Castlebuilding

I have a callback interview at a local law firm. If they make me an offer, and it is good, I will find myself placed directly into a pleasant middle-class existence. And so I am daydreaming about that life. What would I reach for? How would it work?

My life has always been pretty puritanical. A lack of money will do that; dry rivers also shape stones. But I rather like the puritan life. Not Spartan, just simple; complexity only to add functionality or reduce some greater complexity thereby. It lets one devote oneself to more important things. C’est le nom du jeu.

It’s just that, at a neat little 9-to-5, I won’t have more-important-things. I will have brunch and microbrew. I will be a Self-Made Hipster, but the difference between that and a trustafarian is, I think, not all that great.

I would have disposable income and free time both. I just wonder what I would do with them.


Aw, hell. Let’s break this daydream down into numbers.

This entry-level position will pay sixty grand a year. Call it fifty after tax and tip.

Right now I live perfectly well on $10 a day spent on food and sundries. Let’s assume I eat out every day and switch to free-range bumwad and blow that number up and call it ten thousand dollars a year. I pay thirteen a year in rent and utilities. I pay one a year in car insurance. (I pay five a year in health insurance, but that’ll disappear into an HMO). So this sixty thousand dollars a year in income leaves me with, quite conservatively, twenty five thousand dollars a year to dispose of.


How will I spend it?

I could replace my very good headphones with the best headphones ($900). I could replace my 1080p monitor with a 4K monitor ($400). I could replace my Chromebook with a ThinkPad ($1100). I could replace my aeropress with a manual-pull espresso maker ($800). See, we have just spent three grand and I have not really noticed any improvement to my life. And these are the things I use on a daily basis!

What could I buy that I do not have? I could buy a portrait lens ($2200). I could buy a mountain bike ($3500) and a fatbike ($1500) but really I prefer to ride the road. I could buy a wristwatch ($7,000 and should last a lifetime) or a Wristwatch ($23,000 but suitable for passing down like a household god) but I could also wear the watches I have, or none. I could buy a handgun ($350) and a rifle ($1200) – but, well, Crypto 80:27-34. And despite a lot of lazy daydreaming, I can’t think of a damned thing more to buy.

Really I wonder if the much-bemoaned “death of the middle class” is because the apartment-renting job-doing life is counted as less when it is in fact sufficient – if not more.


Alright then. Materialism isn’t the answer. How will I spend my free time?

I like to hike and bike well enough. But mostly I like to tour. I like the self-sufficiency, the planning, the hardship, the accomplishment. You don’t get these things from being a Weekend Warrior. I wouldn’t mind bagging every single peak within three hundred miles. But I can’t say that it really makes me jump for joy – and in two years I surely will have done it.

I like to travel. But I travel on the cheap and that’s basically how I like it. I could spend a year in Europe on half a year’s salary if that. And much of the reason I like to travel is because it inspires me in my life and work. If I have not much of either, I won’t be a traveler: I’ll just be some bored American with a camera. Not the same.

I like to make things. But I don’t need anything. I could make better things but that really just means more ornate. If I’ve spent so much time simplifying my life only to leave room to make it more complicated for the sake of making it more complicated, well, I think MC Escher is gonna slap me with two self-drawing hands, here. Not what I call a recipe for a fulfilling life.


In short, Yes, I could absolutely make it work for a year or two. But this is the sort of work which allows one to have a life. I want the sort of work which is one’s life. That’s what I want – and this is of interest to me only as it might place me on that path.

…but this job would so place me, and so if it comes to me then I shall take it. And not suffer to do so, as you can see.

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~ by davekov on 5 February 2017.

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