Somebody Get This Boy Some Ritalin

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THE PLANK NOVEMBER 29, 2007

Somebody Get This Boy Some Ritalin

There's a piece in today's NYT "Styles" section about a 25-year-old guy named Sean Aiken who has committed to spending an entire year searching for his life's calling by hopping from one job to another every week--everything from climbing instructor to extreminator to tatoo artist--and, of course, chronicling the whole soul-expanding journey on his web site, oneweekjob.com. As the site's subhed explains young Sean's odyssey, he is "searching a passion, not just a job."

Not to be a grump, but this project strikes me as both absurd and unbearably self-indulgent. For starters, a huge number of jobs--including many that are apt to be what Aiken, a college grad with a degree in business administration, will wind up in--require specialized training or experience in order to get any real sense of them. And even with those jobs that some dilettante 20-something can jump right into, a week hardly seems adequate time to tell what it would be like to work somewhere day after day after day...after day. The Times cites some freelance business journalist who disagrees--and is, in fact, publishing a book about his days roaming from one employer to the next. But I'm not buying it. I haven't worked that many different places, but I've worked enough to know that five days don't give you anything beyond the most cursory sense of a particular job--much less an organization's culture.

For instance, young Sean proclaimed his week tending cows on a dairy farm to be "cool." I'm sure, as a temporary gig, it was. But shoveling cow shit for a week is one thing. (Hell Paris Hilton can do that.) Doing it for six months or six years is quite another. My guess is that our questing hero would, eventually, feel that his college degree was ultimately made for bigger, better, less smelly endeavors--such as, oh, I don't know, becoming a web celebrity by posting cutesy videos of himself smiling and job hopping and angsting about his generation's quest for meaning. (Raise your hand if you suspect that becoming a web phenom was at least part of this extremely mediagenic kid's goal all along.)

At this point--36 weeks in--young Sean says he has yet to find his "passion." Color me shocked. Maybe when this ridiculous project of his is over, he will get around to devoting his time and attention to something --anything--long enough to allow some passion to develop. I realize this is the era of ADHD and miniscule attention spans, but do we really want to glorify folks like Aiken? I mean, even Fred Thompson has devoted more time to his various careers than this kid. 

 --Michelle Cottle

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posted in: the plank, business, human interest, labor, law, technology, sean aiken

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