Tagged: thoughts

Thoughts about the year ahead

- by Alyson Shane


It feels like 2019 both snuck up on me and couldn't get here fast enough.

Not because 2018 was bad personally - not in the slightest. In fact, I'd say John and I both had banner years on pretty much all fronts. 

We, like many of the people we know, are lucky.

But it was an exhausting year for lots of other people, both for people we know and, it seems, for the world at large. 

There seemed to be way more bad news than good news, which I'm not even sure is true but when all the bad news feels like overwhelmingly bad news it's hard to not focus on the stuff that makes you want to sign off of the internet permanently and go live in a secluded log cabin on a mountain somewhere.

I get those feels, man.

But I'm trying to be more positive these days, so in light of that I thought I'd share some of the stuff I've been reflecting on in the wake of the final days of this The Year of Our Lord 2018.

Here's what I'm planning to work on in the coming year in no particular order:

I want to use social media with more intentionality. 

I use social media pretty much all day every day because I run a digital marketing company 

(shameless plug, heh)

but just because I use it and read about it all the time and think about it from a strategic perspective doesn't mean that I'm using it in a way that adds value to my personal life.

I plan to spend less time aimlessly scrolling through Instagram while I watch binge-watch something on Netflix, and more time painting or drawing while I binge-watch, listen to a podcast, or work through an audiobook.

I plan to spend less time RTing and Liking, and commenting instead. 

Taking the time to answer those question boxes on Instagram stories and having small conversations with real people more often.

I plan on ReTweeting fewer white men. 

Someone on the most recent Pod Save America episode pointed out that lots of influential journalists and politicians are white men, and that they were going to make a point to RT more diverse perspectives than those of the de-facto white guy in the room.  

I liked that point, and am going to try and do the same. 

I want to read more books.

I read a lot of articles, but I don't read as many books as I'd like. This is problematic for me because, while reading lots of articles helps me construct a well-rounded model of an idea or concept, sinking down into a book offers me the chance to go much deeper on a subject than stringing together a bunch of articles tends to offer.

There's a great article about how reading books makes us more human that's informed my thinking a lot in this area.

I read a lot this past year, but I could have read more books if I'd put more effort into it. I got a bit lazy around summer, I think, since things were so busy. 

I still managed to read quite a lot, though: I read and was devastated by Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms which I read while we were in Belize. I read Ubik and Little Brother and a bunch of Ted Chiang short stories and others through book club; I read Crossing the Chasm which took me way longer than I'd have liked and Fire and Fury which was infuriating and scary, and a couple of others, too.

I also just finished reading Adult Onset by Ann-Marie MacDonald, which was terrific.

Making time to read is hard even if you love reading though. Life gets in the way. 

But I need to make more time for it because it helps me be a better 

writer

person

version of myself.

So this year I'm planning to carve out more time for reading books, which bodes well since we'll have a lot of free time during our flights to Thailand, and I can read quickly af.

If you have any suggestions for books I should read, tweet them at me.

I want to forgive more readily.

The older I get the less I want to hang on to the angry things that kept me from happiness when I was younger. 

I have a lot of things I can be angry about; plenty of things I can hold onto and wield like weapons. Things to keep me fired up, feeling angry, churning over thoughts and feelings.

And sometimes that happens, don't get me wrong. 

But I want to put those things down more quickly in the years ahead. 

Not just as it relates to my loony family, but as it relates to how I feel when I disagree with someone, or when I feel slighted or unheard or misunderstood. 

I've realized in the past few years that being intentionally happy and focusing on the positive things on purpose has only made me more happy over time. 

It also seems to have a positive impact on people around me, which is something I'd like to continue to foster.

There's a neat segment on the latest Hidden Brain podcast that talks about "contagious compassion" which relates to this concept that influenced how I think about this idea.

I plan on continuing to build on that because that seems like a good quality to cultivate in myself.

I want to spend more time with my food.

John and I already garden aggressively each summer, but finding new ways to cook, can, make jam, or otherwise do stuff with the food we buy and grow is something that gives me a sense of comfort and pride.

