Posted by: Mark Nielsen | November 14, 2008

Embracing My Inner Slacker

First, a disclaimer: I don’t advocate lazy, brooding, antisocial behavior stemming from a lack of confidence in both oneself and the economic system.

I just come by it naturally. I’m an unreformed, married, Gen-X slacker.

Time for true confessions, whether or not they’re good for the soul, as advertised.  For instance, I have a job application for a part-time retail position stuck to my fridge with a magnet. It’s been there a week. I’m trying to decide whether to apply anyway for a position I don’t really want, that would clearly be a step backward for a man with a frickin’ Masters degree. Plus, not getting hired for something so mundane and basic would be a low blow indeed.

I met a friend, a recently retired teacher, while we walked our dogs this morning. (See that, I CAN get up off the couch. I’m even doing the power-walk thing still… sometimes subjecting my short-legged dog to a pace much quicker than he would prefer… cuz he’s a worse slacker than I am and needs to get back in shape.) My friend talked about wanting to make some holiday cash, maybe applying at Bath & Body Works, where she loves to shop. I told her I heard on the radio this week that there’s been an exponential rise  in the number of “regular” workers applying even for those types of jobs (i.e. non-students, or unemployed persons desperate for anything). I wasn’t trying to discourage her, but clearly I’m discouraged myself.

It doesn’t help that I have an overdeveloped rationalization gland.

That’s the part of the nervous system that allows me to think things like “Hey, when Graham was home sick from school Monday, I was able to be there for him, with no inconvenience to anyone.” Or “Watching just one more episode of CSI:New York on demand won’t hurt anybody.” (Despite the fact that it’s often poorly written, a clear indicator that my viewing and time usage standards have been lowered — yet another rationalization — in my attempts to avoid jobseeking, plus all the chores that tend to pile up on the kitchen counter, in the basement, in the back yard…)

Or how about these little gems of slacker rationalization:

  • If I get a good job, chances are it will limit my vacation time to a couple weeks a year (if it’s not in education, anyway)
  • A part-time job will allow me to quit or take more vacation time, but I’ll probably have to work nights and weekends (Oh, you poor baby!)
  • We don’t need the money that bad (not yet, anyway, but we have not cut our spending accordingly, so it keeps coming out of savings, and we’re not moving “forward” in ways that we’d hoped.)
  • I just got started receiving unemployment benefits a few weeks ago. Why not take full advantage to this money I’m entitled to, and have a bit more fun while I’m at it? (Not that idleness is fun… it’s just easier than working for a living.)

That’s not nearly the long list of self-justifying (self-deceiving?) b.s. that I could generate, but it is a representative sample.

It also alludes to some of the bubbling trouble that my inner slacker is causing in my marriage. And it exhibits a steady erosion of self-respect, which is sure to have an impact on Graham’s perception of his father eventually (as well as my overall mood and style as a parent). And it implies a generalized apathy, despite the “hope” that I thought I’d be feeling once Obama got elected. (Where’s MY job in this new New Deal economy?)

Apathy: also the main reason the frequency of my blog entries has fallen off lately.

And finally, from a spiritual perspective, the above list and my attitude of creeping despair suggests that I’ve learned nothing useful in twenty five years (or forty three, depending which “birth” you start counting from). This spinning of my wheels suggests that all the head knowledge, and good experiences in the past, and encouraging fellowship, and idealistic optimism, and messages that I’m a valuable human being, and promises from God that I’m being looked after, don’t count for much when I keep having to face the same challenge over and over and over again: the challenge of finding and functioning within one’s true vocation.

If I was a true slacker, or an idiot, I wouldn’t care. But I do. I know what I’m capable of, and I have a hard time settling. I have a hard time rationalizing some of the normal stuff that almost everyone tends to set aside, a hard time committing to “play the game” in order to build a safe, secure, prosperous middle-class lifestyle.

No, not for me. I want to do something deep, rewarding, something that makes a difference, …but it needs to be lucrative also, or at least gain me some of the respect and prestige which (in my silly pride) I think I’m entitled to.

So now I’m stuck. How could one both want and loathe the same things in life?

I’m like the biblical Jacob, wrestling with that angel, who busts his hip. Tell me your name, angel! What do I do now?!

Sorry to bum y’all out, but that’s where my head’s at today. And saying so is still better than doing nothing at all. Now I’m worn out, though.

So …what’s on t.v. this morning?


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