On Millennial Writers and the Need for New Narratives of Work

On Millennial Writers and the Need for New Narratives of Work

The first job I ever had was in a small town in northern Quebec, deep in the French-speaking part of Canada, at an astronomy center that had fewer than five visitors each day. There were seven of us on staff. It was before mobile phones, back in the days of analog boredom, when we had three options: read, talk to each other, or stare vacantly into space. The center didn't need me but my labor wasn't the point. I was there earning minimum wage on a summer exchange funded by the Canadian government to improve my French. I returned home a few weeks later sounding like a local, with vowels that stretched into diphthongs when I spoke. I've never had a job like that again. But that feeling of tedium—of knowing I had to be somewhere without knowing what I should do—is something that soon became familiar to me, even in jobs that, outwardly, I should have been happy to have: office-based, white collar, decently paid. In his book Bullshit Jobs , the late anthropologist David Graeber borrows a concept from psychology to describe this sensation: “Scriptlessness,” he writes, is when “not only are the codes of behavior ambiguous, no one is even sure what they are supposed to say or how they are supposed to feel their situation.” Graeber's book grew out of a viral article published in the leftist magazine STRIKE! in 2013, a few years after the global financial crisis and on the heels of […]

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