Will work always involve people telling me what to do?
‘They just want you to sell the chicken.’
By Brian Kleve, as told to Phillip Eil
Brian Kleve, 39, who lives in New York, was laid off from a job selling advertising for business-to-business publications in the spring of 2020, as part of a COVID-related downsizing. He is currently employed in a different industry.
People get socialized into an idea of work through their family. I was raised by two music teachers. They taught private lessons: My mother was a piano teacher, my father a trumpet teacher. And they each had their own little studio that was part of our house. So they never left the house to go to work. They had never had a job in their entire lives where they had to work for someone else. They never got a paycheck from somebody. They just were musicians their whole lives, gigging musicians, and at a certain point they opened up their own independent studios and they worked in the home.
It’s funny for me to think back upon it, because I was never socialized into this idea that you go out and you submit to someone else, your whole autonomy, and someone gets to tell you what to do. That was never actually explained to me growing up. Nor just even the idea that one would do something that wasn’t one’s calling. My parents were excellent musicians and they decided to teach music because they were good at it. It’s this whole concept of labor that comes out of your own talents and desires, and you own that completely.
So imagine my absolute shock and horror when I started my first job, which was in high school, at a Kentucky Fried Chicken, and realizing that when you worked for someone else, they just told you what to do the whole time? And could yell at you? And you didn’t own it and you just took home pennies and you came home filthy? And none of your natural talents, none of your intelligence, none of your art [was valued].
I was raised by musicians; I have musical abilities. No one cares. They just want you to sell the chicken.