The Faustian Bargain of Capitalism
I have a fair amount of hobbies. There's Playing Video Games, Reading Books, Crochet, Cross Stitch, Gardening. I've had flings with Knitting and Embroidery. I have a passion for delighting in Teen Dramas like Hit CW show Riverdale. I sing when I'm alone. I'm a few years into piano lessons progressing at a molasses pace. Why do I do these things? Because they lower my stress, keep me in check, and are literal coping skills I have for existing in this world. It's a Self-soothing activity, much like how my dog nurses blankets and pillows when anxious, just with far less slobber.
And the only way my family knows how to express support or admiration for one of my hobbies is by telling me I should turn it into a “Side-Hustle”.
At my family's insistence I opened myself to commissions for specific objects. As any Knitter or Crocheter knows, your family and friends already drown in your scarves, hats, and sweaters.
But when money exchanges hands, an order is put in, it ceases to be a soothing activity.
Now I'm filled with a need to not disappoint them because they paid X amount for materials and labor. I sold my soul to capitalism, and for a disappointingly low-price.
Here's my problem. Despite being an ex-Catholic, I already have Protestant Work Ethic ™️ engraved into my DNA. I don't know how to relax without doing something. And my family wants to see my projects. They just don't know how to compliment my valueless labor without telling me it's a marketable skill.
Because I was basically taking care of myself as a child, I wasn't helicopter-parenting into turning every hobby I had into a college resume, partially because the idea of going to an Ivy League never occurred to any of us, not that I'm complaining. I failed out of college the first time because of my depression and not having these coping skills. It took me nearly a decade to get my undergraduate degree, because so many years were spent trying to get me to not be depressed until I was given Electro-Convulsive Therapy as a permanent structure in my life, to schedule around.
If you didn't know, I am disabled. I had to fight the case in court, that despite doing well in school, that no one under ADA guidelines would accommodate for someone who had to miss 2 days every three weeks, and could suffer migraines from flickering lights or random weather conditions. What may not be clear if you don't know a lot about the ADA, is that they only have to accommodate to a non-specified “reasonable” degree, and this in practice means disabled people are too costly to hire, whether that's wheelchair access or an ASL interpreter.
Maybe this is why when someone tells me I should run an etsy shop despite the fact I don't know how to run a business, don't know how to output at a business level, and am doomed to failure, I get a little mad.
I get it. Under capitalism, I as a “Discouraged worker”, not actively looking for work because it's a doomed prospect, and therefore not counting as “unemployed” according to the US government, am considered a worthless piece of shit. Now I'm sure you would never say that to a disabled person, you just will not help us integrate into society in any way that could hurt the almighty dollar.
A lot of people my age want to have a job that pays well and is fun to talk or bitch about. I'm pretty sure most of my generation by now has realized that “doing something you love means you'll never work a day” is a crock of shit.
This is the problem I have. I want to do things that are meaningful to me, but the moment your joy turns into work, it's gone, the joy slipped through your hands like sand. If Heinrich Faust ever experiences a moment of satisfaction, his life ends and he burns in Hell.
The relationship with writing is extremely complicated. On one hand, many writers are told not to bother with any publishing arrangement that doesn't pay you. I'm not about to dispute that wisdom, I do not make a living writing. I think the only reason I can sell my writing is that ideas are ghosts haunting me. It's not to say I experience no joy writing, but I am driven to write. I am not driven to cross-stitch a wall-hanging of a dumpster fire.
I know this is an idealist's position. I'm sure lots of people would love to make their livings doing stuff that at a minimum, they don't actively hate. My problem is the pressure put in to produce. The arts should be funded! I have no argument against that.
Can a person have value without being an entity that produces supposed value? Can I be valuable because I am a human being with inherent worth, not because I can crochet cats?
That's what I want. I want to believe people are valuable whether or not they have commercial worth.