What A Way To Make A Living: Why a 9-5 Is Your Best Friend

In a fit of writer’s block one afternoon, I IMed a friend of mine who’s living in California, beginning to live out his dream of screenwriter stardom. “I need inspiration” I said; “What’s something you’ve noticed being challenging since you graduated?”

“Hmmm…” he typed. “My thing, and maybe you’ve had a different experience, but I’ve been thinking of how hard it sometimes is to live on a very routine, nine-to-five basis.”

This is a fairly standard feeling amongst people of our generation. The nine-to-five is synonymous with your hair falling out and your gut sticking out over your khakis while you drive your minivan to that team-building meeting. Fuck the nine-to-five! I want a new adventure every day! How could you want the “Work, home, bed. Two weeks vacation, possibility of advancement within several years,” as he so eloquently put it? But I have a secret. All I want in life is a nine-to-five job.

I currently work two jobs. One is an internship at a very successful New York news website. The other is a retail position at a fancy spa-goods shop. Both are pretty enjoyable and stress-free, and I’m lucky for that. It is very nearly a new adventure every day. New assignments, new customers, no two days are the same. However, in order to make ends meet, I have to subject myself to at least one (this week, three) double-job days. This is where I work the mornings at my internship and the nights at the store, stumbling home around 10:30 after 12 hours of work, completely exhausted, and going straight to bed in order to do it the next day.

There’s also the case of my manager at the store. Though he’s great to work with and at this point a dear friend, he is awful at making schedules. My Sundays are usually spent texting him or calling the store, often not finding out my schedule until the evening, and then often having to call around to other employees trying to trade shifts because he got my availability wrong again.

I can’t guarantee weekends off. I can’t guarantee nights off. I can’t make plans more than a week in advance. I’m sick of it.

The reason this is so terrifying is because, like my West Coast friend, I can’t see an end in sight. At dinner with my boss at the website last week, I confessed that I was tired. “Man, I need a job where I don’t work weekends” I sighed. “Me too” he responded. “Wait, what? You’re 34!” I screamed, internally. This means that there is a possibility that at 34 I will still be living this life. Maybe not the two jobs, but a job where I can’t generally guarantee weekends off, and I’ll still be living in my tiny 2 bedroom in Queens eating 3-for-$1 easy mac and I am terrified.

I know this is a betrayal to my generation, or really, a betrayal to countless generations of 20-somethings. I should be bartending! I should be traveling! I should be bouncing between odd jobs and collecting fodder with which to regale my grandchildren! I should be doing more shit like this! I should be longing to live in street-cred qualifying squalor, and there will be time to work when I’m dead. So goes the argument. Except all I do is work, and if I had the 9-5 I would actually have time and money for travel and drinking and fun.

The 9-5 is actually a young graduate’s best friend masquerading as an adult’s burden, lest too many catch on and leave the 50-year-olds to wait tables. We’ve been taught that only through working shitty jobs and late hours can we build character and appreciate our 20s. Our badge of youth is our shared overworked misery, and we let it happen because we’re afraid of being labeled an “adult” as soon as we step into those sensible heels. But we fail to realize that that label can be whatever we want it to be. Because like it or not, we are the adults now, and bartending isn’t going to change that.

Jaya Saxena is 5’4” of multi-ethnic fun. She was raised on the streets of New York and graduated from the School of Hard Knocks. That degree got her into Tulane University, where she graduated Cum Lau ...read more

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