- The illusion of choice – It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve gone back to work. I’ve been processing the emotions that came over me when I decided to say yes to going back to work. On the surface, I had a choice. Even if I didn’t go back to work, I would still be covered by the benefits given by the government for at least one more month. My needs weren’t urgent since I still had family who could foot the rent. But for how long would that remain sustainable?
I thought about how our workforce was being cut and if things didn’t go back to normal, I wouldn’t have a job to go back to in the later months when the number of positions needed would have already been filled. I was thinking about things in the long run. My choice really was between going back to work and risk getting exposed, maybe even dying. That or staying home, quarantined, safe, but broke. The underlying reality between the two “choices”: Would you rather die employed, or remain alive but broke? So I went back to work. Because maybe a future without money was more horrifying for me than dying. Such is the illusion of choice in a capitalist society.
2. “Futureproofing“- I’ve been hearing and seeing the word so often it makes me question if there really is such a thing. Friends and family telling me to learn new skills during the pandemic so I can switch jobs and “futureproof” my career. I haven’t fully explored my feelings about this. Is there something more behind this mindset? Is it the academic-oriented Filipino experience? I’ve often found that whenever things seem uncertain, we go back to education- like taking graduate studies to offset looming unemployment and identity crises. I’m not against taking any further studies. I myself am preparing to do it but I’m taking this time to figure out my intentions. Is it for prestige? Is it because I’m escaping? What do I value? What do I intend to get out of it? All these thoughts tangled and dangling over me while I’m on my way to work, or while sitting inside a bathroom stall on a 5-minute pee break.
Another thought floating around my head is the idea that no matter how much we try to “futureproof” our careers by studying, if we’re not mentally or emotionally prepared, any form of opportunity will float us by without even recognizing it. Not only that, systematic bias in employment opportunities also place a big hindrance on such promising futures. There’s a layer to being an immigrant that I, as an educated middle-class professional in the Philippines did not have to experience while living there. Canada on the other hand presented additional challenges. I think about my past self, having been a graduate of Digital Media and Web Development. I wasn’t in the right headspace to find pathways for my career. I was struggling with my identity, self-esteem along with the micro-agressions I was facing while looking for employment. Systematic bias in employment opportunities and my mental state placed me at the bottom. It’s definitely much easier to futureproof a career when we don’t have as much barriers to employment. I’m much more mentally prepared, and maybe the emotional cost of redoing this whole education-career thing won’t be as high, but me changing won’t be enough if institutions don’t begin to change either.
I wish I also had more privilege and space to think about future proofing careers during this pandemic. Honestly, if we lived in a kinder more forgiving society that doesn’t place premium on productivity and profit I would think that “future proofing” meant learning how to sustainably live off the land Li Zi Qi style.