Tonight I’m thinking about value.
I was just having a conversation with my mom and there was a bit of a silent spot, and in that moment I was realizing that there was no way I could really afford therapy for the next few weeks to the next few months. Frustrating, given I literally just started it. And at the tail end of that silence, she mentioned that a guy she knows is probably gonna walk away from an 80k gig.
I was immediately agitated.
I am still agitated.
Part of it, I know, is garden variety jealousy. 80k would be life changing. And like, honestly? It pisses me off when someone ten years younger and with less experience can walk into a job that pays more than twice what I make. And that’s my own damn problem and I’m aware of that.
But also…it pisses me off that there is such a disparity on the value we place on different kinds of work. I work in health care. I’m not a doctor or a nurse, the only clinical training I’ve received I’ve gotten through my job, but I’m a key member of a team that ensures longer term health issues do not slip through the cracks. I help to make sure patients get the care they need. I also help to make sure that our records are correct, preventing us from any potential legal action.
The dude my mom was talking about? Buys packaging materials.
I don’t make a multimillion company tons of money. I get that. Nothing I do directly drives revenue. That’s my choice, and a choice that so many of us make because we want to help people, or feel called to provide certain kinds of service. The money isn’t what drives us, at the end of the day.
But we all benefit from each other’s work, and it’s about time we start recognizing that. Without that kid’s work, I couldn’t buy the product he packages. Without mine, someone might not realize they have an illness. Without yours…what? A tired dad might not be able to grab pizza on his way home, or maybe someone wouldn’t have been able to buy their house or car.
There’s value in all the things we contribute to each other, something you’d think we would have realized in the past year when “essential workers” — usually the lowest paid and most at risk — kept us all going by packing, shipping, trucking, and delivering our stuff. Kept making us coffee. Kept flipping our burgers and making our fries. Kept getting us medicine. Kept driving our ambulances.
I’m not saying this kid doesn’t deserve 80k. It’s less about that and more that hearing about his situation makes me acutely aware that money is funneled in certain directions and away from others because of the sociocultural value we place on particular activities and how little value we put on others — even though we absolutely all depend on each other.
We can’t keep pretending that this isn’t the case, but society is a complex web of connections and supports and ignoring that to drive wealth in one and only one direction is not going to last forever. It’s just not. And when it breaks it’s gonna be violent and ugly as hell because you can’t drive people to the edges and not expect that shit to explode at some point.
Everyone deserves enough money to be healthy, safe, comfortable, and have opportunities for growth and learning.