Wednesday, March 30, 2011

No. NO. You are an adult.

Here I am. 26 years old. Highly educated, proven capable of handling a wealth of tasks with ease, courtesy, and warmth. Able to hang upside-down off the side of an aircraft carrier with a drill in hand Monday, then collate investment documents and tax mailings with precise attention to accuracy Tuesday, and with great decorum put clothes on hungry women Wednesday. I am bright, capable, versatile, and ready for a committed, rewarding career.

So WHY am I seriously considering applying for weekend gigs on the South Bank for a pittance?

No. I am a grown-up with real debts and real responsibilities. I should not think that my place is in a company-logo tee shirt surrounded by tourists on the sidewalk. That's one small step above standing on the corner waving a cardboard arrow toward the nearest McDonald's--a gig a homeless guy I know in Baltimore takes occasionally in exchange for burgers. I have worked too hard on my education to think that I don't deserve self-respect and a living wage.

But what education do I actually have? As far as business-sector skills are concerned, I have very, very few--and only ones that I've gained on the job. Touch-typing, filing, mail distribution, correspondence, dictation, teaching CEOs to use their computers...all tasks I've only undertaken as a low-paid temp. Nobody wants to pay people enough to not only eat but pay for their rent AND their student loans to hang lights and build fake walls. There's too many highly-qualified technicians out there who are happy to do it for free because someone told them that after a few years of interning and volunteering, the money'll start coming in.

This is not actually true. There are always enough recent graduates and hopeful young people to exploit that the need to pay people doesn't actually come up. If they start demanding money, you just find someone new. Now that I have a MA in being exploited I've moved up from being a dime a dozen to a dime for five, but still. A two-year turnaround on burnouts is plenty of time to keep your theatre staffed and your coffers full.


Oh I'm sorry I missed that lunch date, Arthur, but with a degree in maths and another in astrophysics, it was either hitch a ride on a spaceship or head back to the dole queue on Monday.

No comments: