Monday, 19 August 2013

The Fuck Has Happened to August Too

I don't like being a development economist. I've been mostly moping for 2 weeks, physically and emotionally worn out. It's been a difficult month, even with all the pieces falling together surprisingly neatly in the end, especially finding a really nice place. But now, after my first relaxing weekend since this began, and with the pounding war drums of the BSG soundtrack rumbling in my ears, I feel resolved to let it be known that I'm quite sure this isn't the job for me. It's a tricky admission when you're trying to avoid a reputation as a quitter, but I'm not simply giving up. I'll do this job professionally until I have all my dominoes lined up for the next step. (Besides, I stuck out the last job for 3 years, which ain't bad commitment at all, considering it never paid my bills.)

There are a few reasons. The first and most obvious I noticed was that I'm largely cut off from my friends. I've spent enough of my life feeling (though, fortunately, seldom really being) friendless and alone that the idea of voluntarily isolating myself from my social circle seems completely perverse. Quite a few people have told me I'll meet nice new people in Pretoria, and that may be, but also fuck that! I have excellent friends back in Joburg, friends I've invested years in, and I don't want to treat them as disposable or replaceable. I'd finally built up a fantastic social life, with all sorts of things to do through most of the week. Not big things, mostly, just small, fun things to keep life worth living. Now I have to plan well ahead just to be able to pop back to reality for my single weekend event. I used to have 2 regular (in fact, far better than regular, they were fantastic!) roleplaying groups, and now I have none. (I have one Pretoria friend, and I think she's annoyed that I keep complaining that I have "nobody" here.)

Adjunct to this is the increased stress and danger of the driving. Driving within Pretoria is probably much safer than driving within Joburg, because nobody fucking lives here, but the damn N1 between the two is crap to have to drive regularly. The 6 rises and falls along its length mean you have to concentrate deeply on your car's momentum the whole time, especially when you've got a little Corsa like mine. And people drive so shitly along it, perhaps partly because of the challenges of the rises. You can see ample fresh skid marks near the top of each, as someone's come rushing up too fast behind a sluggish truck or something but not seen it til the rise was crested. (The alternative N14, while flatter, is worryingly scattered with burnt-out husks of cars every time I follow it, possibly reflecting its lack of street lights.)

But I digress. My sole point there is that it's not just the extra travel time I face now, but shitter, more stressful travel too. Not a nice way to bracket all my leisure expeditions.

But another, less immediate reason I don't want to be a development economist is simply that I don't like the job. I've been monitoring my thoughts on this very carefully. I was initially worried about impostor syndrome undermining my life for me, but it's actually been quite the opposite. The work is piss easy. I get frustrated that others are going too slow for me, that I'm stuck twiddling my thumbs for hours waiting for information I need, and then completely unchallenged when the work does reach me. Working from home or at least somewhere comfortable, that might be tolerable (not anywhere near ideal, just barely tolerable), but instead I'm trapped in a silent, blank room behind a blank desk for 9 hours at a stretch. Some people like constancy, but I actually prefer a variable schedule and even some travel, adventure and new scenery, so long as I'm based in the blessed confines of Joburg more often than not.


Most people seem to agree that I probably asked much too little for my salary. Clearly I've been an oppressed, under-paid mass for too long, that I've gotten used to peanuts. My mistake, and lesson learned, but it doesn't help the situation either.

But I've done dull work, in dull settings, for much less money than this before. The tipping point to the nature of the work is that I just can't give a shit about it. I may have fluctuated in my choice of specific career a lot, but I've been absolutely certain since high school that I wanted to help people, make the world better. It was the addition of Isaac Asimov, Star Trek and punk into the mix of my general upbringing that did it, I think. This current job may sometimes help people indirectly, as successful economic development sometimes can, but I find it hard to believe managment really aims for that. I contractually can't write any details of my work, but it's all tedious corporate shit, not what I'd call real development. It's the sort of stuff you can pull income with in this field, but I don't believe we're really adding value to society (which was exactly my experience the last time I tried a job like this, over 6 years ago). To put it slightly more technically, I am a firm believer in bottom-up, rather than top-down development.

I'm nearing 30. I've likely got another 50-60 years ahead of me, at least 30-40 of which will have to be filled with employment. I'm not getting stuck down a depressing career path for that long by failing to act now.

What would I rather be doing? NGOs! Abso-fucking-definitely working for NGOs. And I still definitely see education as the absolute most vital long-term development goal (almost more of a meta-goal, really), so an education NGO seems the obvious choice for me. Find me one! Find me many! All I need is a foot in the door, and I can do a world of good. This is my goal for 2014. (P.S. Make sure it's based in Joburg.)