Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Servitude

As long as I can remember, I wanted to work like grownups. When I was a kid, my dad worked in the mailroom of the local paper. My sister and I would take turns picking out the shirt he wore for his long haul shift, Saturday night for the Sunday edition. When I was 16, I worked in the same mailroom for a summer. And, then, I later wrote for an alternative paper whose editor at the time considered the weekly as the competition of the daily, the "paper of note."

In some ways, the weekly rag beat out the daily in covering local news that the daily wouldn't touch or wouldn't have the connection to pick up and run. The connection being that everyone working at the weekly had a connection to someone who knew someone who knew someone with a story to tell.

If I learned anything there that I still hold true, it's that everyone...expand has a story.

The paper days are behind me. That makes me sound old. Inside, I still feel like my most uncertain age, 22. I don't want to be that age again, but I know what it is to want the time back. If that ages me, then let it be. I'm older. I'm not incurious. Just, well, older.

If anyone were to ask, the short list of reasons, I'm not writing for pay now (small as it is, it's a hell of a lot more gratifying than what I'm doing these days): Small market, lost/badly maintained contacts, and diminished motivation due to making more in an office.

It's a world that I think is killing me. Or, at the very least, is just really not healthy for me. I take the job, as nonexistent is the satisfaction ratio, because I've become accustomed to making the money, which doesn't mean I'm rich. I just have more debt.

I would down-size my life so I can take something that demands nothing more of me than waiting tables or serving coffee. It would be less energy spent on menial tasks assigned with urgency and being lorded over by idiots who don't know the basic functionality of an Excel spreadsheet when I finish the task. It would be not standing at alert for phone calls by people with no sense of boundary in their demands and self-importance.

The corporate scene functioned before me; it'll keep humming long after I leave it.

If I leave, I can free myself. But that also means decreasing my spending. I'm not a shopping addict, but, since one of my part-time jobs is retail clothing, I almost feel as though I have a responsibility to wear the clothes. So I buy the clothes. Along these lines, do I simply take jobs that are like a de facto bartering? Or, do I recycle more clothes and add to my savings and living expenses to watch my happiness factor shoot up?

Despite what it would mean in terms of housing, i.e. moving into smaller apartment with fewer of the amenities to which I've become aattached or getting a roommate, I'm willing to scale down. It would mean making adjustments to how I save and spend money, but the alternative looks increasingly futile.

My capacity to feel good is ebbing. I'm pretty sure this has something to do with sex. As in needing credit to get credit.

Every day, though, I'm on the same gerbil wheel: 5:30 a.m. run (which is the only thing that makes me function as well as I do, so I'm not hitting the snooze alarm), shower, bus to a job that fills me with dread and disdain, then a later bus to a part-time job with a modicum of the extras.

Could I live without the extras? Or should I keep the extras and just quilt together jobs that offer the extras? What are the extras? The things we spend our income on and probably don't need, but feel entitled to because we earned them. Maybe we really wanted them, maybe not. I look at people all the time, trying to figure out if they're happy. Maybe I don't let myself have enough time to figure out how to be happy. Even when I told myself I deserved whatever expenditure I just made.

It's not satisfying. In my bones, I just feel it. Is the American ideal to walk around well dressed and outwardly upwardly mobile but feeling completely dead on the inside? Twice yesterday, I had to stop myself from breaking into tears for no reason.

I've just gotten very exhausted playing corporate/ consumer roulette and calling it freedom.

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