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A Workingman’s Thoughts on Unemployment

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I am a workingman. My alarm goes off at 7:30 am. I’m ready to start work by 9am. At 11am, I hit the gym for an hour then eat lunch. Afterwards it’s back to work until 6pm. I am a workingman.

Sometimes I have deadlines and my keyboard rattles rhythmically for hours on end. Sometimes, the day seems to slow to the drip-drip of Chinese water torture.

Such is the nature of being at work and staying oneself. I am a workingman, not a loafer, and to maintain my energeia I need to be working.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m employed.

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When most picture unemployment, they envision sweatpants, stained couches, infomercials, and phone calls just to hear the sound of another human voice. So, you’d rather not be unemployed. But you are. So it goes.

Still, you don’t have to lose your self respect. You don’t have stop being a real human being.  You can still be workingman.

Charles Bronson never owned sweatpants

Most people don’t get it. Among our generation, workingmen are rare because young’uns dream of that cushy job. They want the paycheck. They want the business card. They want the ability to say: “I’m with [impressive name].” They want a strict matrix of clearly defined moments of work, sleep, and play. Otherwise, it’s just too complicated.

They lack the basic motivation to live.

Do not look enviously in their direction.

Becoming a workingman is easy. You take something you’re good at. You do it. Work 60 hours a week. Never, ever, look back.

When you spend all day every day working, you’re employed. You’re doing something. That’s all life requires. We are not born to fill out 401K forms. We are born to work. We used to spend our days getting food. We no longer need to. So instead we’ll spend all of our days doing some other constructive activity. Just because there’s no health care doesn’t make it any less significant in the grand scheme of things. You might die at 35. Still, you will not have wasted your years. Look at all those retirees on buses to Nevada. Can they say the same thing?

You’ll find that if you treat your calling like a regular job you might even make some good money at it. After all, if you’re so good at it, then someone should be willing to pay for your skills. At some point you might find yourself spending 60 hours a week figuring out how to market that book you wrote, or contacting galleries to show your sculptures to possible clients. The people who don’t get that these stages are the folks who haven’t invested the time to develop a product worth putting out there. They sit, mournfully hoping for some mysterious benefactor to arrive. It’s like all those musicians who sincerely believe that if they just had a record deal, they might learn to play their instruments. Not going to happen.

There is a caveat. In recent years, prompted by the myth of the American self-made man, there have been a slew of suburban morons who do things like mine gold in a Alaska or go crab fishing despite having no experience whatsoever. Don’t do that. There is no reason to think that throwing yourself off a cliff will result in big bucks, and that’s exactly what these goobers do. They borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars to live their dreams and then fail. Faced with the reality of their poor decisions, they come up with a million reasons why it didn’t work out: “I guess our luck just went bad,” and “I guess the little guy just can’t get up a leg up anymore in this country.”

The world, same as it has ever been, is not a kind place to fools. Choose something you might actually be good at. Try your hardest to get paid if you can. If you cannot, keep going. You might start writing scripts and wind up managing a movie theater. Who knows where life will take you? Just get to work and you’ll figure the rest out as you go along.

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Jules Owen - Wandering Wastrel

Jules Owen - Wandering Wastrel

Going to a rich kid school when you aren't even given an allowance certainly trains you to live large on the cheap. Armed with such expertise, Jules travelled the globe, surviving off of 50 cent beers and 2 dollar meals everywhere from Buenos Aires to Mumbai. Three years ago he returned to the United States, living first in Baltimore while he settled a debt with the IRS, then in Brooklyn where he plays music and writes. He aspires to one day live in a van on N.15th and Kent.


  1. July 26, 2012 at 4:28 am

    I, too, took something I was good at, I did it (and am still doing it), I work at LEAST 60 hours a week, and I haven’t looked back. I’m often broke since everything for my business is out-of-pocket, and I hustle to make ends meet, but I feel like I’m making it happen. Every day is different, I’m constantly learning and challenging myself, questioning everything along the way, and I’ve never been happier. Great post. Thanks for sharing, Stu !

  2. Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap
    July 26, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Yeah Jules, this is really great!