What is an “essential worker”?

One of the things I struggled with when I worked at various businesses was the thought that I didn’t matter. The job I did wasn’t important, and I wasn’t “essential” to the running of society. Today we have a whole government that has decided who is and who isn’t essential, and everyone else has been deemed unessential. To have the work you do to earn a living dictated in such a fashion seems a bit harsh, but we did it for a good reason, right?

“Essential worker” is an interesting thought experiment. What do you need? Let’s try a laptop to work from home. How many people are required to make that laptop, ship the various ingredients, refine them, mold them, and assemble them? How about tech support when it breaks, or a repair person? How about electricians to keep the power plants running, ISP workers to keep your internet working, and all the people necessary to make the parts (fiber optics, copper wires, mechanics for the trucks, etc. Etc) that the techs are going to need.

Everything can be bought through Amazon, but they don’t build it. They don’t get the raw materials or refine it. They don’t keep the system running that you need to use it.

Heck, even thinking about Avocado toast and all the people needed to grow, pick, process, bake, ship, and sell the items in that simple meal…. It’s a chain of people and they all have their place.

It has taken me a while to realize that it wasn’t the jobs I had that made me feel unimportant. A lot of it was the fact that management made it known that I could be replaced with anyone else, and it wasn’t my job that wasn’t important, it was me. They boiled the job down to the necessities, and it didn’t matter who did it, they just needed a warm body.

And if it wasn’t the employer reminding me how little they needed me it was sometimes the customer that looked down on me for having that job. The shouts, snide looks, or condescending attitude that said they were better than me because they managed to get a “real” job. And yet they were there for my customer service. What would they do if that job disappeared?

One of the jobs I had was making noodles at a noodle factory. It seems like an unimportant job, but in the first days of the corona virus noodles were one of the first things to disappear from the shelves. It seemed important to all the millions of people who eat noodles every day.

Another job was a storage facility. It seems like a perfectly useless job, so many people just have them for “stuff” right? But I met so many people who had just lost a parent and were storing their stuff while they dealt with the funeral arrangements. Or people moving to new opportunities. Or people who just lost their home and had to have storage because they had no other option. I had so many people thank me for a warm smile, or a kind word. I had people cry telling me about their mom who just passed away, and how they just didn’t know what they were going to do now that she was gone. For those brief moments… I mattered.

What is “essential”? Humanity has been building upon the jobs and inventions of past generations for centuries. Each part fits together to hold up the other.

I think if you feel a job is “unessential” then you shouldn’t go there. If you think they really don’t matter than stop giving them your money. Eventually the unessential jobs will fade away. But the jobs that do exist are there for a reason. They provided a service someone needed, either to feed them, cloth them, shelter them, or just keep them entertained. And each job is an intricate part of a greater whole.

I think once quarantine lifts we’re going to realize just how essential some things are, things we perhaps forgot or gave up for a time. I only hope that this reminds us to be kinder to those who serve us because we need them as much as they need us.

Screw the Circumstances!

The circumstance dictates that my life should be a failure.

No, wait, I’m not done.

I am 36. Divorced. I have three teenagers. I work a low paying, dead end job with no opportunities for advancement. Two years of college but no degree. Very little job experience. And I’m broken from years of abuse.

Circumstances dictate that I should be a failure. Never get anywhere, never accomplish anything, and die alone. The little old lady with a house full of cats. (Sorry, apartment, I make too little to get a house.) Too many kids, and too much baggage for any sane person to take a chance on.

Well, screw the circumstances!

Your life, and your situation do not dictate who you are, or where you are going, unless you let them. We are not the sum of the experiences we are dealt, rather we are the sum of how we deal with those circumstances.

There have been men who hiked to the top of everest despite not having feet. Women who made families, and raised children despite lack of legs. People who won contest, performed great feats of strength, painted, sculpted, created, and THRIVED despite the circumstances of their life.

What’s your excuse?

I have a lot of circumstances, but they don’t define me. I am using my time, energy, and passion to pursue the one thing that I have always loved, and always wanted to do.
I write.

I am turning my circumstances into useful things. Using the past, the baggage, and the brokenness, as springboards for stories. Using my job as time to think through plots while I sweep floors. Enjoying my family, and building a new life.

Life isn’t always easy. But the truth is… the trees that are sheltered, that never stand up to the winds… those are the weakest trees in the forest.

Don’t let circumstances get you down. Use them. Grow. Stand firm against the wind. Lean on friends and family if you need to, and prune away the rough bits. But above all else, don’t let the circumstances dictate your life.