About 3 years ago I made a determination to stop doing work that was inconsistent with my values. I was 31 years-old, had recently finished my undergraduate degree and was squandering my vital juices on well-paid, but meaningless work. I wanted something more from my life. I figured the first step to doing meaningful work was to stop doing the meaningless stuff.
The quick backstory of my late graduation is that I dropped out of school when I was 23 to get sober. After floundering through much of my 20’s, I found myself 27 years old, bereft of direction, with access to an education trust set up by my grandparents. The choice to return to school seemed obvious.
While in school, I continued to work 20-30 hours a week as a cater-waiter captain—essentially the head waiter or maitre’d of an event. The job paid between $30-50 an hour. Because my tuition and living expenses were paid for by the trust, most of the money I made from that job was saved. I finished school flush with cash.
I got my degree in creative writing and literature. I wanted to write for a living, but ideas about how to do that were not forthcoming, so I continued to cater in the meantime.
But catering created a huge internal inconsistency. While it was fun and easy, I saw its net impact on the world was somewhere between zero and negative 1000. Most events created mountains of waste, which completely ran counter to what I knew about what was going on with the environment.
Destroying the environment would have been tolerable if the work seemed important. Instead, my principle duty was idealizing the artificial. Most events were product launches and other PR events or posh dinner and cocktail parties hosted by the ridiculously-rich and mostly gay. I directed staffs of male models and actors to create fantasy worlds—ones littered with chiseled features; ones that precluded ugliness, age, poverty or any other unseemly aspect of reality. I felt like I was responsible for arranging human parsley sprigs on cardboard steaks. Continue reading “Defragment Your World”