, at the end there's a very Robin Hood type thing going on and the poor get access to lots of time and all leave their factory jobs and move into the richer areas for a new life/most likely to DWYL. And everyone panics because it means the collapse of the economic system.

And hey maybe when we have a system that requires that at least some class of people to do menial labor that very few would Love for the rest to DWYL it's just...a bad thing.

Also yes, I'm working toward doing what I love, but I can't just drop everything and do it yet. That would mean no health plan for me and my partner and no money for rent.

j-i-a

@Jaya this really makes me want to watch In Time, which I thought looked awesome purely because of Amanda Seyfried's sweet wig

Jaya

@j-i-a I don't know if movie-length Twilight Zone concepts is your jam, but it is definitely mine.

Lily Rowan

@Jaya I also appreciated that someone came up with a concept that meant they really could only cast people from 25-30 years old, and it made sense. Olivia Wilde as Justin Timberlake's mother!

Kalorama_Kat

Do what you love. Life is short. Health insurance is for sheep. Paying off student loans is decidedly inside-the-box behavior. Supporting one's family is old paradigm. Saving for retirement is L7. I do what I love, and I've never twerked a day in my life.

Lily Rowan

@Kalorama_Kat YOLO

leonstj

@Kalorama_Kat AHHH this. When me and my sister finished school, my parents divorced. My mom got a new degree, and is now pursuing DOING WHAT SHE LOVES. She lives paycheck-to-paycheck and is saving nothing towards her retirement and living in an apartment.

And she is always like, DO WHAT YOU LOVE. YOLO. Quit your dumb desk job and PURSUE YOUR DREAMS!

And all I can think of is the fact that, because neither of my parents have homes of their own or any retirement savings whatsoever, one day they are going to be old. One day, one of them will live with me and one of them will live with my sister and the boring desk jobs we have taken with 401ks and generous vacation policies will allow us to take care of their old, drooling YOLO asses.

deathcabforcutes

How about "love what you do"? Serious question.

j-i-a

@deathcabforcutes I really admire people who are able to invest personally in jobs that might for a lot of us be super-tedious (like my buddy Mike the Mailman who I interviewed for the Billfold last year), and I think you can bring love and care and contentment to almost any job, but I think it's hard to avoid the fact that some jobs are easily lovable and some are much harder. Like freezing winter vs. LA sun.

Kalorama_Kat

@deathcabforcutes I agree with j-i-a on the point of investing yourself and trying to do well with jobs that aren't so great, but "love what you do" can be pretty stifling in the same way "love the one you're with" can be read as an invitation to settle for less and not be aspirational. I think DWYL and LWYD are basically two sides of the same smarm coin.

large__marge

@j-i-a OMG JIA you interview with Mike the Mailman. I was a Rural Carrier for a couple of years and I just want to crawl in my computer and roll around in that web page.

distrighema

@deathcabforcutes It can almost be the flipside of DWYL. I work for a union and my favorite thing about MY job is working with people whose jobs aren't very glamorous but who are like "this is my livelihood, I want to have dignity in what I do, and I'm willing to work to make it better." Whereas the DWYL ethos is that if your job isn't all dreamy then there's nothing to do but leave it behind.

large__marge

YESSS. This also works well with the notion of "big-kid jobs" that recent college grads and 20-somethings are obsessed with finding (at least around me). Like, wow, I had no idea that you couldn't be an adult in our society unless you held a salaried, benefited position with a business-casual dress code and a Bachelor's requirement. RAGERAGERAGE

idrathernot

Very impactful. Thanks so much for sharing, Jia. I really appreciate well thought out privilege-checking points like this. Her discussion of DWYL leading to the devaluing/erasing of most labor leaves me a lot to think about!

P.J. Morse

I started out doing what I love (teaching), and I often felt like it was being turned against me. No one came out and said it, but I always felt like I had to prove how much I loved my job by not fighting for my own rights, like benefits. What on earth is that about?

Now, I'm in a job that I don't love quite as much as helping people learn. I'm lucky in that enjoy my job, but if anyone ever hints that I'm not loving it enough and that I have to "prove" something to them, I give them an eyeroll.

Hours, pay and benefits come first. Sounds harsh, but it's true. If you have a good job with reasonable hours, then you have a better chance of doing what you love in your spare time. It's not guaranteed, but at least you have more control.

chickpeas akimbo

I, mainly through a massive quantity of luck and right-place-right-time, ended up in an industry (publishing) that supports the thing I loved (reading.) So let me tell you, one of the dangers of DWYL is that after a couple of years you may not L the thing you used to L quite as much. If you are planning to do what you love, be prepared to lose the thing you love, guys. That being said, I do *like* my job and am compensated fairly for it, which is not insignificant.

Leila Stephaine@facebook

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Leila Stephaine@facebook

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Leila Stephaine@facebook

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Leila Stephaine@facebook

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Leila Stephaine@facebook

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