The Void of Occupational Pride
The general consensus was that if you were good at what you did in Alberta, you made $100-150K/year. But that was it for most. I was making $80-132K/yr. from age 20-26, before factoring in the generous tax treatments some of us were able to work out. Compared to my peers (who were typically much older), my disposable income was much higher, as I had very little bills or commitments. I could actually buy a reasonable amount of stocks, or a new toy, without saving up pocket change for months or years. But, apart from starting an own business, that’s all someone ever made, while being stuck in the same work. With the collapse of oil prices and the economy, earning power then diminished.
The stereotypical worker took great pride in all the different experience he/she/it had, and the collection of toys (big house, trucks, cars, boat, ATV, RV, bikes, etc.) It was hard to not meet someone who would brag about being the king X Worker and all the years of experience he had. Though most people hated their jobs, it was the concept of the job, and the position on the social ladder that got them obsessed. There were the rest of us who steered clear of those people because after a 15-hour shift, we did not want to hear about work.
We were travelling most of the time – some of us 90%+ of the time. By the time you actually had time to yourself, and were at home: those toys would be caked in a thick layer of dust. I used to give colleagues boosts because we were gone for 2 months – and many of their vehicles had dead batteries. You sometimes couldn’t even see your license plate without wiping/scrubbing it off.
Many fields tend to have a brick wall in earning power after a certain point. But, your expenses and youth don’t. So people tend to get stuck living in a void. The occupation gives them a bloated ego (from both job and lifestyle), and it becomes all they know. Alternatively, they feel trapped and can’t leave.
Egocentrism was especially acute with lawyers, or people with tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars laying around to pay them. I did business with some guys who wouldn’t be caught dead without a suit on. In a dispute, they had to remind you of this “Paper Sword” of theirs they afforded. If you made one even look remotely bad, they erupted in anger. Then they told you about all the lawyers they had and everything they’d love to do to you. If you said one thing thing wrong to a lawyer, he’d have trouble sleeping at night if he doesn’t make you look bad.
We like to joke about all the Porsches and Ferraris we see in the local area fairly often, as almost every one is driven by someone old enough to be your Grandpa. An old, white male. This as if that position on the social ladder was only reserved for them, and nobody else. As the years passed, it became even less likely an ambitious, younger person ever had the opportunity to work hard to move up, without spending much of a lifetime getting there.
There are a handful of careers out there that have attractive earning potential, but one of the primary factors is time: “It’s not about the destination, but the journey”. Opportunity cost aside, once those years are spent, there is no getting them back.
Unfortunately the COVID-19 era and depressed commodity prices have made it difficult to break into anything that makes a reasonable amount of money, without prohibitably high barriers of entry – mainly cost and time.