There's nothing quite like filling the house with the smell of simmering veggie scraps or chicken bones for broth 

(except the smell of soup made at a later date)

or spending an afternoon listening to Frank Sinatra and the old classics while slicing up cucumbers for pickling, or tomatoes for a salsa. 

Bonus points if there's a mojito or a well-garnished caesar nearby.

But there's more we can do to eat better, waste less, and be more creative with our leftovers and combining the odds and ends into our meals. 

So this year I'm gonna figure out some "kitchen hacks" and become an even better, less wasteful cook. 

I want to write more.

I've pigeonholed myself with my writing in the last few years, I think, and it's time to start exploring how to express myself using writing in other mediums.

I've downloaded Google Keep and am going to keep a list of notes, thoughts, phrases, and quotes collected as I go about my day. I've been using it over the past few days and it's been really rewarding to capture those little narrative moments as they happen. 

Maybe I'll write a book with them someday. Who knows.

I'm planning to experiment more with writing poetry, and not judging my poems so damn much. Most poems suck, anyway, so it's absolutely fine for mine to suck as well.

I'm also planning to start hashing out some short stories. Making sense of some of the ideas I've had rattling around in my brain since I read Stephen King's On Writing a few summers ago and promptly got "too busy" to expand on them.

It feels like the right time, so I'm planning to capitalize on that feeling in the future.

I want to do more crossword puzzles.

John and I do crossword puzzles on our phones together and it's become one of my favourite in-between activities that we do together. You know what I mean:

In-between prepping a meal and waiting for it to cook.

In-between getting ready for a ride and getting picked up.

In-between waking up and getting out of bed on the weekends.

It's a nice little mental stretch, and fun to do. 

We use Redstone Games' free app Crossword Puzzle, and so far have liked the collections from D. Diebold the best, I think. 

Happy 2019!

Whether 2018 was your best or worst year, I hope 2019 brings you the best of everything: friends, family, and personal and professional success. 

It's always nice to have an opportunity to reflect and plan for the future; thanks for reading!

Do you have any plans for the coming year? Any ideas you're planning to work on, or goals you've set for yourself? Tweet 'em at me and let's chat.

Tags: Thoughts 2019

 

We're going away soon and I can feel it

- by Alyson Shane


A lot of people tell me that they don't get nervous or excited before a trip until they're in the car or on the plane, but not me. 

My favourite part of doing anything is thinking about doing it in advance of doing it.

We're going to Thailand and Cambodia in a few weeks and I've been daydreaming about beaches and big bowls of noodles and night markets and tuk-tuks for months, now. 

But more than my excitement, I can feel that we're going away soon in how I feel about my day-to-day life. 

I'm enjoying the small things a little more. Like how the winter sunlight looks in the afternoon, or how Toulouse curls up between my legs when I'm sleeping

even if this does trip me up almost every time I need to get up in the middle of the night.

Today we did our usual trio of errands: Shopper's, the LC, DeLuca's. 

We put on backpacks and brought extra bags and laughed and tried liquor samples and bought a bunch of fancy cheese and artichoke hearts and fresh bread and a vanilla bean soda.

Tomorrow we're making a special dinner together and I'm going to make a nice mulled wine to serve with the pizza we're making from scratch and all the fancy cheese we're going to eat.

Tonight we're going to Thida's Thai with some friends and I'm ordering the super-spicy chicken pad Thai, my favourite

which I know is nothing like what I'm going to be eating in Thailand in a few weeks

and in a few days we'll be ringing in New Year's in our pyjamas with our best friends eating fancy cheese and drinking wine and popping bottles of bubbly to celebrate spending another year together. 

The family I've built for myself in the city I love. 

How sweet it is to be together

and how fleeting our time together is before we leave.


 

People are all worked up about a Christmas song

- by Alyson Shane


And frankly I think we're worrying about the wrong thing.

What worries me isn't whether a song that was written 74 years ago is sexist 

(it isn't)

what worries me is that our society is moving to a place where our first instinct to something we don't like is to ban it outright.

