Sometimes, when I have time to burn, I would go on YouTube and watch clips of old movies and TV shows. Sometimes, they would be movies and TV shows I have seen in the past. Sometimes, they wouldn’t.
I don’t particularly know why I use my time in such a manner. In terms of my contribution to my own life, I find mindlessly watching video clips without its context to be one of the most unproductive aspects of my life. Back in the beginning of college, when I wanted to maximize every aspect of my life, I hated myself for wasting so much time. After all, the time I spent watching out-of-context video clips was time that I did not spend on what I considered to be “productive” activities, like studying for exams, spending time with friends, and reading self-help books.
Yet, even after so many years of my life, I still watch the same video clips over and over. The Pirates of the Caribbean series hold an enormous amount of sentimental value for me. Very often would I re-watch the same scenes over and over again when I have an especially intense longing for my past. During moments of unbearable stress or heartbreak, I often long for my adolescent self when my problems did not have the same complexities my problems do now.
Perhaps it’s a giant fuck you to my previous attitude towards trying to maximize every aspect of my life. Out of all the noticeable effects of American capitalism in my life, I dislike how my environment seems to define my worth through my contribution to the aggregate GDP, which implies that I should spend all of my energy engaging in “productive” activities for society — whatever that means. It doesn’t mean, however, that I should not spend the leftover time not dedicated towards the necessities of my life on further increasing my life productivity.
Work hard, play hard — I could not think of a better epitome of the American capitalist ethos. I could observe it through many of my peers who pursue egregiously high-income careers without having a complete understanding of their professional values. Midtown, New York City. A beautiful romanticized image of the raw excess of capitalism afforded by those who thrive from income inequality. After all, it’s quite difficult to say no to a $100,000 salary prorated over 10 weeks.
For me, it was even difficult to conceptualize salaries as a concept. Throughout my entire life, I have been paid in wages. The minimum wage in PA is $7.25/hour. I earned $8.25/hour when I pushed shopping carts around at Acme Supermarkets. I earned $8.50/hour when I worked a math and reading tutor at Kumon. And now, I earn $8.00/hour as a receptionist at the Quadrangle Information Center. One hour of work at the front desk meant one and a half Wawa breaded chicken hoagies. Forty hours of work over Fall Break meant at a three-day pass to Electric Zoo.
So, when I hear the $100,000 a year, I cannot conceptualize the number in terms of Wawa breaded chicken hoagies or tickets to Electric Zoo. It’s just a number to me. I categorize it along with other statistics in my head, like how the average American household makes around $60,000 a year. But after hearing from some of my friends who had internships that paid $100,000 prorated over 10 weeks during the summer, I have come to have a better understanding of what $100,000 means. At least, in terms that makes sense to me.
An $100,000 a year salary is equivalent to working ~$49/hour, assuming working 9 am – 5 pm without vacation. It’s six times more per hour than I am making on the front desk. It means five more breaded chicken hoagies. It means another three-day pass to Electric Zoo every six hours. And equipped with that immense accumulation of liquid assets, products that are considered inconsiderable to most people become instantly accessible given a couple hours worth of work.
Subject to income tax of course. For now, at least.