You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2009.
I’ve never been a big tv watcher. Growing up, I didn’t have a tv in my room, so I either had to watch in my brother’s room (at his discretion) or in the family tv room where I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything, and had to deal with my parents tromping through demanding to watch Fox News. Because it wasn’t particularly comfortable for me to be in either of these rooms, I found other things in my own room to do.
In college, I lived in the dorm with Map Fleece who was raised by television and needs it to live. The set was always on, and she insisted that she could not go to sleep without it, so I spent many a night lying awake listening to Dr. Drew and Adam Corolla dispense advice on Love Line while she dozed soundly in her bed.
The times when I seek out tv for hours at a time are when I need a distraction from something. I wrote my master’s thesis in front of the Gilmore Girls and Friends. When I have a daunting task in front of me, I will sit in front of the tv with everthing I need strewn around me, and actively ignore my task at hand while convincing myself that I’ll watch just one more episode. This is why I don’t have cable– thankfully, dvds end.
I may not be a big tv watcher, but I am completely addicted to the internet. This summer in particular, I spent all day every day online either working or amusing myself, sometimes both at once. I did more writing this summer than I have since finishing my MFA, but even though I was participating in a read-a-thon, I barely read any books.
I don’t understand why it is that the internet is less vilified than tv when it can be just as bad. I’ve known dozens of people (and I’m sure everyone has met at least one) who boast “I don’t have a tv,” but who will spend an entire day online without thinking anything of it. The internet is more necessary than tv in that we need to be able to check email, check job listings etc., in order to be a part of the world, but it’s even more of a time suck than basic cable.
What actually served as my wake-up call, was looking at the list of books I had read by the end of the summer, and realizing that I had read twelve. Summer, for me, has always been a time to read hundreds of books, to sit in my chair or on my loveseat (which filled the chair void before I got my chair), and just devour book after book often eating while reading, staying up late, and reading with purpose even though I’m usually choosing titles I’ve read before.
This summer, I had the books laid out on my table next to my computer, but the computer kept winning. I convinced myself that I was doing work, but I was often not doing work. People kept describing me as an “active facebooker”, and I started reading gossip blogs again just because the internet didn’t have enough content to keep me occupied.
Now that I have gainful employment (though I haven’t actually started working yet), I’m stopping all that. I’m getting out of my office, leaving the computer there, and reuniting with my beloved books. I’m a bit excited.
I’m running another half marathon in a month, for which I may be woefully under-prepared, but I’m going to do it anyway. I’m not too concerned about that though, nor am I concerned about Joe Roch, my running buddy, bailing on me. This time, my worry really has little to do with the physical demands or potential loneliness (although I haven’t ever run a race with another person before, so I don’t care too much, mostly I’m just being mean to Joe), it’s the thought of running without my beloved Ipod.
This race does not allow portable music devices because of “safety” concerns. To them I ask, “Will I be running with the traffic? Are we just doing laps around the Jai Alai field on a game day?” It’s a big race, and I’m fairly confident that the streets will be blocked off appropriately, so why torture me this way?
I know “real” runners don’t listen to music. The hardcore ones don’t need anything–sometimes not even shoes, but that is not my scene. I am a wimp, I admit it. I want my crappy Rob Thomas and Paramore jams, and I want to focus on something other than the sound of my own breathing.
I’m incredibly tempted to try to sneak something in, but I fear having it taken away or getting disqualified. For all of my snarky attitude, I still remain, shockingly obedient. I’m fairly certain though, that there will be plenty of people who didn’t see that part of the website, and who will bring Ipods just like they always would. We’ll see what I end up doing.
The last half marathon I ran was in Fargo, and I had my Ipod with me (thankfully). I kept it turned down low enough so I could still hear the spectators yelling at us, because that’s always fun, and there was one guy who I will never forget. He was standing on the sidewalk, by himself, looking like he was just out for his morning walk and happened across a marathon. He didn’t have signs or noisemakers, but he just kept clapping and yelling, “You love this! This is fun for you! You could do this all day!”
I’d like to bring that guy along if I can’t have my Ipod.