That's some Ray Bradbury-style shit right there, folks. 

Last night I sat down and looked at the lyrics, and at first glance I could totally see why some people think the song is concerning: on the surface it sounds like guy trying to pressure a girl into staying the night, and that kind of behaviour, rightfully, deserves some scrutiny.

So let's dig into the historical context of the song a little bit:

"Baby, It's Cold Outside" was written in 1944 by the songwriter Frank Loesser (who also wrote Guys and Dolls) so he and his wife Lynne could perform it at parties. He sold it to MGM for use in the film Neptune's Daughter and it was a huge hit, winning an Academy Award in 1950.

It's a duet sung back and forth between male and female singers, and the plot, basically, is that a man is trying to get his date to spend the night and she's demurring. 

By modern dating standards that seems, at first glance, problematic. 

Obviously a man pressuring a woman to stay the night is inappropriate, right?

Except when we consider the song in the context of the time it was written:

In 1944, women were under a ton of pressure to appear modest. Being labelled as "a slut" could have serious social ramifications, so women were expected to put up a fight regardless of whether they wanted to engage in sexual activity or not. 

Which is what seems to be what's going on when the female singer says:

"I ought to say no, no, no, sir, at least then I can say that I tried." 

I could dig into this further, but there's a great Medium post that breaks down a lot of what I'd say anyway that I recommend you check out instead.

It's also worth noting that the expression "what's in my drink?" was a popular phrase people used when they were getting tipsy, as noted by Frank Loesser's daughter in an interview

When the song was written the expression had nothing to do with date rape, or drugging someone's drink; the lyrics only become problematic when we view them through the narrow lens of the present.

But whether or not we agree on our interpretation of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" doesn't matter anymore, because banning it from the radio eliminates the opportunity for constructive discussion.

Worries About Censorship

Banning a song, or a book, or a film, isn't how societies solve problems; it's how we repress discussion and silence alternate viewpoints.

And, frankly, it scares me that this is where we're at as a society.

I've struggled to talk about this publicly, and have been afraid to do so because I'm scared of the political blowback I may receive. 

I've watched people's lives get upended, their social standing destroyed, and their friends and colleagues turning their backs on them because they expressed an opinion that was unpopular, or that people didn't want to hear.

But the honest truth of it is that censorship doesn't help us, it hurts us.

I know this because I've studied it. I have a degree in rhetoric. I've studied oral history. I've spent close to a decade of my life dissecting how we convey our thoughts and ideas, and how our communication has changed over time. 

I've taken a deep anthropological dive into how words can be weaponized against us 

(which is the biggest reason why I find Conservative rhetoric scary and problematic, but that's a topic for another post)

and what scares me the most isn't what we say, it's when we stop people from saying it, and who does the censoring.

And because this censorship is coming from The Left it's easy for those of us who identify as left-leaning to hand-wave away how concerning these tactics are because we assume we have a moral high ground.

I mean, who wouldn't want to get behind ensuring that women are protected and respected in our society? That's an easy sell, right?

Except when we assume we have the moral high ground we stop looking critically at the larger implications of the actions we take. 

When we demonize people who disagree with us as being "out of touch" or "dated" we hand-wave away the important discussions that need to take place in order to get everyone on the same page

(or, at the very least, reading the same book)

which is actually how we move forward together as a society. 

What's Next?

Censorship is problematic because when we draw a line between "right" and "wrong" we leave no room for context and nuance. 

We eliminate the opportunity for discussion and exploration because we've already decided (through censorship) that something has no place in our public discourse.

As our society continues to grow and change, we need to be able to have ongoing discussions about what is, and isn't, appropriate in our modern context, but censoring something we don't agree with isn't how we have healthy discussions. 

The ugly truth of it is that censorship is a slippery slope to a totalitarian state, and I worry that because we've begun censoring things under the guise of "equality" and "feminism" we're ignoring the deeply troubling ramifications of adopting these kinds of tactics. 

Because censorship seems OK as long as as you're not the one being censored.

