I got a job after college. It wasn’t much–working for family–but it paid. There was stress to be had, mostly from the parental pressure to find something else to do. Despite this, the moment I announced my intent to quit and find employment elsewhere, my father threatened to disown me, financially. If I wasn’t working for him, I could damn well pay rent and buy and make my own food, because he certainly wasn’t going to extend me such a courtesy.
Admittedly, his attitude likely had more to do with the manner in which I quit, telling him less than an hour before we were due to be at the restaurant that I simply wouldn’t be going in that day, or any other for the foreseeable future. After assuring me that he would never offer a positive work reference, he left alone. Two weeks later, I was employed in retail, selling video games.
I love video games. Playing them, watching others play them, analyzing them… All provide me with a sense of wonder and pleasure not so much on a deep, emotional level, but somewhere more primal. It’s something entirely foreign to me; a sense of visceral pleasure that, at the same time, relaxes me. Still, selling them was very different from playing them and, though I was apt at the task, I found it trying and frustrating, the goals of my company often clashing with my sympathy toward the consumer and my ideals as an individual.
I stuck with it for nine months. I was promoted, in that time, and took over some management-level duties within the store, king of a five-hundred square foot realm. I loathed those eight hour shifts, those early mornings counting the till (nose running, every time, in some half-awake simulacrum of a cold) and late nights putting together the deposit.
So I quit. I put in my two weeks notice and left, officially, on good terms. I was told that, if I wanted to come back, they’d be happy to have me. A selfish fear, spurred by my own perceived inadequacy, made that into a comfort, then. A fallback plan, but the smarter half of my brain knew that it would never set foot behind that counter again. Not willingly.
My dad’s reaction to quitting this job was far less vitriolic than I’d expected. When I first told him, he questioned my foresight, but that was warranted. Do I ever think things through? Words, as well as their absence, placated him. My mom, trying to be understanding, listened to my plan, resolved to help me. I knew what I wanted to do, what I had to do to get there, I thought, but the actions were so difficult to actually perform, the tasks themselves graded on such a nebulous scale that I felt, again, as I hadn’t felt since my first day of class in a new curriculum, completely unfamiliar with all but the most basic outline of the rubric by which I’d be judged.
Life does not come with a complete outline, much less a map. It sometimes intimates one, through constant trends, through the structure man has made for himself and globalized after millennia of conflict between ideals, but all of that is an attempt to provide structure. It is not, itself, inherent. Despite this, we treat it with a reverence that we do not even extend to our deities–the religion of society–and we blunt our aspirations upon it until they have become acceptable ones (beat our swords into plowshares, turn destruction into construction).
We deny the necessity of the destructive, of the element of change within our world, within time, but it presses on despite our best efforts, until it has surreptitiously become the new status quo, from which we fear further adjustment. And, still, the old remains, and combines with the new until we are trying to satisfy both.
Perhaps that, in truth, is the heart of the conflict.