…but it pours, is not only an appropriate cliche for my current situation, but a good way to describe Rhode Island weather. I’m going to now take this metaphor one step too far. All summer I have been languishing in the desert of underemployment, thirsty for relevance in my field, and choking on the dust of money woes.
Then I got am email from my boss at my old job telling me that there may be shifts available to me in October. Then I had a couple interviews that I didn’t feel too good about. I honestly do not know the feeling of a good interview anymore. There have been times where I really thought it went well, then I didn’t get the job. I just don’t know anymore.
I think back to all two of the job interviews I had in high school– I had no idea why they hired me. I just sat there like a lump until they offered me the job. Then when I went to college, I lost out on a job painting houses because I didn’t come off as friendly enough. A friend who did get this job told me that the boss told her I wasn’t hired because I didn’t smile when I shook his hand. “I don’t like to smile,” I reminded her.
“You have to smile.” she told me.
I understand the point of interviewing, I really do, but when it comes down to smiling just that right amount that they want–not too much–just enough, it seems impossible. My other interviews for all five of the jobs I’ve had in Rhode Island where more of a “sit down and chat” which I’m amazing at, this most recent batch were more of a “ten prepared questions, each person takes one turn, then you’re in the hot seat” type, which are really hit or miss for me. When you hire me, you’re going to get me. I’m not going to go in and pretend I’m anything I’m not because I shouldn’t have to. I am good enough, actually. Bonus, people think I’m funny.
Someone finally agreed with me and offered me a job, and in keeping with the way I operate, it was completely unexpected. I got the phone call en route to Niagara Falls, accepted the position from a travel plaza parking lot on the NY state Thruway, then then two hours later got a call from my old job hinting at, but not directly stating that they wanted me back.
At least I got all of that “hanging out” out of my system over the summer, so now I’m seriously ready to work. I’m just really starting to wonder if I will ever have just one job. It doesn’t seem to be in the cards for me. So if you total up all of the freelancing writing and editing, that counts as one job; then two more libraries (good thing this state has so many libraries because I will have worked in four now) I’m back up to three jobs.
Back to normal.
This past January, I drove from Providence to Toronto to visit friends. We were having dinner one night with some of my friend’s family, and they mentioned that they had spent the day at Niagara Falls. I was intrigued since I remember hearing a lot about Niagara Falls when I was a kid, but completely forgot about it as I got older.
“What do you do there?” I asked.
“We spent most of the day in the casino.” They told me. “You should stop there on your way back, at the falls, not the casino.”
So I figured that since I was driving by it anyway, I might as well stretch my legs and take in the sight of this magnificent natural marvel. What I didn’t count on was the fact that parking cost $14 (should have figured), and I was simply unwilling to pay that. Instead, I drove a couple laps along the “Fallsview road” snapping pictures out the car window. Eventually, I stopped the car, put the flashers on, and ran up to the protective barrier to snap another couple pictures before heading back to the states.
Despite the short amount of time I spent at the falls, I liked it, and got the notion that I should go back sometime and spend more than fifteen minutes there. Then I got back home, and promptly forgot that notion.
About three weeks ago, the power of facebook advertising reminded me. Since I put the pictures that I took of Niagara Falls on facebook, facebook decided that I am a Niagara Falls enthusiast, and told me that hotels might just be cheap there right now, seeing as the summer travel season is winding down.
It is after Labor Day, I thought, still temperate, but probably less crowded and cheaper. So I hopped on Priceline, found a cheap hotel, read some reviews, and popped my head out into the living room to ask Gentleman Scholar, “Do you want to go to Niagara Falls next weekend?”
He thought for a beat, and said, “Sure.”
I booked the hotel, and a few days later, started wondering what the hell one does at Niagara Falls for the entire weekend. Surely you can’t spend the whole time riding the Maid of the Mist and staring at the water. So I found a few Niagara Falls themed adventures, but not much else. The best sites were run by the Niagara Parks Board, and were all water all the time. The Lonely Planet Guide, didn’t have much more in it either except a snarky quote from Oscar Wilde: “The Niagara Falls is simply a vast amount of water going the wrong way over some unnecessary rocks; the sight of that waterfall must be one of the earliest and keenest disappointments in American married life.”, and the information that Niagara Falls used to be a major tourist destination.
