Monday, 16 August 2010

Trapped


I have just finished reading an extremely interesting and entertaining book called Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica. I loved the way in which the author managed to fuse descriptions of events at work with a number of reflections related to various issues such as immigration, substance abuse, and so on.

As I was reading this book, one of the issues that really struck me was the author’s feeling of being trapped at work. When he started working as a waiter at the age of 31, Dublanica wrote that the restaurant job was meant to be a short-term option until he moved on to something else. The problem is that as he faced a constant struggle to survive (payment of rent and other bills), quitting or moving to a new type of job was far easier said than done. Indeed, Dublanica ended up working as a waiter for several years until he managed to turn to writing as his main occupation.

Although the author eventually managed to switch to something he considered as more fulfilling, I strongly believe that the transition to a more rewarding activity is still a dream for millions of people around the world. More specifically, the feeling of entrapment mentioned by him seems to be shared by countless individuals who are presently engaged in a particular activity in an attempt to survive, but who would love to move to another occupation that is perceived by them as more rewarding economically as well as psychologically. The following post probably mirrors the despair of many individuals who are in such a situation:

"I'm married, have 2 kids and have been experiencing a debilitating depression recently. I feel my only purpose in life is to make money to support my family. I hate my job and feel stuck there, since I don't think I can get another job that pays as well and my wife doesn't work, so I'm the sole breadwinner. I know that I'll never be able to retire, and I will just work until I die. This situation leaves me very depressed and feeling trapped with no hope and no options.

I've become obsessed with money, figuring that if I can find ways to make money outside of work I might have a chance to retire someday. I tried the stock market and found it to be extremely stressful and it took over my entire existence. (I just lost $6200 this week day trading) The stock market was my last hope for a better life and I failed again. I feel like I'm a failure at everything, not performing well at work, losing my hard earned money by gambling in the market.


I come home completely exhausted from work and stressed out. I've lost interest in many things I used to enjoy. I have some better days, but often the bad days are so overwhelming they are nearly debilitating. There are many days I ignore the family and get drunk to escape from the pain of reality. I'm destroying my family in the process, the only reason I live, and I know that I need to change my behavior."

When I was working as a language teacher in Spain , I often felt trapped. Although I loved teaching, the job conditions I had were far from satisfactory. Similar to many waiters, I was paid on an hourly basis and there was no vacation or sick leave. There were several times when I dragged myself to work in spite of being sick so that I could earn some extra money to cover my expenses. It was quite difficult to adapt to a reality whereby it was hardly ever possible to forecast the amount of money I would be earning at the end of each month. Faced with such a lack of stability, it was virtually impossible to make various plans, such as a holiday trip to another country.

Apart from the irregularity of my monthly income, I also had to deal with odd working times. Since many students could only attend a language class following regular working hours, I often had to teach from, say, 6PM until 7:30PM. There were times when I returned home after 9PM! Given the type of students that I found, flexibility was a must. If a student was only available for a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon, it was a matter of either accepting and earning an extra EUR 30 or losing out on such much-needed money. If I had turned certain students down because of the class times, I am pretty sure that my income would have shrunk to the point of being unable to cover all my monthly expenses!

Desperate to find something more stable, I started exploring a number of courses that I could pursue in order to improve my general life situation. There was a time when I toyed with the idea of studying IT. I then thought about studying nursing. There appeared to be an almost constant demand for IT professionals and for nurses. In both cases, the main problem was that the courses were held at times when I would normally be teaching. Attending a course to improve myself was, therefore, impossible. To make matters worse, most of the courses were too expensive for me! In the absence of any additional financial help, there was no way that I could quit teaching to spend a couple of years as a full-time student.

I eventually managed to move to something more stable. I am, however, pretty sure that there are still countless individuals out there who are still trapped; people who are still struggling to make their dreams come true. As one year after another goes by for such people, I admire their resilience; their belief in a better future.

To conclude, I would like to ask about how the governments of various countries are presently trying to help all those individuals who feel trapped, who would like to improve themselves, but who cannot presently do so because of financial issues. Are professional educational courses being offered to people who are constrained to spend from, at least, 8AM to 5PM working to earn enough money to pay the rent or a mortgage? Or are those courses only available to people who can afford to avoid working for a number of years? If ,say, a 30-year-old customer service representative who has no family support would like to study Law at university, what options presently exist to help this person make his dream come true? Are there any schemes for those people who have absolutely no family support that would allow them to quit a job and to seek further training without the risk of starvation and/or homelessness? A society that talks about equal opportunities and then fails to provide them should take a good look at itself and attempt to improve things so that no person is left behind. So that whoever is currently trapped can be freed.


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2 comments:

spiteristeve said...

Seems to be an interesting book. I agree with some people feeling trapped in their job. Nowadays if you are fed up with your current position and need to move on to another you cannot with the bills and cost of living. Until you find a new position you have to wait until you find a new one and you cannot even consider quiting if you are totally fed up, or else where is the pay cheque going to come from?

Joseph said...

I would say that this entrapment is a thing that happens to everybody.

I would like to travel, start a life in another country and live a simpler life.

But my commitments have bound me to this country. And I am not only speaking about my job but also my home loan.

A friend of mine is afraid of these commitments and this is why she rents. A concept which is almost completely alien to the maltese society.