The Problem of Work

I keep having a routine conversation with everyone. Someone asks me if I want to stay in Croatia, usually with a little disbelief in their voice. I say, of course... If I can find enough work. Then my interlocutor sort of laughs because the difficulty in finding enough work in Croatia is no joke. So of course we have to laugh about it.

I can kind of understand why it has to be this way. It’s like a cosmic irony. If jobs were plentiful in Croatia, then Croatia would just be too good. It would be a place with a beautiful seaside, no street crime, affordable healthcare, and a charming life style, filled with leisurely coffees, beautiful women, and punicas that cooked and clean all the time for you. There would be no challenge and it would be the closest you could get to paradise. The universe cannot allow this. Just like we need Mondays because the work week has to start at some point, we can’t have any place being too perfect. Nope. Sorry.

The problem that many of us face is that fact that we actually have work. We just don’t get paid enough or have enough of it to pay us well. We are the Honorarac. Part time, underpaid, expendable employees, who are stuck in employment limbo. We make just enough to live, but not enough to give us a steady future. We can’t get bank loans. We have no pension, and even though we work full time are still officially classified as unemployed. We are the non-existent underlings who keep Croatia functioning. Unfortunately, we are the future. We are the new class, the precariate: “a social class formed by people suffering from precarity, which is a condition of existence without predictability or security.”

For those like me, who foolishly decided to do a PhD, a similar situation actually exists in the US. AND believe it or not the Croatia situation is actually better. Better because poverty in America is terrifying! If I was trying to pursue  an academic career in the US, I would be condemned to the world of adjuncts. While I am basically playing the same role here in Croatia, I and my family at least have health insurance and live in a crime free neighborhood. Living off equivalent wages with no benefits in the US, would put us in the ghetto without my daughter even having health insurance. Croatia 1: USA 0.

Croatia, really, I love you and want to live in you forever. But it’s tough. Finding a full time, permanent position in Croatia is like winning the lottery. Really. It. is. like. winning. the. lottery. I have 2 jobs and don’t make enough to pay my monthly rent. I nearly earn less than I did working at a grocery store in high school. My little brother in New York makes what I make in a month, in a day. I don’t make any money from my blog (but I am paid in Likes, comments, and a dedicated readership, which is better than money). And yet, it’s not all about money (then again, it actually is).

So why stay? I want to stay because I actually believe we have a future here. The longer I’m outside of the US, the more it terrifies me. And of course, it’s not all about money. I am a hrvatski zet. That means something. I believe that I am able to feel an affection for this land that my wife would never be able to feel for America. And that my readers, is the difference between here and there. Here things run deep, connections are thicker, time stands still and through all that, life, my life has become something different, something profound.