Sometimes, My Freedom and My Survival Feel Mutually Exclusive.

Living in a capitalist system reminds me that not only am I as good as my ability to produce capital but that my survival depends on it. When I consider social constructs such as race, gender, culture, and trends, I begin to ask myself,

“How do I measure up?”

“How will I have to adjust to become more competitive?”

Depending on where my identity falls within society, I may have advantages in some areas and have to make sacrifices in others. For me, this is the opposite of freedom – Freedom is the ability to be authentic at no cost to yourself. I am a capitalist, not because I opted in the system but because I am bounded by it.

If the worker is facing constant unemployment or unfulfilling employment, the worker starts to believe that who they are isn’t good enough to land the job that they want. Then, there is also the case of a worker’s skills and interests not being lucrative or trendy enough. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed career-related depression in people because of this. For some, it’s temporary, for others, it is prolonged.

As an international relations student and observer of people, I hated the D.C. government culture. I found that people couldn’t separate their identity and self-esteem from their career and titles. The D.C. government culture, for me, is an intensified microcosm of what I find unsatisfying about American culture and other capitalist countries: Too much personal happiness is placed into achieving academic and professional benchmarks and not on personal fulfillment. I notice the contrary when I travel overseas passing through poor neighborhoods; The people appear to live richer lives despite the poverty and lack of opportunity. Instead of career and wealth being the basis of overall well-being, stronger communities and culture provide them with a sense of eudaimonia and support.

Sometimes, I feel like who I am and how I want to live is a contradiction to what is needed to be competitive in a capitalist society. I resent the feeling of only making myself interested in something in order to survive. I hate the pressure of having to choose what pays the bills over what makes me happy.

After leaving two jobs, I’ve been thinking of how much of myself I am willing to sacrifice to make a dollar. Unless I find a way to secure financial security for myself independently, I feel like I’m always going to have to give up a little bit of myself or perform an alternative version of me to survive.

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