A Rant-Why Even Try?

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I’ve probably mentioned that I like to write. I’d like to make a living at it. Hopefully by telling crazy stories about vampires and zombies and space aliens. But every once in a while, I get really discouraged and I ask myself: Why even try?

Seriously though. I ask myself that every day. The odds are crazy. The amount of competition is insane. Readers are fickle. Publishers go out of business every week. The roadsides are littered with the flaming wrecks of would-be writers. You’d have to be delusional to believe that you’ll ever be anything more than one of a million hacks on the Kindle store, selling four copies a month while your co-workers at Pizza Hut chuckle about your sad ambition. You’d be better off buying lottery tickets.

But it seems to me that in this day and age, if you have any kind of goals greater than working as a fry cook at McDonalds, you’re still facing insane odds. There are no longer any magic bullets. There’s no career path or degree or certificate or qualification that guarantees that things are going to be easy for you. For every real grownup job there are hundreds of applicants. I’ve got friends who graduated with sensible degrees, solid blue-chip career degrees like accounting, and it literally took them years to find a job. Years of sending out hundreds of resumes, living at their parents houses and servicing their massive American student loan debts. I know someone who graduated with a good professional degree, found an awesome suit-and-tie job, and got laid off three different times in a year. I know teachers who get blamed for everything that’s wrong with our broken school system, who buy their kids school supplies out of their own pockets, who sweat bullets every year when the layoffs come around.

If there’s a good, safe job out there, I haven’t seen it.

I’ve seen people with bachelor’s in biology making twelve dollars an hour working as lab assistants. I’ve had teachers, PhDs, working as adjunct professors, making less money than the guy outside the window mowing the lawn. Your barista at Starbucks or your cashier at Barnes and Noble probably have English degrees. And take a look at the statistics for law school graduates sometime. Wasn’t that what our parents told us? “Get a good job, be a lawyer and get rich.” Good luck with that.

And in addition to that, some of the most miserable people I’ve ever met got where they are by chasing the money. Dentists and pharmacists and lawyers who spent years and years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to get where they are, and they hate it and they hate their lives. It makes you ask yourself: How much money is happiness really worth?

And anyway, you might get hit by a bus tomorrow.

So, given all that, given that for my generation it seems like a good, secure career might as well be in the same category as unicorns and Bigfoot, why the hell not try to pursue your passion? Why not try and do what you really want to do?

Because hell, there just aren’t any safe bets.

What’s your motivation?

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This is just a silly little thing I got from a fortune cookie a long time ago. I liked it enough to go to the thrift shop and get a little frame for it, and now it stands on my desk next to my Boba Fett pencil-holder mug and my little handwritten note reminding me that “its” is possessive and “it’s” is a contraction.

So, what’s your motivation? Do you have any silly little things laying around your house, reminding you to keep at it?