But if history tells us anything, it tells us that the people we need to be the most concerned about are the ones who think the have the moral high ground

because it's those people who will turn on you the fastest.

Tags: Thoughts

 

I've been walking a lot recently

- by Alyson Shane

I walk a lot most of the time, really, but recently the temperature plummeted to something ridiculous like -20C for a few weeks and nobody wanted to go outside, myself included.

But the last few days have been way more mild, to the point where I didn't even wear a toque today. In late November!

But I digress: I've been walking a lot lately in a variety of headwear and a very sharp blue jacket courtesy of the recent Thrive Thrift Shop clothing swap

(I've finally fulfilled my lifelong dream of owning a winter jacket that isn't black!)

to and from different meetings, and appointments, and what have you.

It's been nice to be outside again.

The part I like most about being outside is having the opportunity to see other people going about their day. I'm endlessly fascinated by other people and can sit in one spot watching people all day long if left to my own devices. 

A lot of people think people-watching is boring, but it isn't. People are incredibly interesting if you think about it. 

Consider this: every single other person around you is walking around in a big skin bag with internal thoughts and feelings, worries and motivations, deep personal histories, baggage, anxieties, hopes and fears... all of the weird stuff you go through every day, everyone else is going through at the same time.

Do you remember the first time you realized that about other people? I do.

I was in the bathroom in my childhood home, washing my hands. Or rather, I'd washed my hands after using the bathroom and was thinking about something, and as I looked at myself in the mirror I realized: 

every single other living person out there is having the same experience as I am. 

I actually stumbled back a bit and had to catch myself on the towel rack, and stared at myself and for the first time connected with the fact that all of the other people around me were as equally complicated and had the same internal monologues and experiences, and it scared the living daylights out of me.

I'd never felt so small before. I felt insignificant because, after all, if what I'm experiencing is just "default human" and is the same thing everyone else experiences, does that mean I'm less unique? 

After that I developed an obsession with psychology and sociology and anthropology. 

I figured: I dive as deep into these topics as I can, maybe I can figure myself out.

But what digging into it (and, subsequently, into how totally infinitesimally small and unimportant I am in the grand scheme of the universe - deep breath) wound up accomplishing was that I developed a strange fascination with other people.

(The jury is still out on whether I truly understand myself though - I'm a work in progress)

I want to know everyone's backstory. Their hopes. Their fears. What it's like for them for look out of their eyes from their body and look at me knowing that there's a consciousness in there looking back at them from a separate sack of skin and bone and muscle and gut bacteria and atoms and neurons firing. 

I wonder: what's it like for them to know that there's another person in me, too?

So it's nice when it's warm enough for me to walk outside because I get to experience other humans going about their days, absorbed in their own and thoughts and feelings.

They're going about their lives, thinking their own internal monologues. 

Worrying about what to make for dinner 

what to get Jenny for her birthday next Thursday

that wall in the kitchen they still haven't painted yet.

I walk by other people and I marvel at how unique everyone is. 

How strikingly complex and interesting and special they all are. 

And I walk to and fro and back and worth watching people, and I wonder:

Does anyone else realize this about me, too?

Tags: Thoughts

 

I have the weirdest luck

- by Alyson Shane

Yesterday as I was on my way to a meeting my toque blew off my head because it was windy af and I had to chase it down the street like a chump

which wouldn't have been so bad, except as it was blowing away my toque blew into some dude's legs as he was also crossing the street, and you know what he did?

He laughed and kicked my toque off his leg and I swear I could have chewed him out for being a tool right then and there but I was worrying about catching up with my toque and also getting my hair, scarf, and glasses which slipped off my face as I was hustling in place

(I must have looked like a hot mess)

then as I was bending down to snatch up my hat my phone went flying out of my pocket and wouldn't you know it

the damn thing hit the pavement and the screen shattered into a bazillion horrible and depressing shards.

It was heartbreaking.

But I had to go to a meeting with a new client and my account manager so I had to keep my shit together even though I was freaking out internally because now I needed to get a new phone. There was no way I could use this broken POS. Ugh.

