I have, in fact, started work. This blogpost is to provide a chronology.
I start work in five days. The fear of the unknown is fairly common, but this time I’m afraid of what I do know: wage labour. I’m worried that my energy and time will be completely sapped, as I get up at 6:30 to get to work by 9am, and go to bed by 10:30pm so I’m not completely dead the next morning. Enter the routine of daily dishes and cleaning and preparing lunches. I’ll have a few hours each evening to do what I want. Will I have the discipline to write and study like I need to, despite the fatigue? Can I take a few more of my precious free hours to exercise regularly and maintain my physical and mental health?
I’m in a bar with a motorcycle video, Two Wheel Terrors, playing over some insipid skatepunk. Dudes are standing on their bikes, doing wheelies, sending up plumes of dust while the songs urge us to ‘live fast, die hard’. It’s so empty. Their rebellion changes nothing. They’re just aging little boys living in an expensive fantasy world, where individuals can escape the fate of the labour market. Nobody does, unless they’ve managed to accumulate the dead labour of others, in the form of capital. A precious few have jobs that stimulate their creativity in some way, but most jobs aren’t like that. Mine won’t be.
This isn’t a coincidence. The capitalist labour process demands discipline, time management and deskilling, on the capitalist’s terms. There’s no joy in bending your innate talents to someone else’s needs. Even those jobs with a measure of independence – the so-called creative professions – are in hock to the institutions and clients that sponsor them.
But that’s not to erase the differences between sectors of the workforce. I wanted to be an academic to escape the drudgery of admin work, and I did, for eight years. It came time to find a job as a teacher, writer or researcher, and there weren’t any jobs. So, back to a job that even my new supervisor warned me is repetitive and boring. Why? Because I thought moving overseas was a good way to become an a academic. It wasn’t.
I know this and I’m walking into it with open eyes. No naive illusions about loving my work and creating meaning in my life with it. I’m ‘lucky’ because it’s 9 to 5, unlike most jobs in Korea which are 9 to 6, or more properly, 9 to ‘whenever you finish late night drinks with your coworkers during mandatory after-work socializing’. The wages are in the middle of the low-wage ESL profession, and I’m working for an institution that won’t stiff me on pay, unlike the petty bourgeois who run private schools. After 10 months of looking for work, that’s the best I can expect.
My friends tell me that it’s temporary, I can use it to look for other things. I hope so. When I agreed to take the job, I thought I’d feel guilty about fucking off somewhere else and breaking my contract. But if I find a way out, I’ll take it no matter what. Capitalism is forcing me to sacrifice a piece of my dwindling time on this earth to useless, low-paid work (and it truly is useless. No social good whatsoever is being accomplished.) My bosses can yell all they want. Work is a prison that I’m sentenced to for the crime of being working class. When I find a nicer prison to go to, I’ll go there quickly.