You Are Lisa Simpson
If you were to ask me “Emma, do you consider yourself a workaholic” - I would probably say no, since I’m very, very much against the concept of “working” from an idealistic point of view. I preach resting and rebelling against our capitalists society that wants the hustle to kill you slowly by overworking and making you feel like no matter what you do, you’re just never gonna to be good enough. Strive for the impossible, and feel shit while doing it. Basically.
However. All I want to do right now is work. So. Figure that one out (please).
I’m extremely bad at being unemployed, being in this in-between period. I don’t get a rush of energy to search all the jobs and call all the people. At first, I want to do absolutely nothing except to lay on the couch eating baked goods and watch Netflix. After a while of doing nothing however, I panic about doing nothing. After a while, I want to go back to the exact thing I wanted to escape from just a mere couple of weeks ago. I am me, and work is my boyfriend that everyone tells me to dump because he’s making me severely depressed, he doesn’t cater for any of my needs but he pays the bills. So I stay. Because I’m scared of unpaid bills. And I guess I’m scared of who I am without him as well. Without work, I mean.
Outside validation is extremely important to me. An old teacher of mine said out of all The Simpsons characters I was most like Lisa. Lisa knows she’s smarter than everyone else, but her knowing it herself is not enough. She needs teachers to tell her that she’s smarter than everyone else. It wasn’t exactly my nicest compliment / the one I’m most proud of, but it was probably truer than any of the compliments I’ve ever received, so. It’s something anyway.
Work provides outside validation. It provides me with a problem to solve - becoming liked, becoming an expert at something, becoming better than other people at something. And I love solving problems! But only if other people created the problem. Only if I’m there to impress others, not if I’m there to only impress myself. That’s why I stay at jobs that do me no good, because I’m absolutely addicted to the validation and security they provide.
But Emma, why don’t you just get a job you like, I hear you ask. And it’s a fair question. That has been asked many times before, often by my actual boyfriend. And by myself every single work day. “It’s not that easy!” And it isn’t. No matter how many white, middle class influencers online tell you otherwise. In order to go for what you want, you have to figure out what it is you want. Then what follows are a lot of even more complicated steps - but just that one step of actually KNOWING what it is you want, can crush you. Because how can we decide on just this one thing?
For me, it’s always been easier to become good at something I’m not particularly interested in. Because if I am interested in it, and I try it and I find out that I’m not good at it, that would be the end of it. So I prefer to play other peoples’ games instead of my own. Because I’m confident that I could do what they’re doing, but better. I am, however, not confident that I would be even okay:ish at my own game. And that is scary.
This all sound like a lame excuse as to why I’m not pursuing something. But again, I’m not even sure what it is that I want to pursue. I’m so jealous of people with clear goals. “I want to be a lawyer”, “I want to work with coding”, “I want to design buildings” - whatever it is, I’m so, so happy for you that you know and that there is a somewhat clear path for you to take!
I thought I wanted to do feature film work, hence why I studied film for over 10 years and now have a Masters degree in it. But now I’m not so sure. So what do you do when you’ve had a somewhat clear path, but then abandoned it? Not only do you have to come up with something else, you have to deal with the pressure from yourself plus everyone else thinking (probably) that you’ve wasted 10 years and will probably waste another 10 years on the “next big thing”, only to realize down the line that your second choice really didn’t interest you either.
And while you’re figuring out what would make you happy, career-wise, you have to provide for yourself. You have to pay bills. Most of us can’t take a year off to “figure things out”. And even people that do have that opportunity, spend most of the time off anxiously thinking “I should be doing something else”, so all that off-time never comes into good use anyway.
So I’m sitting here, on my couch, knowing how to move forward but not in what direction. I want to work. I want to give something my all. I want (need) money, not a lot but I need to get by. I have energy to work. I have ambition. I have a big box of great stuff, I just don’t know who to give it to! Sometimes I think I know, and I take baby step towards that place, only to retreat and change my mind. Because it’s scary. It’s way easier going back to what you hated, what was familiar. And I’m a big baby in the shape of Lisa Simpson whose main wish is just to go back to doing homework in the system that raised her not to be a free-thinker but be a cute lil’ successful conformist (no matter how 'liberal’ she wanted to come off as).