So after my meeting wrapped I headed to my friendly neighbourhood Rogers kiosk to get it replaced. As I was going through the transaction I mentioned that I was heading to Thailand in a few months and the dude said

oh no way, I just got back from Thailand and Indonesia!

and gave me a ton of tips and tricks to traveling through Thailand including making sure we do some scuba diving off the islands on the southern part of the country

(which we were planning to do)

and also to take as many night trains as possible since they're affordable and beautiful and offer lots of chances to actually interact with real Thai folks and not just dumb tourists like us. 

(we're now booked on a night train to Chiang Mai which I am PUMPED about)

"Sorry about this" he said "but it's gonna be $300 to buy out of your contract and get a new phone" and I said well, that sucks but OK. I'm not a baller but my corporation can afford it so I'll just buy it now and get money back on my taxes since it's a business expense.

And he said, oh you run a business, what do you do?

And I said I run a digital marketing agency blah blah and he said are you looking for copywriters? 

And I said, why yes I am

and he told me his gf was a CreComm grad and is a copywriter and is looking for more work and I thought THIS IS PERFECT because I have lots of work I need done and I'd rather pay someone to do it than do it myself because yr girl is busy af

so I left him my card and have a potential new hire without doing any work. 

What's weird about that whole exchange is that if I hadn't been chatty and pleasant and probably bordered on over-sharing what my company does, what our Thailand plans are, etc. 

(luckily for me I live in a city where everyone is unusually nice and talkative with strangers)

I might not have gotten those travel protips or had the potential to meet a new person who can help me grow my company and do good work for my clients.

The moral of the story I think is: be chatty and pleasant and good things will come to you.

It always seems to work out that way for me, anyway.

Tags: Life Thoughts

 

It's been a weird, hard time lately

- by Alyson Shane


I don't know but whatever it is, it's been a weird few weeks and it's not just me. Everyone seems to be going through one thing or another. 

There's a weird crackle in the air, bad juju, bad luck, weird happenstance, odd off-putting stuff going on it seems. A conflict. A misunderstanding. Health issues. Mental problems.

Everything feels fucked in one way or another and it's hard not to let it eat at you. Wear you down. Make you feel like what's the fucking point

of anything at all.

Between politics and the planet and interpersonal bullshit I swear every person I know is struggling somehow and I'm not sure if this is what adulthood is supposed to be like

or if this is just the new normal we all get to deal with

or if this is just how we get to feel if we take the time to be a #wokebae in today's messed-up, backwards-slipping world

but whatever it is, it sucks. 

And I'm ready for a break.

But being a #wokebae (which is a joke, you guys) is realizing that - goddamn it - if nobody gives a meaningful shit then nothing will get better.

So you wake up and swallow yr feelings and slap a smile on yr face and pretend like, yeah everything's great I'm just overwhelmed because a major world power just elected a guy who committed sexual assault to the highest court in the land

and yeah the president of that same country made fun of victims of sexual assault and people thought that was OK

and the planet continues to be fucked and we're making it worse and what am I supposed to tell my future child about how we messed the planet up for them

and yeah people in this city can't vote "yes" on what should be an easy "yes" and essentially a non-issue

and people continue to be the versions of themselves that they are instead of the ones you wish they were

and all the other ways I and so many other people around me have felt like we're failing ourselves, or others, or both. And pretend like

yeah it's fine. 

But it's not fucking fine, is it?

(Tell me it isn't.)


 

I was going to take an internet break

- by Alyson Shane


But maybe writing something here would be a better use of my time than laying on my side on the couch in this warm patch of sunlight and playing Final Fantasy VI on my OpenEmu emulator.

We'll see.

I was going to take an internet break because I just learned about a community in my city that appears to be intentionally self-contained. It's got a "Town Center" and sprawling lawns and enough driveways and garages for all the cars you'll ever need. 

And your household will need at least two cars, since you have to take a highway to get in and out of it. 

I spent some time on the website and frankly it depressed me. Not just the community itself, though I didn't get any joy from looking at the boring, cookie-cutter houses, sprawling unused front lawns, manufactured-looking meeting spaces, miles of paved street and sidewalk and more garages than I cared to count. 

