I Used To Worry About The Future

I got a part-time non-academic job. Again. Readers of this blog will know that I have made several attempts to escape the adjunct grind. For a while, I temped for a Fancy Wall Street firm where I accidentally ate someone else’s salad.

Once, I worked at a non-profit foundation for a few days. I was doing the job that a trained monkey could do. (At least they had one of those fancy European espresso machines!) Aside from being dead bored all day, I had to endure the fact that my boss was about twelve years old. If you want to feel ancient, try doing the bidding of children. It’s quite illuminating.

A couple of summers ago, I spent a few weeks on the top floor of a Manhattan high rise working for a hedge fund. I joined an army of women answering the phones and making copies for Very Important Men who were busily – if the financial statements that I saw on their desks were any indication – privatizing higher education. That was some grim shit, which is why I went back to adjuncting. I guess.

But now I am out in the real world again. So what am I doing? I got hired to do administrative work for a start-up! There are lots of tech start-ups in NYC. More, even, than in San Francisco! It’s like 2001 all over again.

What could possibly go wrong?

Most of these companies are destined to fail, of course. But in the meantime, the young people and their fancy ideas for “apps” and whatnot want to look cool and hang out in sleek offices. A whole architecture is developing around pop-up companies that want to rent temporary space on a month-to-month basis.

Twice a week, I’ve been going to one of these places to work. It’s mostly 20-somethings walking around in Casual Friday clothes (all week!) working on Macbook Airs with headphones in their ears. What kind of things are they making? What services are they providing their mysterious clients? Who knows? It’s not important. The only thing that matters is that they are only renting space by the month, so don’t bother to get to know your neighbor. If the companies don’t make money, the workers can bounce back to the Brooklyn coffee shops where they used to type, and no one will even notice they left.

The “new” economy is like that. You don’t get anything as luxurious as a permanent desk or a space to work in that isn’t your living room couch. And you have to bring your own computer and smart phone. Many formerly “white collar” employees now are essentially independent contractors. If you have portable skills and all your own machines, you just may be worthy of a (part-time) job.

When describing the position to me at the interview, one company partner told me their goal was to jettison old models. “Many established companies are so inefficient. They have way too much overhead,” he explained, by which he meant the laughably outdated practice of investing in permanent office space and, you know, hiring people.

The pop-up office may sound cool and casual (ours has pool tables and a bowling alley for stimulating creativity!), but it’s actually a highly policed environment. Employee comings and goings are monitored. If your start-up is paying for 5 employees to use the office, for example, you can’t have a 6th person showing up all the time. Each worker needs to show his or her ID everyday (or use a special card connected to their name) to get in the door. It’s kind of creepy. But they try to distract you from the creep factor by giving you free beer at the cafeteria. No, I am not joking.

And all the offices have glass walls so you can see what everyone else is doing, but of course everyone is doing the same thing: staring at computer screens. One guy on the floor below us is clearly a day trader. His office is about the size of a closet. And he stares at two giant monitors where he watches stocks go up and down all day. All around his screens are taped yellow sticky notes with vaguely inspirational messages. “Look for deals!” “Don’t be afraid to take risks!”

How odd to think of the day trader working in a temporary office advising himself to take risks! His existence there is already a product of the immeasurable uncertainty that most of us – not just post-academics – face everyday. Day traders try to make money by taking advantage of small shifts in the market (whatever that is). There’s no long-term plan because there can’t be.

That may sound depressing, and it is. But I think it’s one realization that helped me get out of adjuncting. I used to worry about the future. I wanted a career, to know where my next paycheck was coming from, to be a professional. But now I know that is not really a reasonable expectation. Risk is an unavoidable characteristic of impermanence. And, these days, the only thing you can count on is impermanence.
















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79 Responses to I Used To Worry About The Future

  1. chenipages says:

    I used to worry about the future too. But now I figured out there is no reason to worry as long as I am pleased with my choices and enjoy what I’m doing and where Iive. Life is only what we make it. And we can make it good!

  2. Great article. I really enjoyed it!

  3. If they are all following their bliss I see no problem with this. What concerns me is the bleakness of it which indicates that the writer is not finding their bliss in the work but perhaps only in the writing.

  4. segmation says:

    Sometimes temporary works or volunteer works lead to great futures. I hope this will happen to you. Especially now that everyone is reading this delightful blog! http://www.segmation.wordpress.com

  5. Very interesting perspective and one I hadn’t thought of before.

  6. antolomagico says:

    I agree! It`s not important to be always worried about the future, only to be equilibrated…

  7. kailasteve says:

    Love the insight and your don’t hold back attitude!

  8. L Hol says:

    Excellent and so true to form. I related to many of your thoughts.

