Sunday, October 25, 2009

Time Is Short

One of the important things I’ve learned about myself, and it took me 40+ years to figure it out, is that I’m not cut out for having a job. Of course, I’ve had jobs, and in every case I’ve eventually grown to resent them. I come to despise the financial hold that jobs have over me, the control they take of my time, and the waste they make of my energy.

It has been a recurring theme that began back in college when I found myself disliking any course that smacked to me of vocational training, while loving my classes with names like “The Sociology of Leisure,” “The Biology of Animal Behavior,” and “Mann, Kafka, Hesse, In Translation.” During my years working for the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, I squirmed around so uncomfortably in the job, that I would arrive at the office at 5 a.m., and leave to go home at 2 p.m., anything apparently to be somehow in charge of my daily life. I grew a beard, wore bow ties and suspenders, and kept a collection of toys in my office, but none of it worked.

I suppose this could simply be written off as immaturity on my part, and maybe it is, but what I’ve come to understand about myself is that I do much, much better in the world when I’m pursuing a “calling” rather than a job.

Most teachers I know, like me, consider their vocation as a calling. The ministers I’ve known feel the same way, as do most of the artists. Indeed there are teachers, preachers, and creative types who’ve managed to make millions, but most of us could easily earn more money elsewhere. We’re not in it for the money, and that’s what makes it a calling rather than a job.

Compulsory public education had its origins in the industrial revolution, and was at its core vocational. As we moved into an age of economic centralization and mass production, commercial interests needed a trained workforce, and for many, maybe most, that’s what education remains today. We go to school ultimately in order to get jobs as doctors, lawyers, accountants or advertising executives. What are you going to be when you grow up? When are you going to declare a major? How are you going to use an English degree? These are all, at bottom, questions about how you’re going to make money.

They are questions about jobs and I've tried, but I find them uninteresting. The question that I’m instead cursed to always return to is: Time is short, how am I spending it? Chasing money seems like the ultimate waste of the only resource we really have.

And I’m not alone:

His art that gets washed away with each tide, and I don’t think this guy is wasting a second of his time.

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Floor Pie said...

They were rainbow suspenders, weren't they?

Sigh. I feel the same way about work that you describe in the first paragraph. Exactly the same. As a woman, I guess it's both easier and harder to opt out of it. On the one hand, women aren't expected to be breadwinners like men are, so people are less likely to raise an eyebrow that I haven't set foot in an office in 5 years. On the other hand, choosing the SAHM route is often misinterpreted as regressive or anti-feminist; whereas when a dad does it he's progressive and pro-feminist. No fair.

Staying home with my kids happened by accident (I was laid off from my advertising job when I was pregnant with my oldest), but these have been some incredibly happy years and I'm kind of dreading going back to full-time office work again. I won't have to for a few more years, but we won't be able to sustain this single-income lifestyle indefinitely.

But it will be okay. I've always tried to regard my paid work as simply that: work. I go off to the catalog "factory" or the proofreading "factory" or whatever, and get paid for my services so that we can grow a beautiful life around it.

Monkey's Mama said...

I subscribe to your posts via email and I found it ironic that the ad chosen by Google was the MBA program for the Foster School of Business!

All that aside - I have an English Degree and all the jokes that go with it - but before I decided to stay at home I was in the software biz. I had enjoyed my first few jobs but the last one - eh. Often, I would think about changing fields but it was hard to leave the salary behind. In some ways I feel that choosing to stay at home has broken those chains. I might choose to go back to software but I might not - basically, any job I choose will be a step up from the $0 I make now and that's liberating (and scary). I waffle all over the place when I think about the "next step" and how I will fold a job into our lives. I definitely won't be working 60-80 hour weeks anymore!

Jason, as himself said...

Such a unconventional approach. I like it a lot, but how do we pay the bills?

jlo said...

That was amazing. I do love teaching...I do feel it is a calling. It's all of the other b.s I don't like. The paperwork, test scores, and politics get to me.

Unknown said...

Time is short. I can't see the video because something or other needs to get done to the computer, but I did love reading this all the same!

Time is short!

I try to remember that time is short every day.

I think it makes a difference!

Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.
Mother Teresa

MOM #1 said...

I've been in and out on the computer lately. We've had grandchildren in the house, so thanks for linking back to this post.

So timely for me right now. You're so right about the institutionalized industrial training. *SIGH* Right about a lot of things, but this is your blog, not mine. Perhaps another time.