Not knowing

I have had a career crisis for more than 10 years. The origin of the my crisis is the socio-ecological crisis we experience. The topics of my on and off periods of doubt and stress have varied. But one thing remains: How to gain a livelihood while working for a paradigm shift?

Everywhere I look ecological destruction is rewarded. People are paid good money to work for organisations that enable directly or indirectly the burning of fossil fuels. Other people are employed to figure out systems to produce more with less money, which results in worse and worse labour conditions in poorer and poorer countries. In all regions people are divided. Some seem to be doing fine, while the underbelly of the society shows the price of so called success. 

In the light of knowing all this, it feels impossible to not to work for a paradigm change. This is also the case for the people I study in my ongoing research. Postgrowth work and livelihoods. Because we desperately need that. 

I have 54 weeks of secured funding. Increasingly, uncertainty creeps in. After that one year and 2 weeks I have either secured another period of funding, been employed to someone else’s project, or I am unemployed. According to studies, uncertainty of income is stressful. Yes, it definitely is.

There’s a word for this state of mind. It is precariousness or precarity. It is not knowing that happens and on such a deep level that affects a sense of security. Anne Helen Petersen describes the effects of this on whole generation in her book Can’t even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation. She leans on a definition, in which the chronic ”not knowing” creates burn out. Burn out precedes exhaustion, so it is still possible to function. But that is a thin comfort though, since being burnt out wears one down. Eventually exhausting comes. Ironically, I couldn’t finish the book because I was too tired to start reading it on holidays, and I had to return to the library it due to the long list of reservations. 

What comforts me is the fact that I’m not feeling this alone. This is a crisis of working life beyond my case. Things need to change. But what happens in between?

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