  9. Cyrus Quick says:

    Risk? Oh, I get it. The pre-civilization custom: incapacitate those weaker than yourself and steal all they have. Stone Age to Space Age: The more it changes, the more it stays the same. Vile.

  10. Lucy says:

    Great Article. Crazy It caught my attention. I just heard the other day that theres no point in worrying about the future because it doesn’t exist and if we focus on today and make today the best day we possibly can that there’s no way that the future won’t be great.

  11. thekynegro29 says:

    Great article. I have a terminal graduate degree, real professional experience AND teaching experience and it’s like pulling teeth to get even an interview for a faculty spot. I’m
    Competing with PhDs for adjunct spots. Academia is nuts right now. Ive done temp work in manhattan and you’re right, it’s less scary there because everybody is temp everywhere lol. So you get used to not knowing if you’ll have a job 30 days from now lol.

  12. Kyoko says:

    Nice article 🙂

  13. cittycostas says:

    Nice blog! Read mine: http://cittycostas.com

  14. Mythoughts76 says:

    Worry in itself is a useless pastime. It accomplishes nothing. A waste of energy.

  15. So nice one article… 😉

  16. MissFit says:

    you nailed it. do you think we are on a bell shaped curve..? “there is nothing new under the sun” concept?

  17. susipet says:

    Enjoyed your blog. Good luck with next steps

  18. Rachna says:

    Is it fine that I find it so hilarious? This is a brilliant read. Whenever I tell people what am I looking for in a career, everyone stares at me in disbelief at the mention of word – ‘stability’ and ‘work life balance’ especially because I am 26. I find this culture of come and go start ups startling (for want of a better word). And I am not saying that all start ups are bad, I meaqn every company that there is must have been a start-up sometime. I even worked with one (although can’t say that it was an experience I enjoyed very much). Keep writing!

  19. Y.O.P.J. says:

    Reblogged this on Cre8ive Studios and commented:
    Realism put in good use

  20. ujuh says:

    I worried a lot about the future at one time, then I figured ‘everything will be fine. Only good things can come your way’ and I believed it.

  21. truth42 says:

    I sued to worry about the future. But I’m past it now. Ian x

  22. ziarasool55 says:

    Reblogged this on ziarasoolcommunication and commented:
    The Only Thing that make me Lack of confident is: “Future”(what will happen?)

  23. kitmunro says:

    Makes you wonder what will happen to everyone when all these startups dissolve.

  24. kellyhodo says:

    This one hits home. I’m a 27-year-old temp with a Master’s degree, and, when I think about the state of my career, there’s definitely a cringe factor. But hey, attitude is everything right? Sounds like your on the right track. And rather insightful at that.


  25. CuriosValue says:

    I found that in my country, Malaysia, we have alot of issue on getting a job due to the inability to sell themselves. I think now its about practising and applying what we have studied in college. I hv a feeling that we are adressing the same segment!


  26. Claudia :] says:

    I like how you insert unexpected humor/reality–this isn’t the kind of article I would normally read, but I found myself very interested because of that. I’m also an academic myself, though still an undergrad. I’ve always known academics have a hard time in the real world, but it’s nice to see the ways they’re dealing with it. I know for sure becoming an educator and writer won’t be easy for myself in the future. Taking on your sense of reality and insight will help.
    Please consider voting for my sign at http://www.signazon.com/?c=PZ5LL2EF (Money for school!)

  27. Business in the 21st Century is like a different world compared to what it used to be! Great Article, and I wish you luck on your endeavors.

  28. M. R. says:

    Being Freshly Pressed is a bit of a pain, as all of us pop out of the woodwork and scream “Hiiiii!” at once. 🙂 I used to edit PhD theses, but I believe I can be quite sure that yours would’ve been better than those that passed through my Word Reviewing! And certainly not one of the little buggers had your sense of humour. My sisters speak of adjucting without fervour, too. What a business it is being trained so as to be able to be an academic, but not really wanting to; and then going back to The Real World and finding they’re all as mad as meat-axes …

  29. I like your last line..sums it all up for me

  30. Rikke says:

    Great article. I feel like I’m always worried about the future – maybe I need to change my viewpoint!

  31. kierrajanay says:

    I still worry sometimes but not as Much as I used too. Live life to the fullest.

  32. Torben Jensen says:

    Reblogged this on Office N/A and commented:
    Working on new content here and keep getting sidetracked. Damn life getting in the way of writing. But came across this very insightful look at the changing culture of “careers” and “work spaces”. Good to know that life still goes on.

  33. elliott001 says:

    Worrying about the future is one of my biggest issues. It can cause quite a lot of anxiety. This is such a great article! Thank you for writing it.

