Those of you who have followed Future Expats Forum from the get-go know that I started this blog to discuss issues that all of us who are considering living overseas must deal with. While this is not a “personal” blog in the sense that I write exclusively about me-me-me, I do share my personal circumstances occasionally, when it’s relevant to our overall discussion. When I lost my job in March as part of the US financial meltdown, I let you know about it, because it was going to effect my ability to explore new places to live.
I spent the next seven months, approximately, without a job, picking up some freelance writing here and there with unemployment insurance as my safety net. In Florida, where I live, unemployment is not very generous. The maximum benefit is $275/week. And unlike some states where they recognize that an individual’s education and skills should be considered, Florida insists that if you reject a job – any job – you lose your unemployment benefits. I actually asked them, “so, if I am a concert musician and I’m offered a job digging ditches, I have to take it?” The answer was, “yes.”
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That’s how I found myself in what I describe as the totally terrible, soul-sucking corporate cubicle job from hell. TTJ for short.
I wasn’t planning to write about it, feeling that it was my own burden to bear and would be of no interest to Future Expats readers. Then tonight, after a particularly grueling day in the cube, I realized that was not true.
Because anyone who is innovative and creative enough to seriously consider moving to another country is going to be like me in some important ways: like me, you are an outside-the-box thinker, you’re independent, curious, creative, and you probably even feel good about taking on responsibilities. So, like me, you probably don’t fit very well inside a cubicle. If you started young enough, you may have learned to adjust and accept, but a bad fit is a bad fit, and putting me into a cubicle is a very bad fit indeed.
Now, leaving the US and moving to another country in a fit of pique to get away from the cubicle is a bit far-fetched, even for me. But after occupying the cubicle for a month – one very short or eternally long month, depending on my mood at the moment – my resolve to move is stronger than ever.
I love my country, but the US is sick right now. The illness is economic, political and cultural. I’m in the corporate cubicle as a direct result of our ailing economy. And, let’s face it, there’s something really awful about a system which is supposed to provide a safety net for people in that position – unemployed through no fault of their own – insisting that they take completely unsuitable work just to get them off the (stingy!) payment rolls.
We have lots of failing systems right now. We’re the only Western democracy where hard-working individuals stand to lose everything they’ve worked for their whole lives just because they get sick.
We have an educational system that responds to students’ inability to compete in the global marketplace by lowering its measurement standards to make those same students look better. They still aren’t educated, they still can’t compete, but just look at those improved test scores!
We have a financial system where a handful of individuals can trash the life savings of those aforementioned hard-working, middle class Americans, then receive taxpayer subsidies to get them out of the mess they’ve caused, and then receive multi-million dollar bonuses to reward them so they’ll have an incentive to do it again.
I realize that no country is perfect, just as no family, town, or state is perfect. But I’m in total agreement with Harrison Ford’s character in Mosquito Coast. “Nobody loves America more than I do. That’s why we left. I couldn’t bear to watch,” he states.
I can’t bear to watch either. Instead, I’m going to go after a lifelong dream of mine, to immerse myself in another culture, another society, another way of life. It might take me a little longer to get there, and I may have to exercise more ingenuity to accomplish it.
I’ll tell you one thing for sure, though. It certainly won’t include any corporate cubicles.