Tag Archives: Malemployment

Into the Wild – Considerations and Reflections

23 Oct

Hello, Jess here.

Chris has been busy working late hours on set this past week and I’ve been home sick for two days. I hardly ever get sick and find myself overwhelmed with the underwhelming boredom of bedridden-ness. Today in my ‘despair’, I decided to start another novel: Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer. What an amazing book and intriguing story. Reading this book, I found myself pausing to reflect on what I had read, even re-reading passages to fully absorb the message.

I began Into The Wild with the impression that Christopher ‘Alexander Supertramp’ McCandless was a nutter. The book begins:

In April 1992, a young man from a well-to-do East Coast Family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later his decomposed body was found by a party of moose hunters. (Jon Krakauer, 1996: 2).

Throughout the book, however, I found myself intrigued by Chris’s (aka Alex) actions. The author brings to life the triumph and tragedy of Alex’s physical and spiritual journey. I find that his message challenges my own decisions and aspirations. Whether he was crazy or not, I found myself relating to his contempt for middle/upper class North American society, his rejection of his career obsessed family and his lure to nature, adventure, travel and personal freedom.

I found myself relating especially to his upbringing and the way such experiences altered his outlook on the values of conventional society. Raised in a middle-upper class family, I also enjoyed the privileges of modest wealth. His parents, like mine, were consumed by their successful careers, often working late into the night and early in the morning. And yes, I too have come to abhor the idea of greed and societal restriction. There must be more to life than climbing ladders, achieving wealth, and empty houses.

Krakauer writes that when Chris’s parents suggested that he needed a college degree to attain a fulfilling career, “Chris answered that careers were demeaning twentieth century inventions, more of a liability than an asset” (Krakauer, 1996: 114). I found this small and simple statement very moving.

I did not enjoy University. In fact, I hated it. Growing up in North America, we are taught from a very young age that if we are ever to achieve anything worthwhile in life, to ever attain happiness and prosperity, peace and security, we must go to University. University, University, University. College is for idiots and if you have no-post secondary, or worse, didn’t graduate high school, well, then you’re a complete failure. University is simply the admission fee for any job making over $15/hour. Because of this ridiculous notion, we now have millions of youth over educated and under employed. The job market is so tough that there are Ph.D grads waiting tables and working in malls for $10.25/hr.  CBC Radio had a wonderful program the other day on ‘Malemployment’. Mal-employment is a form of Underemployment, specifically relating to those in a job that is far below your education and skill level. You can find the radio program here: http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/Local+Shows/Ontario/ID/2296024601/?page=3

I entered University completely unaware of the Malemployment crisis in much of Canada. Because of this, during my second year of study at the University of Waterloo (the school my father had insisted I go) my idealistic, socially constructed and internalized values that ‘University is key to success’ were obliterated.  I was horrified. ‘What do you mean I may not find a job when I graduate?’  My fourteen years of education had instilled in me a focus on the all-important ‘Career‘. Over time, however,  both my career obsessed parents as well as the idea of malemployment created a hatred for such a term.  I once read somewhere that you should “Never find yourself so busy building a career that you forget to make a life”.  These words stick with me.

Back to the book… While reading Into the Wild, I found this young man’s love of adventure and progress is compelling. I truly enjoyed Alex’s words in a letter to a friend:

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one piece of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences…” (p 57). 

Ultimately, I admire this man for living his dreams and pursuing adventures unobstructed by societal restraints. To those who condemn his actions: I agree that he was reckless and a bit too sure of himself. He failed to respect the reality of living in the Alaskan Wilderness and ultimately, that unpreparedness lead to his death. That being said, I do not think we should cast Alex aside as a hippie-tramp obsessed with the beauty of nature. This man found happiness in his travels and had important ideas worth sharing that are still very relevant today.

This blog is meant to challenge those who find themselves living in ‘unhappy circumstances’ to go beyond their safe boundaries of desks and laptops and rush hour traffic. Things as simple as enjoying a walk with your dog through a hydro cut, metal detecting and experimenting in your own backyard, or stopping to watch the beetles on a leaf in the morning sun… these small adventures can create appreciation and exhilaration much like Alex’s extreme adventure. I would highly suggest reading a book and getting some sunshine. These things are important.

Cheers,

Jess

Reference:

Krakauer, J. (1997). Into the Wild. New York: Anchor Books.

 

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