I have had a lot of jobs in my life, but nothing I would have made a career out of. Often I find I am making some sort of moral compromise in order to earn a paycheck. For a while I worked at an international port running heavy equipment. I spent several years working as an auto tech and most recently I worked in hospitality. Each of these jobs left me with some moral uncertainty as to how I was contributing my effort to the world.
It is impossible for me to just work. I inevitability end up considering the system I am apart of and how I fit into it. Working at the port left me wondering about the effects of globalization and the effects of out sourcing on domestic manufacturing labor markets. I also thought about the effects of mass consumption and the environmental effects of centralized distributional networks. The working conditions overseas was impossible for me to ignore when I saw foot prints on cardboard put down on the floor of containers to protect merchandise that obviously came from barefoot children.
My time spent as an auto mechanic left me wondering about perpetuating a system of petroleum consumption. By suggesting to people that they need to get oil changes every three thousand miles instead of actually researching the maximum life span of oil and tailoring recommendations accordingly, I was directly contributing to environmental degradation. Worse yet, every un-fixed oil leak that left my shop because the customer was more interested in making sure the stereo worked than minimizing their environmental impact was like a stain on my soul.
Through all of this people told me I just think too much. No where was this more bluntly put to me than when I work in bars. We sold people alcohol, we encouraged drinking, we were witness to people choosing to compromise their moral structure and their standards night after night. I served people intoxicants purchased by other people with a single interest in mind. I watched as people "loosened up" and were sometimes swept away in momentary hedonism but rarely had to witness the morning after when they paid for it. I don't actually know for sure, but I was probably party to: rape, addiction, depression, and the erosion of people's lives.
I sit here in my mid-life. A turning point. I realize that all I really have in this world is the time I am alive in it, and my perspective while I experience that time. Having a job is exchanging one of the most precious commodities I have, my time, for money. I do not imagine at the end of my life I will wish I had more money, but I might wish for more time. It is much more important to me that what I spend my time doing is working for good. So as I experience the last days of the year, I want to devote my next year to finding a position in the world where I can exchange my time for income, but I am going to do everything I can to ensure that position does not make me feel like I am compromising.
This career must not perpetuate a cycle of disenfranchisement. It must not contribute to the environmental damage that is apart of so many systems. It must not have a negative effect on communities or on people's lives. I want my time and my efforts to have a net positive influence on the world. I have no idea as of today where my vocational track is going to take, but I am going to spend the next year turning over every rock and rooting through every aspect of our society until I find something that fits. Let this be the year I turn my back on compromise. Wish me luck.