I grew up very much aware of the phrase “the rat race,” which seemed primarily to have to do with men in suits endlessly shuffling by commuter train back and forth between Scarsdale and Manhattan. I intuitively understood what “the rat race” meant and why I didn’t want to have anything to do with it.
There seemed to be two choices, bohemian life and the rat race. You put on a suit or you wrote in a garret. Funny how it seemed that everything about the known world could be reduced to those two categories! Yet, that’s how it seemed. So, without ever consciously announcing that I was choosing, I chose. Garret, please.
Now the drumroll of history has taken us to a place where, for millions upon millions of people, the rat race and the garret have become one. Folks write or paint or dance or clown or create board games or sing or weave and, at the same time, are obliged to keep rat race busy so as to cobble together a financial life.
In the old days it was, metaphorically speaking, wait tables and take acting classes. Now, it’s contrive a million hacks so as to pay the terrible rents. Then, it was drive a cab or deliver the mail and write your novel. Now it’s maybe dream up an app or create a start-up or become an influencer or gosh knows what while confronting the zillion ways to share bits of your writing.
I’m not sure our minds or bodies or spirits can take this. It’s hard to see how we are not going to have massive and constant bouts of “mania” and “depression” and “addiction” and everything else that comes with the center not holding and life being just too much. Well, I continue to cheerlead for us, as we do matter and as we do keep civilization afloat. But, wow, how amazingly the rat race and garret have converged. It is really hard to get one’s head around.