Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Entering the ho hum work world after college.

Recent Ticktok video in the news. College graduate says hardly any time to live one's life. Long commute as living closer to the job is too expensive. 40 hour per week office job takes up too much time. Readers tend to be sympathetic and ideas about a shorter workweek circulate.

My personal story was different. Part time work. I graduated into a depressed economy; late 70s early 1980s. Rents in Bellingham were quite low, back then, but Jobs were hard to find. I was able to live within easy bicycling, or walking distance from what work I had.

Door to my spacious basement apartment in a 9 unit building with a funky backyard. $155 per month before gentrification in Bellingham.

I looked for full time work, including custodial work for the state at Western Washington University, but the competition for those jobs was fierce. All I could find was part time gardening and a part time custodial shift at a place called Pizza Haven.

I did have plenty of free time, however. Got into writing, postal art, and letters to editors as well as politicians. I had time for many community things and bicycling. I was able to survive, but on a real shoestring budget.

My upstairs neighbor said I had found the healthy balance of working part time. I had stumbled upon it. She suggested I embrace it.

My neighbor had worked in offices for many years and was burned out. She also resented the vast population of freeloaders who seemed to live off inheritances or finding their way onto disability; even back then.

She saw the contrast between overwork and not working at all; herself struggling with burnout, health problems and teatoring toward going on welfare. Her brother was a hard worker / redneck leaning into right wing politics while some of her other aquoitences were hippy artists who found ways to not work 9-5. She often thought they were spoiled.

She talked about a concept called "job sharing" where people work less hours and share the existing jobs more equitably.

When hearing about job sharing, I got to thinking that job sharing would be a good strategy if the economy has to slow down due to environmental restraints. Back then, there was and still is the "jobs versus environment" issue. For instance; the logging industry, around Bellingham, was all but being shut down due to the controversy over preserving habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl.

Logger art on Olympic Penisula hints at hunting spotted owl for food to rid the problem that its preservation rules were creating. Many T-shirts in logging country sported logos; "spotted owl tastes like chicken."

Today they talk about "work life balance," but the high cost of today's housing makes that less doable.

I worked part time for many years and eventually found a more full time custodial position that was still fairly laid back. I often didn't put in 8 hours per day, but maybe averaged 7 hours. The job had generous vacation and the ability to take leave of absence for my bicycle travel.

I worried about not having health insurance, but survived with good health. Today, many folks can now benefit from Obamacare reforms; at least in most states; except Texas and a few holdouts against the Medicaid expansion.

I was fortunate to always live quite close to my job. Not owning a car and living in small spaces helped, but that was an era when rents were lower, relative to the rest of the economy. I was living at below market rent, even for those days.

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