The thing that depressed me was that people actively choose to live there, and probably think they like it.

They think they like it because we grow up believing that the best thing we can achieve in life is buying piece of property with a cheaply-made structure out of particleboard and stucco. And why wouldn't we? Our capitalist society forces everyone into a race to the bottom, so good craftsmanship and design go out the window in efforts to pump out as many replicas of the same house each quarter while still maximizing profits.

Did I ever tell you about my parents house? The one we moved into when I was in the sixth grade after living on Murray Avenue since before I was born?

It was a dump compared to the house I rent now, but at the time I didn't know any better. I thought we were getting a shiny, new house and was too young to realize that the fact that my father was going to the site after-hours to double-check the workmanship so he could follow up with the builders was probably a large warning sign that it wasn't going to be a winning specimen. It certainly won't be standing a hundred or more so years like the house I'm sitting in today, I'm sure.

But anyway back to the house. At the time I loved the house. New room! New basement! New backyard! New neighbourhood! But as it turns out the neighbourhood wasn't what I expected it to be and in fact it turned out to be a profound disappointment in a way that I didn't realize until years later.

When I was small the house on Murray Avenue had a tiny backyard compared to the new house that backed onto an unpaved back lane, but beyond it stretched a few miles of undeveloped field that acted as an extension of my back yard, and in fact the street itself was surrounded by undeveloped fields if I remember correctly. 

I spent god knows how many hours out there running around exploring the wild reeds in the spring when the field would flood and sometimes be too deep, and I'd soak my pants and socks and keep wandering around because there was no sense in putting dry clothes on just to go back out again, anyway.

In the wintertime the ploughs piled up snow at the end of the lane and we climbed over it and slid down it on toboggans and crazy carpets and sometimes old cardboard boxes if we were lazy.

There were parks nearby and a Tempo gas that I would walk to with my mom and brothers and the daycare kids so she could buy packs of Players Extra Light Regular and buy us pieces of hard Double Bubble gum if we didn't act up. 

There was a community center and baseball diamond and hockey rink nearby at the end of the road, and an old wooden playground with a tire swing that I accidentally launched myself from more than once.

The houses had variety and were close together and nobody had garages in the front so you could see people and interact with them and get to know the names, birthdays, and personal details about everyone on your block, at least, but often several blocks over because everyone knew everyone's business. It takes a tremendous effort to be private when you live within a few feet of your neighbours' house and have to leave the house to get into your car every day. 

And so we moved from this old street with its big fields and close-together houses with back lanes, and into a new stucco house with a garage in the front and a backyard that barely got used and nowhere to play unless it was a designated playground or recreational space. I liked it at first, and eventually it simply became the reality of where I lived, but I didn't like it as much as my old street and missed Murray Avenue.

One day not long after we'd moved into the new house my dad made a comment to me about the neighbours. He said that they'd gotten to know the people on Murray Avenue and was surprised that by moving into a "higher class neighbourhood" he wouldn't have "higher-class neighbours" who would be equally as friendly.

He had bought into the idea that buying a house in a new subdivision was the ultimate middle-class goal hook, line, and sinker, and couldn't figure out why he was unhappy with his new surroundings, which in hindsight was okay because at the time I didn't know why I was unhappy there, either. 

It took a few political science courses and reading some Jane Jacobs to help me realize what was wrong, but I doubt my dad has figured it how and I doubt the people in that pre-planned community have, either. 

At least that was the impression I got after I wound up on a couple of the Facebook Groups for the various neighbourhood associations there. So many people complaining about each other anonymously, shaming one another over how they parked their cars or how they don't mow their lawns often enough. Awful, petty stuff.

The saddest part of all of this is that eventually all the field surrounding my old house on Murray Avenue were filled in with the same cheaply-made cookie-cutter houses, street-facing garages, and wide car-centric streets as the neighbourhood my parents moved into. 

More people chasing the middle-class "dream" without stopping to think about what it means.

