What is the best job? | Varyer
What isthe Best?
Molly Butterfoss
May 2021

What is the best job?

We exist in a world beyond our comprehension, at the mercy of mysterious natural forces (💀🔮 ) and the quaintly damaging economic and social policies passed down to us by our boomer gods. Supposedly, the important things in life are family, friendship, the warm touch of sunshine on our smiling faces, etc. Yet, rather than gathering with our loved ones we spend most of our time flailing in the unforgiving grind of the global economy. I’ve been emotionally—although not financially 😪 —ready to retire since I was twenty-five, but there seems to be no end in sight. Like so many others, I fell into a pattern of numb acceptance, rising practically at dawn (8:57 a.m.) and practicing inbox zero as a form of creative expression.

Then, during my rigorous research*, I turned up this bombshell:

“The United States can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that.” —Alan Greenspan, Federal Reserve Chairman 1987-2006




If I understand correctly—and on the strength of my BFA in illustration and a borrowed New York Times login, I’m fairly confident I do—this means we could all retire immediately. Although, it would be nice if a few people kept working in our new utopia of idle pleasure-seekers. Doctors, and whoever maintains those money printers.

For now, though, we all have jobs. Growing up semi-spoiled, my awareness of the reality of work was dim. I was “into” music, considered that to be a legitimate personality, and didn’t hear many songs about working. Although I enjoyed the song about working on a chain gang that played on the oldies station, most of the music of my formative years had sexier concerns. For this reason I had the misimpression that life was about love and passion, despite what I saw modeled by the white-collar adults in my life. I did have junior-level jobs—I babysat, proudly innovating the Henry Ford-level productivity trick of turning the clocks ahead an hour and then regretfully announcing that it was bedtime. But I didn’t comprehend the all-consuming totality of having a full-time job until I got a full-time job.

Initially, buoyed by the novelty of employment, I verged on being a workaholic, approaching minor tasks at my entry-level retail position with fervor and a deluded sense of importance. Later, on my resumé I listed myself as the Corporate Liaison, since I had called a 1-800 number at Coca-Cola headquarters at my boss’s behest, seeking a referral to an authorized technician who could fix our jammed vending machine.

My spirited work ethic didn’t last long, irrevocably damaged by a mini-Industrial Revolution at the coffee shop where I worked next. A dishwasher was installed, and I received a pay cut based on the logic that since I would no longer have to hand-wash mugs, my job would be easier. I didn’t put up a fight, unsure if my standards were too high or too low. Was it generous that my boss was paying me $5.65/hour to stand in a climate-controlled coffee shop, eat day-old scones, and trash-talk whoever wasn’t working that day, or was it outrageous that I was being paid only $5.65 for each hour of my life that slipped past, irretrievable, in the windowless industrial kitchen?

Either way, modern technology has made manual labor easier (you heard it here first!). I feel like royalty living in a Jetsons-Fantasia mashup, napping while the Roomba, dishwasher, and air conditioner toil in service of my happiness and hygiene. But being so coddled has made me entitled, unwilling to give back to my hardworking machines, from blender to computer. While some laptop owners believe that a high-end product naturally requires and deserves mindful maintenance—diligent software updates, a cozy case to slip into at night—I do not. They already cost so much. A $2,000 computer should subsist on almost nothing, thankful whenever I bother to plug its greedy ass into the charger.

The aforementioned Alan Greenspan, a self-described “lifelong libertarian Republican” (woof), might feel similarly about me, one of his ungrateful citizen machines. To him, my desires—organic snacks, work-life balance—are over-indulgent, a sharp moral and existential provocation; his frankly annoying restraint with the money printers has the same effect on me.

The only way I’ll eventually be allowed to retire is if the nation maintains a certain rate of population growth. Babies are often cute, and they each have the wonderful potential to expand the tax base and fund my future social security. But is it cruel to draft an unsuspecting child into this scam of an existence? Anti-natalists believe that to procreate is morally wrong: life is a painful hassle and babies can't provide informed consent before conception. (The more depressed you are, the more valid this sounds, so if you don’t get it, congratulations.) Any child who screams at their parents that they never asked to be born is instinctively taking a sophisticated ethical stance. I never outgrew this; I resent my very existence whenever I’m required to do anything that lacks an immediate dopamine-based payoff.

Despite my attitude, I'm surviving, thanks to middle-class momentum. My instinct for hard work has faded considerably since my hard-charging corporate liaison era, but I still retain a crumb of faith that I might rise to the occasion if I were to land my dream job. What is a valid dream job, though? In our problematic economy, is it possible for there to be a job that is pure and good and therefore, the best? I’m thrilled to report that yes, there is: the answer is marine biologist, the technicolor dolphin fantasy of landlocked fourth-graders everywhere. I could pursue this, but I worry I would have to touch algae, write a cover letter, or even drown. It’s likely I’ll remain at my greasy keyboard for the foreseeable future, dreamily browsing cephalopod forums in between defiantly RSVPing ‘maybe’ to meeting invites.

Many people, though, operate enthusiastically within the open market. A friend told me that while he was job-hunting, he published a fake job posting, something like what he hoped to find for himself. The applications poured in, and my friend assessed his competition and stole the best resumé layouts for himself. I was blown away by this deranged maneuver, but then another person mentioned doing the same thing. After a third acquaintance owned up to pulling the fake-job-posting move, I realized I was the freak, not them. I should have paid attention when I was reading early bedtime stories aloud to my babysitting victims. The sociological framework of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie was a warning; we can never be satisfied. A cookie will only make us crave milk. Thus we are locked into our endless spiritual, material, and professional quests.

With my lack of fake-job-post savvy, I don’t deserve the marine biologist job, and so I must accept my land-based destiny in the rat race. After all, in this capitalistic crucible, maybe maintaining self-awareness is the most important job of all. (Please imagine that last line as a powerful Carrie Bradshaw voiceover.)

Thank you for your time,


*Bibliography: The episode of Friends in which Rachel gets her first paycheck and learns about FICA, Wikipedia, my accountant, and a 2010 Doonesbury comic about the invisible hand of the market