Adelaide Contingent

.: Adelaide Contingent :.

Because if we lived in Sydney we might have jobs.

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I’m challenging a couple of friends to get their act together and start producing something creative.  Like me, they’re melancholics, Arts graduates, un/under-employed, and, in the best way possible: totally useless.

They’re both capable writers, but as melancholics they struggle to find motivation until they’re 100% confident in the path ahead.  I can’t fault them for that, but if we’re ever going to build the unlikely animal of an Adelaide-based intellectual or creative movement, we’re going to have to get moving.

Adelaide is an unusual city.  While it has many positive points and features, none seems sufficient to justify the city’s existence.  At the same time there’s no single thing that explains the city’s strangeness.

As the mining boom slows down and the car industry disappears, even useful Adelaideans are expressing concern for the city’s economic future.  Accordingly, it’s surely time for us, the useless denizens of Australia’s most uncanny city to share our own take on the place we call ‘home’ in the same tone with which we explain our lack of job prospects and our dubious higher-education choices.

One of the first principles of writing is to “write what you know”, and while most would not consider Adelaide a source of creative inspiration, it is for that very reason something worth writing about.  People write about New York, or London, or any number of other famous and historically significant places. Adelaide has none of that history or fame. It is the most unlikely place about which one might write.  There is no real reason for it to exist, yet it does, and may, with this touch of ‘uselessness’ be worthy of study.

The newest theme of this blog is therefore ‘Adelaide Contingent’, as in: “if we lived anywhere else, things might have turned out differently”. For better or worse, our lives are shaped by the unspectacular mystery of Adelaide; and while others flee interstate or overseas for work, ambition, and adventure, it’s time for those of us who remain to make something of our ambivalent locale, to accept the obscure challenge implicit in this dry, comfortable, ageing city-of-limited-prospects.




A richer life on a lower income

Step 1: My home-roasted coffee

I’ve often thought about becoming a professional freelance writer, but never thought I could earn enough to replace or even approach my previous income.

But what if I didn’t need to replace my previous income? What if I was to reject the financial imperative that says “make as much money as you can for as long as you can regardless of the cost”?

Because the cost has been pretty high. My experience of business has shown it to be a surprisingly shallow, unaccountable, egotistical and dysfunctional place, with an ethos inimical to the values and ideals I’ve cultivated for much of my life. Anecdotal evidence suggests my experience has not been unusual.

The cost of finding a similar role, of enduring further wasting of my skills and my time, makes the higher income look like a pretty bad deal. By contrast, the freedom and integrity of being a writer makes my much diminished income seem much more attractive.

I’m currently a part-time Phd Student, a part-time writer, and a part-time stay-at-home dad; and I’m adding to the mix a theme I’m calling ‘Richer on a lower income’: an idea that encompasses not only the sheer relief in transitioning from a pointless office job – one of David Graeber’s ‘Bullshit Jobs‘ – to a far more meaningful career, but also the various ways in which a lower income lifestyle turns out to be far richer than a higher income one that is constrained by the limitations of working life and the ultimately unsatisfying distractions of consumer culture.

In practice it means pushing back against a strictly consumerist way of life, producing more and consuming less. It means learning to live on a significantly smaller income, but being open to different streams of income rather than being tied to a single wage.

As time goes on I’ll be updating you on the experiences and data, the sacrifices and the achievements as we see what life can look like when we step away from pointless conventions and follow our ideals.