Now I need an internet break.


 

Who deserves to be loved?

- by Alyson Shane

The easy answer is: everyone.

But humans are trash sometimes, and we don't always think that way.

Mostly because a lot of people lack empathy, especially when it applies to people we don't know, or people we have beef with, or people who have hurt us.

Empathy means you give a shit about other people. You care about their life experience, how they feel, what they care about and what motivates them.

Loving someone is just empathy amplified.

Because when you really love someone - I mean really love someone - then you start to act weird. You put their needs and wants before your own. You start making changes in yr own life because you care so much about their wants, needs, and ambitions.

You're willing to look at yr own behaviours and go

"shit, are the things I'm saying/doing negatively impacting the person I care about?"

and if the answer is 'yes' then you try and correct course to the best of your ability. Because that's what you do when you love someone. Even though it can be tough to put down your pride, prejudice, or assumptions about that person, you do yr best and try to act with empathy.

And if we're willing to do that with people we care about, why is it so hard to extend that same caring and thoughtfulness to other people

even if they look

or sound

or act differently than we do?

It seems obvious if you ask me. Empathy can heal our broken society.

Maybe not everyone thinks this way. But maybe we should.

Maybe the world would be a little nicer if we did.

Tags: Thoughts

 

Some unpopular thoughts about automation

- by Alyson Shane

Earlier today Tony shared this image on his Facebook and asked: "am I really part of the problem?"

And I've been thinking about this image and comment and concept and here's what I think:

No, you aren't part of the problem. None of us are.

Here's why:

We live in a society guided by principles of capitalism, which means that our economic model rewards businesses who can keep costs low and profits high.

And you know what costs a lot? People.

The median salary for a bagging clerk in the US. is $7.25 - $10.00/hr, which means the average bagging clerk makes $15,080.00 annually to start.

A self-checkout machine, on the other hand, costs an average of $125,000, which means that a grocery store can make a one-time purchase equivalent to the annual salary of 8.28 bagging clerks.

These bagging clerks, mind you, need to be paid their hourly wage regardless of how productive they are. Most will take time away from work at some point (sick time, family leave, vacation time, etc.) They may also need health benefits. Depending on where you live (I'm not great with U.S. business policy so forgive me) employers also need to pay federal taxes towards unemployment benefits for each employee.

Even if a self-checkout machine sits unused for an entire business day, it doesn't matter because the company has already made a one-time investment in the machine, meaning they don't have to pay it for doing nothing. Sure, the machine may break down from time to time but the cost of repairs is still significantly lower than supporting 8.28 people's salaries and additional costs.

Long story short: a one-time investment in a self-serve checkout machine eliminates the ongoing costs of having multiple bagging clerks. It's cheaper and more economical for companies to invest in machines and automation because our economic model rewards fast and cheap.

"Duh, Alyson!" I hear you saying "I know how capitalism works."

Which is all well and good, but when we start getting into the business of discussing how someone's livelihood is being automated away before our eyes, people start throwing around words like "unfair" and "irresponsible" and "cruel" which misses the point entirely.

Here's why: low-skilled jobs are going away whether we want to face it or not.

In fact, automation is expected to eat away at 1/3 of low skill jobs by 2022.

That's only 4 years away, folks, and automation hardware and software is becoming cheaper every day, which means companies that have a business incentive to keep costs low (like we discussed earlier) are going to keep replacing bagging clerks and other low-skill jobs until - guess what - they're basically gone from first-world countries.

It's not "cruel" to look at the facts pragmatically and say "this job is going to be automated away."

It's not "unfair" for low-skilled workers to be replaced by cheaper and more efficient methods because that's how technology, progress, and capitalism all operate.

It's not "irresponsible" to accept that fact and choose to advocate for social support systems like a basic guaranteed income, worker re-training programs, and other services instead.

You know what IS irresponsible?

Pretending like a future that is basically at our doorstep isn't coming and blaming "evil corporations" for replacing low-skilled human workers with automated machines that yield a higher ROI, and acting like choosing a bagging clerk over a self-checkout machine makes even the tiniest bit of difference in the long-term.

