You know that idea that people get paid more for some jobs because they work harder? I have realized yet another reason that's a really destructive and harmful myth -- because I was thinking about my emotional relationship to work and promotion when I was younger, and less reasonably employed, relative to my relationship with it now.
My first jobs were really hard. Like, really hard. They pushed me to the very edges of my ability to cope emotionally, and I honestly believe that unless I make some big mistakes or find myself in extraordinary circumstances, they'll continue to be the hardest jobs I've ever had.
There were things to enjoy, sure. But for the most part, those jobs were a nightmare -- especially from the reference point of my work now. And there are worse jobs out there, that are more poorly paid.
So I should have been super motivated to get out, right?
The thing is, I believed at the time that people were paid in approximate proportion to how hard they worked. So if I was on the edge at minimum wage, I'd probably crash and burn if I ever got a promotion. I couldn't even imagine coping with the weight of taking up a profession. I carried through on a fantasy of more money for less labor, and I really believed that was fake.
When you take the people who work the hardest, give them the smallest amount of money, and tell them that people are paid in relation to how hard they work, they're never going to make any large-scale effort to get out. Individuals will try, and they'll spread themselves thin across three jobs because you have to work harder to do better, right? And they'll undermine their efforts by physically and mentally breaking themselves to prove they deserve more than $8/hr.
But in general, the people who want to occasionally sit down and relax? The people who want to spend time with their kids, or get more-or-less regular sleep, or even just be able to keep up with Game of Thrones? They're not going to look at that system, from within that myth, and try to move up the ladder. If you barely scrape by time to yourself now, and moving up means working harder, of course you're going to find a way to make $8/hr work because what's the good of more money if you have to strip your mind and body to ribbons to get it?
It's been a horrifying realization to discover that better-paying work is consistently easier than minimum wage work. It honestly disgusts me. When I think about it, I feel hurt. I feel lied to and betrayed. I don't feel fortunate to have made this discovery, to have gotten just a tiny bit out -- I feel outraged that anyone could continue to proliferate this vile, grotesque myth of a relationship between difficulty of work and amount of pay.