By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
Ever see a movie that you had seen many years ago and discover that the movie of your memory had almost nothing to do with the actual movie? That you had completely misunderstood what the movie was about, even the plot and the “good guys” were not how you remembered them?
That’s what life after 2020 feels like.
It seems that I am, and everyone else is, seeing everything in front of us for the first time.
Basic things, like time and money, work and relationships, even cars and food and shelter, have completely different meanings than they did our whole lives, until they were forced through the filter, and seen through the lens, of 2020.
Here’s only a few examples.
Work used to be very straightforward; You would go to some kind of school or training, buy the appropriate tools, clothes or materials, put together a résumé that summed up your work history and qualifications, search for a job, have an in-person interview or two, get a job, begin working, drive to a workplace, work at that place with others, have a clearly defined work schedule, work a certain number of hours each day, for a specified number of days of the week, get paid a specified amount of dollars for either a specified number of hours or tasks accomplished, go home or spend time with friends on your own.
There was an approximate correlation between education and experience and pay.
There was a clearly defined work place and schedule. And an equally defined place and schedule that was NOT work related.
It seems so simple now; we would go to work, do our work, go home and our time at home was our own.
We would get dressed for work. We would go to work. We would work with others. We would go home after work.
Do any of those elements and aspects of work apply or seem true or real in 2021?
Does money, debt, cash, work, the ”work week”, the “weekend” even the idea of work or career mean anything anymore?
Work, for example, in the now-distant past, used to mean “labor” or applying a skill, and then it became something done in exchange for money. But now money is almost completely divorced from labor or time, or even acquired skill.
Thanks to technology – especially our phones – most of us are essentially “on-call” all the time.
If we work from home, as more than half of us do lately, our time is not our own, our home is not even our own.
If we “meet” at all, we “meet” remotely.
Zoom “attire” often means work clothing that is visible (at least intended that way) but PJs or stretch pants and slippers for the rest. (Pets and children are a near-constant photo-bombing possibility).
I know “professionals” who don’t get fully dressed for many days at a time.
And then there is the money.
YouTube “influencers” earn more than specialists or PhDs. Ever wonder how one becomes “an influencer”? It is certainly “not your father’s” career track.
Companies like GameStop and Blackberry, on the verge of bankruptcy in what had been known as “the real world” or “the marketplace” suddenly (and presumably temporarily) have the most volatile and increasingly valuable stock price, not only in the market, but in their company’s history.
Will those companies with the hottest stock prices (like GameStop, AMC, Blackberry and a few others) even exist a year from now?
Will Radio Shack or Blockbuster stock be the next “big thing”?
Who cares? They are hot (maybe) today.
The whole idea of a stock market used to be to own shares in a company you supported – to financially support them and participate in their success.
Now the idea of investing has become a “game” more like “Old maid” or “Musical chairs” where valued is created (out of essentially nothing) and, while fortunes can be made, the most pressing concern, and highest priority is to not be stuck with the losing hand.
We use money (not actual money of course, but some variation of digital currency or platform) to create, inflate or even deflate value.
There is a near-zero correlation between skill, expertise, even work done or the time expended and the financial reward for it.
Who uses cash or standard mail anymore?
We love (or hate) our phones – but who of us uses them primarily, or even at all, as a phone?
In those now distant years before 2020, I used to hear people ask, “Do I live to work, or work to live”.
I don’t hear that question anymore, and it might be because there is little if any difference or distinction between the two.
Work used to be an exchange, and money was a medium of exchange.
Talent and skill used to be rewarded.
Money, but not always value, is ascribed to companies and investments on the verge of collapse.
The whole idea of value is lost in the shuffle of margins, debt and shorting in the stock market.
Much has been said about the separation between Wall Street and Main Street, but this is far more than a separation, this is a divorce, and the divorce will be final soon.
And as Wall Street and Main Street go their separate ways (is that even possible?) what about the rest of us, those of us working and living, not on Main Street, but on our residential streets?
Good-bye to “casual Fridays”, “weekends”, “TGIF” and maybe even the whole idea of a single career. Or maybe even “full-time” work – whatever that might mean in 2021.
And “commuting”? Will anyone miss it?
We used to have the term “staycation” to describe a “vacation” taken at home. In the early 2020s we have “stay-vocations” where our work and home life take place under the same roof.
Working from home (WFH) and innumerable side-hustles have created new work environments and new career/investment/profit opportunities.
Which of these will pay-off or even exist a year or two from now?
The only thing we know for certain is that what made sense (or money) a year ago doesn’t make it now.
That was then, and this is now.