It doesn't, and it isn't going to.

So how can we handle this transition responsibly?

Having frank discussions about what automation means for people who can't compete in the labour market because they can't learn high-skilled job functions like the elderly or people with disabilities.

Having honest conversations about how our society treats people who aren't able to work because their jobs are being automated away, and how we can implement a social safety net that allows them to lead rich, safe, and fulfilling lives.

Having real dialogues about the damage that the perception of "job = worth" has on how we react to a changing job market that - sorry to say - is never going back to the way it was.

Because a lot of people are going to be out of work really soon, and more people will lose their jobs to automation in the coming years and find themselves permanently unemployed because they don't have the skills, training, or education necessary to fit into a job market that's becoming increasingly specialized. No amount of "choosing cashiers over machines" is going to change that.

So we can keep pointing the finger pointing at "evil" corporations and placing blame, or we can have some grown-up discussions about what life is going to look like for all those people who don't have the skills to compete in the job market.

Does that sting to hear? Sure.

Is it harsh? Absolutely.

But you know what's also generally pretty harsh?

The truth.

And we're not doing anyone any favours by ignoring it.


 

Seven years ago I changed my life

- by Alyson Shane

(me, a few days after changing my life)

which is a weird thing to say, when you think about it. There aren't a ton of opportunities for us to point back at and say "that was a thing I did that fundamentally changed my life forever," but I'm lucky enough to have accumulated a few by this point.

One of those times was seven years ago when I got my breast reduction.

Which means my breast reduction is old enough to be in the 1st grade.

That's weird.

You know what's also weird? Going for elective surgery, which was also free because I live in Canada and my huge boobs were causing me a lot of mental and physical strain

(I still have back problems and am very careful about my posture)

is super, duper weird.

Because we always think of going for surgery as this big, scary thing. Usually if we're going for surgery there's something wrong with us. We have cancer. We had a heart attack. We fell off our bike and our Fibula is sticking out of our leg.

Gross, awful, not-pleasant times.

But going for elective surgery is FUN. You get to have something done to yr body that's going to enhance your life experience, and you get to get loopy on some crazy drugs in a safe, controlled environment. It's actually a pretty sweet deal assuming everything goes according to plan, which in my case it did and I'm forever thankful for it.

After it was over and I was finally able to walk to and from the bathroom and pee by myself (which the metric they use to determine if you're okay to go home, I guess) I went home, and the guy I was seeing at the time (bless his heart) got me a bunch of Double Cheeseburgers from McDonalds and I lay on the couch in our living room in a Fentanyl-induced haze slowly mowing down DCB after DCB.

It was so gross and glorious at the same time.

And then just like that my life changed.

Over the years I'd become accustomed to just being a pair of tits because that's how most people treated me. Strangers would comment on the size of my chest. Other women would ask probing questions like

"omg, what cup size do you wear?"

(38HH most of the time, but nothing really fit properly)

"you must get SO much attention from guys!"

(Yes, I did. A lot. It sucked. Being objectified is even worse when it's about a part of your body that you don't like.)

"don't those things make your back hurt?"

(Yes, they did. I still have back and neck problems, and am very careful about my posture because I used to slouch my shoulders pretty badly because of the weight.)

Calling them "those things" always felt appropriate though, since I guess that's actually how I felt about them. Like they were these things attached to the rest of me that I didn't identify with, or want. They didn't make me feel the way women are told our breasts are supposed to make us feel: empowered, beautiful, and feminine.

And to be honest for a long time I still didn't think that way.

I don't think I've really become comfortable with myself and my body until the last few years or so, so it's not like I can point at my breast reduction and say

omg my breast reduction completely changed my life!

because that wouldn't be entirely true. But I can say:

I'm glad I did it because it gave me a sense of control over my body, and that it encouraged me to make more choices that made me feel empowered in the years to come.

It was one step of many

but dang if it wasn't a big step.

R.I.P. old boobs. You won't be missed.

Tags: Life Thoughts

 

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