We were playing Cards Against Humanity, which, by the way, is a great way to educate kids about everything important, and we have a rule that if you don’t know what a card means you can trade it in, but you have to ask what it means.
So my son says, “What’s a desk job?”
Then he says, “Oh. It’s what I’m doing when I do Cinema 4D!”
Since then, when he wants to use his computer he says, “I have to go to work.”
One night he said, “I have to stay up late to finish my work.”
Shocked, I asked, “Why? Is someone paying you?”
It turns out he is making intros to YouTube channels. I guess every grade-school age boy has a YouTube channel and they all want a graphic introduction—one that lasts about seven seconds and has their screen name and dubstep music and it sort of looks like the beginning of a movie – when the logo for the film company spins and jumps and dances to music.
My son gets paid in Minecraft stuff. Gaming accouterments are the Bitcoin of the grade-school set. For a while my son was rich and happy in his desk job, and he gave client reports each night at dinner.
He learned to wheel and deal over Skype (email is for old people), and he started playing Minecraft on servers where he was most likely to make a sale via chat. (Sample of his proven sales technique: “Grt shot bro. Did u ever get yr intro fixed? It sux.”)
Parental police alert: Yes, sucks is bad. I tell him not to say it when his cello teacher is listening. And yes, while we are talking about it, Cards Against Humanity is bad, too. We play with an edited version. My ex-husband sliced out bad words on otherwise decent cards with an X-Acto knife. And while I’m giving shout-outs to my ex-husband, let me just say there are few card games as fun as playing a marriage expansion pack with him.
So my son starts making daily schedules so he can fit cello practice and piano practice in between all his client work. And then when I tell him he needs to work harder on the C# scale, he tells me, “I’m thinking that making intros is a good backup plan for my music career.”
But then the inevitable darkness set in. People started giving away intro templates. “Now anyone can make a good intro! Even people who are terrible at Cinema 4D!”
First he lost his clients. Then he got hecklers. “People are telling me I need to give stuff away for free. But I tell them I can’t. The intros take too long to make. But the kids bully me. I have workplace bullies.”
This is, of course, something my son has heard me talk about, and I have to squelch a smile. He says, “Kids tell me I’m stupid for charging for my intros. Kids are telling me I’m not the best intro animator anymore.” Pause. To check my reaction.
I make a sad face. It is a challenge for me to show enough empathy for him.
He says, “This is serious!” and flops onto his bed.
I tell him about a site that makes a record of bullying at work so you can get the person to stop. It’s called OnLock.
He quiets down. Mention of OnLock makes him think I’m taking him seriously. And, probably, that’s one of the benefits of OnLock—that it makes taking action about workplace bullies official.
I try to explain how everyone’s job becomes obsolete. “You have to figure out something else to do when what you’re doing doesn’t work anymore.”
“You don’t understand,” is what he mumbles into his pillow. For drama.
“Yes I do understand. I used to get paid $40 an hour to hand-code websites. Now people can put up a website without writing any code. And I used to get paid to publish my blog posts in newspapers. And now people write for free.”
He looks up at me, and he doesn’t yell, so I say a little more.
“Everyone’s job becomes obsolete. Nothing lasts forever. You always have to learn new skills. You’ll think of another thing to do. ”
He throws a fit. Kicks the bed frame and yells that it’s worse for him. I make him put the bed back together.
But you know what? This is how everyone feels when their job is becoming obsolete. It’s just that most grown-ups force themselves not to throw things.
I walk downstairs the next morning, and he says from his office, “Mom! I thought of something new to do! I sent you a link!”
And here it is.