Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Unemployment, Advice.

Tyler Cowen has run a couple of pretty good blog posts on advice and it’s gotten me thinking about advice in my life; specifically, over the holidays. Young people receive more than their fair share of advice, and family members feel entitled to dispense their fair share of advice, and the end of the year, being a natural division point between then and now, was a good opportunity to dispense such advice (as well as reflecting on said advice, for similar reasons), meaning that these past holidays were something of the perfect alchemy for the giving and receiving of advice.

The final ingredient that made the advice-giving and –receiving particularly potent was my current unemployment. So I received advice ranging from coaching (specifically football) to law school (on the basis I’d be good at it). One imagines that the latter reason was the main motivation behind all the advice, but you can never be too sure; at any rate, all advice-givers acknowledged that writing, in fact, is my aspiration (though left questions of my skill unraised). So I suspect in that way it confirms Cowen’s point that advice tells you more about the giver than the receiver.

Insofar as it says anything about myself, it says that, hell, I’m unemployed and being unemployment engenders a mix of fatalism and protagonism: fatalist, in this instance, that my unemployment is the result of structural factors beyond my control; protagonism in that I would be the protagonist in my own journey, largely in control of the direction of my life. These factors are, of course, somewhat contradictory. And, moreover, you can’t say much interesting about your unemployment; you are forced to be uninteresting, and, unlike your employed brethren, you must be uninteresting at length. And speaking at length about your own unemployment is bound to result in a monologue as directionless at you are…Moreover, your lack of direction feels all the more churlish when you reject proffered options.

So in these instances, there’s nothing more agonizing than advice.

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