A dark alley in our nightmares. Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

A job belongs to someone else, even when it is said to be “your” job.

Just as a job is assigned to you, it can be taken away from you. It is not a gift: it is more like a lease that you pay incrementally, usually five days or more per week, and the currency is hours of your life. A job, if it is a good one in the U.S., will demand that at least a quarter of the hours of your life be devoted to it. A job like that will usually demand that you deposit those hours in a particular location, between particular hours of the day. As when you lease a car, when you stop paying with hours of your life, the leased item, the job, is no longer yours.

As long as you continue to pay with hours of your life, usually at least a quarter, a job converts those hours to money in the way that a refinery takes crude that has been sitting inertly and uselessly in the earth and makes it into oil that has many uses and values. Efficiently, the job transforms your time — and all of the intelligence, ideas, physical prowess, strength of character, enthusiasm, loyalty, and ambition you generate during that time — into money.

It transforms your life into currency, some that it keeps for its owners, and a little it gives back to you.

Like a leased car, which you make payments for and also pay to fuel and maintain, a job necessitates your feeding yourself before, during, and after its hours, using some of the money that the job gives you in exchange for the quarter of your life’s hours that you deposit to it. You may find that you spend more money feeding yourself while holding a job, since the job drains both time and energy from you that you would otherwise use to make yourself decent food. Instead of using time and energy to make your own food, you may pay money to others who will make your food and deliver your food. Thus, you pay your money (which is your own time and energy, transformed through your job into money) for food produced by someone else’s time and energy.

Because of the job’s demands, you may find sleep difficult to achieve.

Yet a job necessitates that you sleep to recover from its demands and refresh the mental and physical resources that it has depleted (the job is preoccupied and may forget that, unlike it, you require sleep to stay alive). You may find that the hours when sleep comes most naturally to you overlap with the hours that the job specifically demands from you. You will find, in this case, that the job expects you to sleep during hours that it does not need you. Should you attempt to alter the job’s hours to suit your sleep’s needs, you may find that the job wonders whether someone else would be better suited.

You may pay for exercise with money and must certainly pay for it with time.

A job does not specifically care whether you provide your body and mind with adequate exercise, but in order to remain in the best shape to do a job, your body and mind do require exercise. You may find that the time for exercise is as difficult to come by as time for sleep is. You may find that the job does not intend to negotiate. It may be the job’s opinion that if you want to get up an hour earlier in order to exercise, that is fine, as long as you are not late to work. The job is also fine with the idea of your joining a gym and going to exercise instead of eating lunch. You may decide to eat lunch while you work, or you may decide to eat small, sugary, individually wrapped packets of food on your way to and from the gym. The job believes these decisions are sensible, to the extent that they don’t result in your workout’s transgressing the hours the job has staked out for itself.

A job may give you health insurance, in the U.S., as long as it is enough of a job, a good-enough job, a worthy job that you pay for with enough hours of your life.

In exchange, a job will grant you access to health care that you will probably still pay for with some or much of the money that the job has also given you in exchange for the hours of your life. The quality of the health care that you receive in exchange for your time and energy depends entirely on what the job has decided to negotiate for you. Some jobs negotiate so that employees pay very little. Some jobs negotiate so that the job pays as little toward the employees’ health as possible. Few or no jobs reveal what they will provide in advance of employment. This is the wonderful surprise that accompanies an employee’s first illness on the job.

To recap, in order to gain access to care for your health that you will also have to pay for using the money that the job gives you in exchange for hours of your life, it is best to be healthy and strong enough to deposit at least a quarter of your life to a job.

· If you have spent enough of the previous hours in schools, and

· if you did well enough in the schools to gain the correct certifications, and

· if you have enough money to have clothing and a haircut that make you look like a person who deserves a job — probably from your parents or other family members when you’re young and finishing school, which is also paid for with money from your parents and family and perhaps with loans from banks that expect you to have enough money someday to pay them back —

· then you may get a job like that.

That same job, if it is a good job, may also give you access to a kind of savings account that will allow you to put some, but far from enough, money towards the part of your life that will happen after the job, or one like it, has ended.

If it is a good job, you will be able to put some of the money into this account before taxes are removed. The money can grow, and as long as you don’t try to use it until you are old, it will grow larger, and then you can take it out of the account when you are old and pay taxes on it then and use it to live during the time after the job has ended. If it is a very good job, the job will also give you some extra money to put in the account; it will match some of the money that you are taking out of your pay and put that in, too, and as long as you stay at the job for several years, you will get that money (however, if you leave that job too quickly, the job will keep that money, even though it does not refund the years of your life that you deposited to it). That is a generous job. Many jobs will not do this.

If you do not have the health or the strength or the educational degrees to convince a job like this that you can give a quarter of your life to its needs, there is another kind of job that you can simply give a number of hours of your life to, and the job will simply give you money in exchange for those hours.

One to one. Punch in, punch out. That is a kind of job that is better than no job. An “hourly job” pays enough to cause you to have to pay for access to health care out of the money that it pays you for your time, but it will probably give you less time than the “good job” would to take care of your health. If you “punch out” and take the time away from the job to go to a doctor, you may lose the job. If you lose the job, you may be able to get access to healthcare for no money, which is a strange irony.

If you lose a job, you may be able to collect money to help with living, but only if you are looking for a job, and only for a certain amount of time.

This, too, is like a job: you pay hours of your life to the search for a job, and in exchange, a department of the government transforms these hours of your life into money, though at a rate very much reduced from that of a “good job.” In these cases, looking for a job is your job, which may be better than having no job. Or it may not.

If you have been, for whatever reason, unable to secure a “good job” or an “hourly job,” or if you have determined that you do not like those options, in today’s job market you may take a sort of job called a “gig.”

In this type of job, you may, technically, work on your own preferred schedule, although you may find that the customers you serve in fact expect you to work on theirs. Whether you do or not depends on how much money you need to make. Most people who work a “gig” have to work when the work is needed. A “gig” also does not come with its own materials; for example, if your “gig” is to drive a vehicle to various locations, transporting either people or objects, you must supply the vehicle, the gasoline, the insurance, the license and registration, and the maintenance of the vehicle. You must also pay, out of the money you are paid by the customers, for other materials that are necessary to work the gig: a cellular phone and service, the gig’s particular interface, the use of its brand. It may seem as though, by the time the expenses are paid, very little money remains to pay for the other needs you may have, such as housing and food and healthcare. For this reason, people may have several gigs, or they may pay much more than one quarter of their life’s hours to one or more gigs. In payment for the freedom of one or more gigs, you agree to a lower exchange rate for the hours of your life that you deposit.

If you have enough money, from whatever source, you may be able to invent a job and own it, rather than leasing it from one or several very rich people.

Although it is not an easy path to freedom and may require large amounts of money to be spent and lost in the early stages, some people with ideas or skills or inheritances may try this route. Owning a job and then growing successful enough at it to begin leasing jobs to other people is a dream that many in the U.S. cherish. Given the difficulty of inventing a job and succeeding enough to employ others, you would think that the owners of jobs would be far more understanding of the people who come to them looking for jobs to lease. But in fact, the situation seems to be the opposite in many cases. Those who progress from leasing a job to owning jobs that they lease to others seem to feel satisfied with the arrangements as they are.

Therefore, the best strategy in the U.S. for obtaining money and healthcare and sleep and time to spend as you wish is to become an owner of as many jobs and other things as you can. Good luck!

Copyright © 2019 Jennifer Brown. All rights reserved.