Sunday, January 27, 2008

Just Like Starting Over

I think one of the most fundamentally appealing aspects of games is the fact that if you royally fuck things up, you can always give it another shot. You can hit the reset button, or load a saved game, or make your way back to your corpse. You may need to play through a little or a lot to get back to the point of your colossal screw-up, but you can do it. In this sense, games improve upon real life.

My most recent job was a seasonal tech support gig that I was led to believe might very well have turned into a permanent position. It didn't, despite an outstanding performance by yours truly, and so I find myself, at 31, once again needing to do the whole job hunt thing. In a sense it's a new beginning, a fresh press of the start button, but I'm stuck with my current hand of cards, my age and experience, my successes and failures. In a game, if you're good enough, you can always rewrite the whole story. Not so here.

Now of course it's entirely possible that the fact that I didn't get a permanent position at this last place will end up being a blessing. Doing tech support doesn't exactly set my heart on fire, and my next job may well be better. But any way you slice it, searching for a job is kind of a drag. And it seems like every time I find myself in this position, I start noticing these articles all over places like Yahoo! about the importance of finding a job that really makes you happy. And hey, that's all well and good, and I would love to do just that, but really, what is that, exactly? Writing about games? Sure, but that's a tough field to get into, and while I think I'm decent at it on occasion, I'll be frank and say that reading the writers I have admired for so long has made me feel a bit like a Salieri aspiring to join a field of Mozarts. Which isn't to say that I won't keep trying. Who knows, maybe even at my age, if I try hard, maybe someday I'll be good enough.

Or maybe I'll just stumble into something that I never even gave any thought to before, but that winds up being a perfect fit. Or maybe, like the majority of people out there, I'll find another job that is simply that, a job, tolerable for the most part, occasionally frustrating, occasionally enjoyable.

I saw Michael Clayton yesterday. I recommend it. It's a lot like Jerry Maguire, except where that's a heartwarming romantic comedy, this is a slick, engaging thriller with deep-seated ethical concerns. (Go, George Clooney, Go!) There's a point in the film at which Tilda Swinton's character is asked about work-life balance. This, by the way, is a character who has no work-life balance whatsoever. Her life is work. And so she sort of laughs politely and says something like, "When you love what you do, there's your balance!" But the thing is, she's miserable! She hates what she does. She may not even realize it, but she does. Everybody in this movie makes tons of money and every one of them hates their jobs. And despite the fact that they make tons of money, they still worry about money constantly. So I'm pretty sure if I made more money, I'd still worry about money sometimes too, only in larger sums.

Really, I'm not sure what the point of all this is, except to say that I'm daunted by the prospect of finding a job again, and that I don't care that much about making lots of money. I'd rather make less money and enjoy my work more than make more money and hate my job. (Though I'm not about to take a job for nine bucks an hour or anything.) And while I'd like to have a better "life-work balance" than Tilda Swinton's character in Michael Clayton, I'd also rather have a job that I'm driven to work hard at because I love it and believe in it than a job that I'm just thankful to be done with after eight hours every day.

Well, at least by now I've had a bit of practice at this game. Here's hoping I do all right on this press of the start button.


Aaron said...

I think the idea that the number one goal in life is to love your job is overstated. It might be true if all one did was work. Rather I think it is important to at least reasonably enjoy your job and have time to do something in your life that you love. If the two are the same thing, all the better.

Anonymous said...

I am dealing with a similar frustration. I recently decided I need a break from college because I am not convinced that a degree will land me a dream job. While I was blogging at Gamespot I received invitations to write for a game development company in Seattle and for several online websites - positions that while possible for the Journalism Major may not necessarily be "accessible". There is something to be said for demonstrating skill in a community you long to belong to by blogging in it constantly. :o) I guess one could argue that a degree will allow me to earn more money. But, I'd have to pay off a zillion dollars of school loans to work a job I'm clearly all ready eligible for. I'll have to prove my abilities with or without a degree and there's something to be sad for earning money now instead of later. Just this week I have submitted three resumes for news clerk positions at local newspapers. It would be nice to make a lot of money, don't get me wrong. But, I'd much rather work at something I love. Its a romantic notion... something that seems to happen to only a handful of people. Its like Susan Orlean says in Adaptation, "There are too many ideas and things and people. Too many directions to go. I was starting to believe the reason it matters to care passionately about something, is that it whittles the world down to a more manageable size." Perhaps that's why we long to care about our jobs?