Saturday, December 17, 2011

A view from afar, and maybe a little encouragment.

So I've been living outside of my birthplace, the USA, for nearly a decade. Over the past couple years I have been following, mostly through the internet, but also through conversations with family and friends back home, how the global economic crisis has affected the way Americans think about themselves, their country, their educations, and their jobs. I just read this article from the Atlantic (which is a very fine publication full of very thoughtful writers) that tries to make a distinction between a "job" and "work" and what it means to have a meaningful job or to do meaningful work. Its worth a read. What struck me while reading it however is not what the author was interested in discussing but with an undertone in the article that I have noticed in many other writings and conversations about the American economy and particularly about finding jobs. People talk of "catching a break," "finding a job," getting employed," the importance of getting a "useful degree." They dwell on topics like structural unemployment, global un-competitiveness, having their jobs "out-sourced," evil corporations, and corrupt governments. Megan McArdle, another great writer at the Atlantic, has written a lot about the trauma of being unemployed and about how a lot of young people who "have done all the right things," gone to university etc, still can't get a job. From the outside one gets the picture that Americans, and particularly the youth, are simply stuck in a bad situation, a bad economy, over which they have no control and no one really has an answer for what they should do.

Here is my modest suggestion. Get out of America. Not because America is a bad place, or a sinking ship, but because it is only one place, one possibility, on a planet with so many other places and possibilities. You live in a larger world than the companies to whom you have sent job applications, than the friends you have now, than your car payment, or favorite bar hang-out. These things are not necessarily bad, but there is more.

And money is not an issue. Again, money is not an issue.

There are so many ways to survive or even thrive outside of America. The possibilities are nearly endless and cost next to nothing. Join the Peace Corps. Work on an organic farm in nearly a hundred different countries. Get an internship in the Scuba Diving industry. Volunteer somewhere (even with us). Teach English. Or just hitch-hike and bum around nearly anywhere. And these are just some of the opportunities that are available even without any job experience or uniquely "useful" skills. With experience and skills the world of possibilities outside America is even greater.

Now if none of this sounds like a good time to you and you would prefer to stay in America, fantastic. But at least know that you are not trapped and at the mercy of a bad situation or a bad economy, but rather someone who has a whole world of opportunities lying at his or her feet and has chosen a certain path. Fight for it, but always remember that there are other paths that could be fought for as well.


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