As 2013 winds down to a close, I start in on the introspective hibernation period that naturally precedes any opportunity for “reboot”. I’ve been thinking a lot about the choices that got me through this past year, and what I need to be conscious of as I move into 2014, because as the saying goes, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.”
I want to take a moment to fully admit that this introspection is the luxury of being in fortunate circumstances. Startup life is startup life, and in no way am I suggesting that I am living in poverty, or that there are life or death choices for me. However, it is fool to assume that people do not have to face quality-of-life issues at all levels of income, so this is just me trying to balance what I need for the short term vs. what I need for the long term.
Here are 3 pages that I landed on yesterday that seem to all come together to tell me what I should be thinking about in 2014.
1. Nicki Minaj
I’m fairly sure that I don’t agree with a lot of things that Nicki Minaj stands for. But I came across this video through a series of circuitous clicks in my Facebook feed yesterday that really challenges my “don’t rock the boat” and my “accept and make-do” attitude. If I don’t start standing up for myself and what I want, then what I get is pickle juice. Check this quote out at 0:53.
“I put quality in what I do. I spend time and I spend energy and I spend effort and I spend everything I have, every fiber of my being, to give people quality… So if I turn up to a photo shoot and you got a $50 clothes budget and some sliced pickles on a motherfuckin’ board, you know what? No. I am gonna leave. Is that wrong? Wanting more for myself? Wanting people to treat me with respect? You know what? Next time, they know better. But had I accepted the pickle juice, I would be drinking pickle juice right now.”
2. Zero opportunity employers
I have spent a lot of 2013 getting paid in promises and hopes. And that is well and good, because to some extent, I accept that the connections I have made this year and the things that I have learned and the products that I have created have intrinsic value. I also understand that I am in a situation where I can afford to take promises as payment, and that is luxury. However, by accepting that I can be paid in promises at this time, am I implicitly agreeing that opportunity is only for the wealthy and fortunate? Am I supporting further employment injustice for all?
Again through circuitous Facebook clicks, I came across an opinion piece by Al Jazeera’s Sarah Kendzior called “Zero opportunity employers,” whose words hit really really close to home, even as she was talking about people in completely different circumstances:
During the recession, American companies found an effective new way to boost profits. It was called “not paying people”. “Not paying people” tends to be justified in two ways: a fake crisis (“Unfortunately, we can’t afford to pay you at this time…”) or a false promise (“Working for nearly nothing now will get you a good job later”).
Maybe in startup life, these crises are not fake, and these promises are not false. Lucky me, I am fortunate enough to be supported by family so that I can pursue these dreams. But it really highlights the fact that bootstrapping is noble for the rich and idealistic, and opportunity is nearly impossible for the poor and independent.
And then there’s this, more words about not asking for enough for myself:
Teaching, nursing, social work, childcare and other “pink collar” professions do not pay poorly because, as Slate’s Hanna Rosin argues, women “flock to less prestigious jobs”, but because jobs are considered less prestigious when they are worked by women. The jobs are not worth less – but the people who work them are supposed to be.
Although zero opportunity employers disproportionately hurt women and minorities, everyone suffers in an economy that does not value workers.
I do not want to be one that contributes to the suffering. Yet, I see no clear end to this inequity that I am perpetuating while waiting for promises to become fulfilled.
3. Crazy ants
This is by far the scariest and craziest story that I came upon yesterday, the hopeless plight of the Texans (and now other Southern states) against the Rasberry crazy ants that are plaguing the area. Piles and piles and piles of ants take over an area, drawn to sources of electricity, climbing over the dead bodies of other ants as a bridge over poison and traps that have been set up to take them out. I have never felt more afraid or helpless against something that isn’t directly affecting me…but could…one day…when these ants take over the world.
The whole piece is worth-reading, even for the bug phobic, and as I said to a friend on Facebook yesterday, this all seems like a microcosm of what is going on in our entire country, nay, the world at the present. How do we stop the massive undulating mess that we are all creating out of our inaction?
…what upsets us is “their pullulating squirming, their cohesion into a homogeneous teeming mass” and their “interminable, directionless sprouting and breeding.” That is, it’s the quantity of crazy ants that’s so destabilizing. As the American psychologist James Hillman argued, an endless swarm of bugs flattens your perception of yourself as precious and meaningful. It instantly reduces your individual consciousness to a “merely numerical or statistical level.”
This is what’s soul-crushing about crazy ants: What wafts off them is the same faintly nihilistic feeling that comes the moment you realize hammering the pound sign won’t connect you with a human being and only funnels you back to the same automated instructions.
2014. More standing up for myself and others. Less acceptance of status quo. More action. Less inaction. And fewer ants. MUCH FEWER ANTS.