I’ve spent a lot of my life avoiding work, and believe me it’s a full-time job. Well before I arrived at my antinatalist position, I knew there was something seriously wrong with work. In school, I couldn’t really grasp the concept. People spending their entire lives doing the same thing over and over again, for no appreciable reason. Was that it? You were supposed to grow up and assume some role and stay there for the entirety of your days. I just couldn’t get my head around it. Unlike every other kid in the school, whenever I was asked what I wanted “to be” when I grew up I couldn’t answer and just made up something on the spot. Aged nearly 35, nothing has changed.
I managed to avoid work until I was 19. I had dropped out of university, finding the whole thing a pretty insipid and uninspiring experience. I was mouldering at home, when a do-gooder uncle of mine decided this was unacceptable and got me a job in a local supermarket. I had no way of avoiding his horrible “philanthropy” and dutifully dragged my ass in to the shopping centre where this place was for an introductory meeting with my boss. She was a fully paid-up drone, astonished by my bare CV and asked me if I fancied stacking shelves or working behind the counter in the deli. The latter looked like my version of hell, so I naively asked for the stacking job. It didn’t look so bad: straightforward and all you had to do was stack items; only rarely did it seem you were approached by the public.
The following Monday I went into this modern-day gulag to be told I was working in the deli. I couldn’t believe it. The bitch had stitched me up! I was brought in and told to put on the ridiculous uniform: apron, hat, gloves. I never felt so trapped in my life. The atmosphere of the staff was one of total servitude. It was October, but the sole topic of conversation was the Christmas staff outing to a nearby town for a night out. I couldn’t believe it. This was what they were looking forward to? Jesus Christ! Matters wern’t helped by hating having to serve the public. I knew I had to get out. After another day of this slow-motion nightmare, I decided enough was enough. I went to the doctor, feigned depression (although after the supermarket maybe it wasn’t faked) and got a sick-note. A permanent one, of course.
Around a year later, I was under pressure to do something and so went back to college. I had a great time for the next two years, delighted to be away from the work-police for another while. When graduation came, I enrolled for a Master’s degree. At the time it was from genuine interest, but I also knew that I was desperate to avoid the 9-5. I did get a summer job in the cataloguing section of the university library, which was my first dose of office work. The tedium, the non-variety and the inevitable politics were stultifying. The job was only four hours a day but was still torture. I left after a couple of months.
A few months later I was down to my last ten quid, and something had to be done. A friend of mine with a similar disposition had taken a job in security, informing me that it wasn’t so bad if you got a cosy lock-in night job where you were free to read. I applied and was accepted. After a couple of crappy numbers, I got a relatively tolerable gig in a hospital where you had to walk the grounds once an hour. The rest of the time I could read. The only risky point was when a junky with a needle threatened me, but I managed to talk him into calmness. The worst gig came when I was dragged into a bookmaker’s after the guard there had walked out. I quickly realised why. It was one of the most miserable 10 hours of my life. Standing at the door of a bookies, watching the same people frittering away a few quid at a time on the horses and the dogs. There were some guys there who didn’t leave the place for the whole time I was there. Truly grim.
One MA became two, and then the inevitable Ph.D. By now, I knew I was just using college as a refuge from “reality”. 9-5, family life, Sunday roasts and all the rest of it just didn’t appeal, to put it mildly. I also knew that most people in the academic racket were there simply because it appealed as a lifestyle choice, but they tried to dress it up as something noble and humanistic. They were furthering “scholarship” and advancing toward the light. In reality, they fancied the long holidays, high pay, perks, conferences abroad, having the attention of fawning female undergrads and all the rest of it. Sure, there were one or two genuine scholars, but the vast, vast majority of people there were just hanging around in order to avoid the work grind. I didn’t have a problem with that: I just wanted the posers to be honest about it.
Inevitably, I dropped out of the Ph.D, not being able to subscribe fully to the cult of academia. You can bluff it there for a while, but the higher you go the more bullshit there is to swallow, and only the real egomaniacs survive. After that I worked in a couple of libraries. I did a stint in a public library, which was actually worse than the academic variety. I was in a snobby part of town, where the locals fancied themselves to be the equivalent of the Mayfair or Central Park set. The lack of manners and general ignorance of the people who came in there was genuinely shocking. To make it worse, the local mothers used the place as a crèche for their screaming spawn, a perfect storm for a by-now convinced antinatalist! I left one evening and didn’t return. The following day I disconnected the landline, turned off my mobile phone and drank in the silence and solitude like it was the nectar of the gods.
In the meantime, I’ve gotten by on freelance writing and Welfare. I’m not ashamed of the latter. If it’s there, take it. You didn’t ask to be born and you’ve been thrown into a nest of vipers and rattlesnakes determined to enslave you, so why not avail of it if it’s on offer. Those who talk about work being “virtuous” are either brainwashed idiots or glory-hunting egomaniacs. In the meantime, life revolves around avoiding two horrifying things: procreation and 9-5.