    Visit New Gen Journo for unbiased opinions on everything

  34. Quite an experience you had there….enjoyed reading your post!

  35. I thoroughly enjoyed this! ! Your style of writing is so fun to read!

  36. mim says:

    Reblogged this on HERS N HIS and commented:

  37. Beautiful conclusion. Reminds me of what Saint Paul says: “The time is short…those who weep should live as though not sad; those who laugh should live as though not glad; those who buy should live as though possessing nothing; those who have dealings with the world as though not engrossed by them. For the present form of this world is passing away.”

  38. Reblogged this on In a word – positive words for today and commented:
    Although this is 2014 .. and except for the references made about electronic devices, the work atmosphere and the male/female power is similar to the 70’s (when I was beginning to join the workforce. “the more things change, the more they stay the same”

  39. i used to worry about the future too. there’s always thought in my mind that grow up make me feel alone. but i know one thing that when we grow up we are always out of our comfort zone. so, i prepare my self from now to fight the future. you’ve a great articel.

  40. dshah96 says:

    I love this post. Unpredictability can be both unnerving and rewarding.

  41. avelligan says:

    Reblogged this on Still Young and commented:
    Extremely interesting to hear what the world is turning into.

  42. schrompfzinzin says:

    my future counts on my intention and

  43. Ernestas says:

    Not good. But we have alternative. Check – http://www.thevenusproject.com Resource based economy 🙂

  44. nerdycanuck says:

    I used to worry but then I started choosing to be happy with what I have and the list of what I ‘am thankful for is longer then I expected. Thanksgiving should be more then one day of the year.

  45. nerdycanuck says:

    I like this quote and have stuck with it: “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing .” It makes me work even harder and I got trained in a field I knew the full-time jobs where around. Now I work after hours so that I can get a job I will enjoy.. working in this job pushes me even harder outside of work. Great post.

  46. Your points are good and your frustration is evident. There is an underlying problem that affects professions and it starts with “maturity” of the profession. Professions start with ideals, shared support, and enthusiasm expressed in volunteering time and effort to the profession. The profession grows on this enthusiasm, but at some point hires people outside the profession to run the “business” side. Professional administrators. The administrators (evident in education) shanghai the profession; organize it, monetize it, change the goals, and leave the professionals on the outside of the profession. Education is a classic example. In higher education, the brilliance and teaching ability of the instructor (professor) is less important to the administrators than the cost. Primary and secondary education in the US has been hijacked not only by the administrators, but also by the unions. The students and the educators are of little value other than their worth in dollars to the system.

  47. shearbee says:

    Very beautifully written & so honest too.

  48. Reblogged this on I'm starting off for real and commented:
    Hang in there. Theres always a rainbow after the rain

  49. latryce00 says:

    This is true. Most companies hire people at will now, the economy -well atleast in detroit, is broke. Things are more uncertain and non guaranteed than ever before. The most important factor in surviving is realizing that nothing is promised, so provisions should be made. I enjoyed your article.

  50. soyeonniee says:

    I really want to work on Wall Street after graduation, but not forever. I like the idea of glass walls and tall buildings and the experience. But I would probably not last too long before getting depressed by how professional and secure and controlled everything is!

  51. therealitywarp says:

    Great read. I’m a little younger but can already relate to your story. What exactly is your part time job and doesn’t it offer some stability?

  52. A Regeneration Nation says:

    Good on you for sharing. I think most of us have the “holy crap” moments from time to time. The “work” world has gone almost as insane as our weather worldwide! One of the things that went through my mind as I read this was “wow, she actually got an interview”. Those seem to be rare things now a days.

  53. JAP Cupcakes says:

    The future… is now! Every moment, every breath. 🙂


  54. justare123 says:

    Hey check out my new blog itll be interactive nothing off limits and everything can be discussed from you the reader =) hope to hear from you!!!

  55. reuben95 says:

    where I come from the future is all you can worry about, one cant afford to just wake up and try out anything. This blog though is right about risk taking being an unavoidable thing. We live and learn from our risk taking. I still fee good in my comfort zone.

  56. geoffers1 says:

    Don’t worry about the future, panic about the past!, ….then worry about the future!

  57. warero says:

    Reblogged this on ProduSoul.

  58. Honest & True! When I was young in my very early 30s I applied at Xerox– not hired. After I retired and working part-time for Adecco temp services assigned to Xerox– I was hired full-time by Xerox document processing. Guess we can apply to early for some things. Enjoyed reading this.

  59. danismelange says:

    very nice. as a career changer this really hit home.

  60. Pingback: Your Dissertation Lit Review was a Waste of Time, and Other Lessons from the Service Economy | A Post-Academic in NYC

  61. Life is amazing. It just sometimes takes time to realize that being rejected can be of great help. Everybody will find its way sooner or later. Be creative, want more and never lose your faith in future!

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