Having a job you hated used to come with the territory. It's a dinosaur bone from the carcass of our meritocratic culture—the idea was that you'd put in your dues and then work your way up to something better, or at least keep your shitty job and eventually make more money—but this generation of kids choosing love over a desk has been wrapped up in the notion that doing what you love is more important than working for money. Miya Tokumitsu wonders if living by the "do what you love" principle is actually just an exercise in privilege and elitism:
By keeping us focused on ourselves and our individual happiness, DWYL distracts us from the working conditions of others while validating our own choices and relieving us from obligations to all who labor, whether or not they love it. It is the secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment.
But a bigger consequence is the ever-widening class dynamic:
One consequence of this isolation is the division that DWYL creates among workers, largely along class lines. Work becomes divided into two opposing classes: that which is lovable (creative, intellectual, socially prestigious) and that which is not (repetitive, unintellectual, undistinguished). Those in the lovable work camp are vastly more privileged in terms of wealth, social status, education, society’s racial biases, and political clout, while comprising a small minority of the workforce.
Tokumitsu also points to academia as the place where we can see this devotion to love over money on full display:
Nowhere has the DWYL mantra been more devastating to its adherents than in academia. The average PhD student of the mid 2000s forwent the easy money of finance and law (now slightly less easy) to live on a meager stipend in order to pursue their passion for Norse mythology or the history of Afro-Cuban music.The reward for answering this higher calling is an academic employment marketplace in which around 41 percent of American faculty are adjunct professors — contract instructors who usually receive low pay, no benefits, no office, no job security, and no long-term stake in the schools where they work.
We all know that teens and twentysomethings get a bum rap, and we can't really blame them for not being able to get jobs in an economy that doesn't have much to offer them. Having just left a PhD program, I can tell you that there is a lot of smoke being blown up the asses of our young scholars with regards to the following of passions. But I think Tokumitsu's argument is valid if you look at this from the perspective of class—who has the luxury to wait for the exact right job to come along, or work for free until they figure out a way to find their passion? Why can't work just fucking be work?