Sometime before I was all-in on Medium Members, I had a long-winded phone conversation with a friend from home. He’s in the financial sector.
Half-jokingly, he inquired: “Maarten, do you actually even want to work full-time later?”
I suppose there is a stereotype of philosophers going around in his world.
“I don’t mind putting in the hours. What I don’t want, is to have to be somewhere during a fixed period of the day, independent of whether I have completed my tasks for that day, perhaps having to do pointless choirs for someone else.”
“So you don’t want a job,” he inferred. Gotta love that airtight logic.
I qualified what my earlier remark: “I guess I wouldn’t mind teaching a few days a week…”
“How are you going to do that?” I imagined him raising one eyebrow and squeezing his lips, unimpressed.
“I don’t know. I suppose you’d need some kind of certification for that.”
The cross-examination continued: “Which you don’t have.”
I pleaded guilty: “No, not yet. Regardless, this whole thing of ‘jobs’ is going to transform anyway.”
Me: “So if the utility of your skillset depends on a specific vocation, you’re fragile, as Taleb would say.”
His conclusion: “I still don’t see how you’ll have financial stability later.”
“Me neither. But I don’t worry about it.”
I was reminded of this interrogation when my roommate asked me what I did today:
“I studied from 9.30 AM to 2 PM. Then I had lunch with colleagues, which was fun, I think I might start to like these characters.”
He interrupted with a solid summary: “You don’t put in a lot of effort into your dissertation.”
I felt an urge to defend myself. “4 hours of self-study a day is the most effective strategy, research shows. You should check out Rest.”
“How many hours per week do you spend on your blog?” he asked.
“Like 15 or 20. Difficult to say. I do plenty of thinking aboutwriting. On walks, for example. Does that count?”
He apparently wanted to explain his earlier point: “You work a lot, but it never seems like you’re putting in a lot of effort.”
“Thanks man — I appreciate that. The fact that I do what I more or less want and am rather free gives me a lot of energy.”
“Do you want to know what my day looks like?”
Before I could reply, he continued: “I wake up, commute for 30 minutes and sit at a desk for 9 hours.” He works at an architecture firm.
“Sounds boring,” I said, since we were being honest.
“Well, at least it’s not stressful.”
I leaned in: “But it’s not challenging either?”
“No, it’s easy. I know how to do everything.”
He: “I think I should quit.”
Over the last months, he has been showing me some of his own designs: “Yes! Go for it!”
“Yeah… I’ll think about it,” he spoke softly, discouraged, as if he abruptly realized something.
He walked back to his room carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.
It’s intriguing how people prefer unhappiness over uncertainty.