Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters

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What's the problem? What's the question? What's the answer? Where's this heading?

So my mom and I went to see our (he manages her money and my trust fund) financial advisor and it was an interesting experience. He works in the Trump tower downtown in the offices of Solomon Smith Barney. It's one of those seriously corporate dealies, banks of elevators, the whole corporate decor thing where everything's in relatively good taste but takes the safest aesthetic route whenever possible, with nothing there representing indivuality in any meaningful way. Fortunatly he's a pretty cool guy and his office has some personality including a paperweight that says "A cluttered desk is the sign of a genius" (Clutter and genius are two things that are inherently anti-corporate, well at least undesireable in corporations) and a picture on the wall from his son that says "Alex's Stress Release System: Bang Head Here" and has a little target.

Anyway in addition to recieving some calming words about our financial situation the visit made me think about my life, where it's going, and where I want it to go. I've always felt uncomfortable in corporate places. I think it's because of my dad. He used to wear short sleeves and sandals in his lab, and thought nothing about having me play computer games on his work PC. He was his own boss and as long as he got good grants and taught very well respected classes he could pretty much do whatever he wanted. Corporate offices are another animal entirely. There it's all about overcoming individual quirks to fit into a large mechanism and what matters is not just results but also appearences. So I've always been tense and uncomfortable around faux wood panneling and cubicles.

This time it was different. I'm older now and don't have that whole "Kids shouldn't be in corporations" automatic feeling hanging over my head. Likewise I've become much more conventionally successful in my life and so probably have more in common with corporate people. I now know what it is to sweat out a deadline rather than just saying "Forget it" and handing in the project late. I also know what it is to sacrifice quality for expediency, as shameful as that might sound.

Anyway sitting there in his office with the three plasma monitors and the TV tuned to some business channel or another, not to mention the fairly nice view, I realized that if I wanted to pursue law, or certain channels in psychology, that might very well be where I'd end up. A place like that. And it was a somewhat comforting thought. Corporations are bastions of non-relativistic European based American culture where "authentic" "Ethnic" dress is NOT the equivalent of a high quality suit and where the rules are at least SOMEWHAT standardized for everyone (Of course connections are a massive advantage and those darn women/minorities still get a leg up in many ways) There's also the call of the plush lifestyle where your biggest financial worries are how you're going to afford the new garage for the second house and whether you're going to get to vacation in a five star hotel or going to have to suffer in some rinkydink rundown four star establishment where the mint on the pillow isn't even Godiva. This is ignoring the massive issue of job security, in that there's like none, but I'm arrogant enough to think I wouldn't be the first to get the axe if a downturn hit.

That lifestyle is not ENTIRELY lacking in attraction, it is true. In fact it's pretty damned attractive. The biggest flaws are that A) It tends to be, but is not neccesarily, pretty devoid of meaning. I mean if you're a corporate drug scientist and you discover some sort of new important medication that can be pretty damned cool. And managing money for people that you actually like is probably rewarding. Helping them get their kids through college and retire in the style that they want to. The other issue is that the corporate life more or less requires a family. While I have no real problem with the idea of children, I am dead set against the idea of a wife, and so I find it unlikely that I will ever have a family. Corporate life without family is just sort of...well...I've never heard of anyone pulling it off and being reasonably happy.

The alternative to the rat race would be to get involved in something based on passion. To forgo the plush leather and elevator music of the corporate boardroom for something like the austere halls of a university, the sterile walls of a medical lab, the tiny cluttered office of a prosecutor or public defender, or the mean streets on which most criminal investigation takes place. The advantage to that is fulfillment but a loss of comfort. I don't know. It's definitly something I need to think about. Do I want to live the plush WASPY life that is open to me or do I want to try to ignore that opportunity and take a bite of the world from the ground floor?


P.S. I also found out today that I can run again without it putting undo stress on my knees. This is a direct result of the weightloss, so I'm happy about that. I used to be quite agile when I was younger and smaller. Hopefully that will return too.
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