Half the time people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them I’m retired. Which I am at the edges and between the lines, but not really. Not in the traditional sense. I have no investments or pension, no prospect of a fiduciary teat to suckle when I’m sans everything. No, I’ll continue to ply my trade, albeit at a somewhat slackened pace, for the foreseeable ever, just as I have for decades. Yet I can say that I’m retired, and say it without fear of contradiction, because I’m what retirement looks like for middle class creatives in 2017. For me and and the rest of my socio-economic ilk, there will be no work stoppage, because the alternative to working is that dank labyrinth of church basements, friends’ couches, back seats, tent communities, and steadily dwindling means euphemistically referred to as “the social safety net.” Arbeit macht frei, meine Liebchen. For realz.
But I’m not complaining. No way, no how. I genuinely delight in the various things I do for money. I know how lucky I am. Just to be clear.
I made a run to the Publix this morning for Dawn and vinegar to clean the water spots from my otherwise lovely shower door, and it was the bagboy there who inspired this reverie, his bald head bent over the eco-friendly canvas bag I’d brought with me, his blue collar hands at the ready. Is this how he envisioned his future when he was in his 30s or 40s or 50s? Surely not. Is he here because he enjoys the awkwardness of elders serving children? Surely not. He asks the 20-something woman ahead of me if she needs help carrying out her purchase, but she doesn’t understand him, because she’s on the phone. “I’m sorry?,” she says. He asks again and my heart breaks for him just a little, because of course she doesn’t need him to carry the energy water and off-season blueberries to her car. Dear God. And when it’s my turn, I try to thank him in a way that validates him, or at least doesn’t further marginalize him. It’s okay, I want to say. You’re not this job. You’re not that silly green vest they make you wear.
But he is, kind of. He knows it, I know it, and the 20-something with the blueberries knew it for as long as it took her to resume her call.
Grim stuff, this neoliberal denouement.
Come on, 2018.