Thankfully, spending the night in a hotel is often adventure enough in the short term, so we figured that if we maxed out Falls adventures early, we could just hang out and watch cable for a while–our hotel was even rumored to have HBO! What a coup!
Turns out that the area around the falls looks a tiny and less impressive Las Vegas. It feels like it should have a lot of options for things to do, but kind of doesn’t, except the casino. It’s pretty, but looks sterile and modern, and was really not what I expected. I was hoping for a 1950’s honeymoon destination feel–cheesy romantic stuff, buildings that looked like they had been there for more than five years. I don’t know if Niagara Falls got a facelift recently, but everything felt strangely new.
Until we went looking for a liquor store and stumbled upon Niagara Falls downtown. We had seen all of these brochures in the hotel lobby for wax museums, haunted houses, Dave and Busters etc., but had no idea where this stuff was. It was in downtown Niagara Falls, which is a roadside attraction promenade on par with the Wisconsin Dells. Two Haunted Houses, a headshop, Louis Toussaud’s Wax Museum (with a terrifying Tiger Woods waving a golf ball at you from the front entrance), a Hard Rock Cafe, dinner theatres, and more tacky souvenir shops than you can shake a stick at. It was amazing.
My parents took us on a lot of vacations as I grew up. That’s one thing I’m really glad of, and we usually did them on the cheap. This meant a lot of driving vacations like the one to the Wisconsin Dells, or Mount Rushmore, etc. We went to the roadside attractions that included streets of tacky crap, disappointing wax museums– though I’ve still never been in a wax museum–olde tymey picture shops, topiary gardens etc. So if I couldn’t have my 1950’s chic Niagara Falls experience, this was the next best thing.
Overall, I feel like Niagara Falls just doesn’t know quite what to do with itself. The falls are rad, and even though we scoffed initially and said “It’s not like we’re just going to spend a whole bunch of time staring at the water.” we kind of just wanted to stare at the water, rushing back at different times of day to see how blue it was, or watch the fireworks –which they send up from the bottom of the gorge, so when they explode, they’re pretty much right in your face. Obviously, if you want to lure people in these days, and keep them there, you need more than just a waterfall–even if it’s a good one.
It feels like Niagara Falls wants to re-evolve from being just a roadside attraction, into the destination it used to be, but maybe I’m just being a jaded asshole. There were tons of people there for whom English was not a first language. We stood in line next to a dozen Japanese businessmen, rode the Maid of the Mist with a lovely German couple, and had our photo taken by a group of French students (who may have been French-Canadian, but the point stands). These people have either made Niagara Falls their destination, or at least a stop–I’m really curious which it is.
Strangely, I want to go back.
I have lived in Providence for two years now, so I feel like I know the place pretty well. I don’t know if it’s just that my neighborhood has changed, or what, but I feel like I’m living in a whole new city now.
Since I moved here for grad school, September was the time when things started to get hectic. I had to remember my new schedule, coordinate jobs, commuting, how and when I could eat over the course of the day, and triangulate where the nearest Dunkin Donuts is along my travel route so I can get my mid-afternoon fix. I stopped paying attention to Providence because I was rarely here.
Also, my old neighborhood didn’t change much when school started. The two colleges close to me, were still far enough away that none of the students actually lived in my neighborhood (though a lot of the pretty, private school kids frequented a dive bar just down the street from me that looked terrifying. One night a bunch of popped-collared my dad owns a dealership guys got into a small turf war with my friendly neighborhood thugs. I watched out my window–it was fascinating). The main difference was the appearance of a few school uniforms and the fact that the streets didn’t start teeming with kids until 2pm instead of all day.
Now that I’m over on The East Side, home of Brown and RISD, with nowhere to go, I can’t help but notice how scholarly everything is. The douchebags, including Hermione Granger are back in town jaywalking and acting like they know about life. Everyone else seems to be walking around with more purpose, and I’m finding myself invigorated as well.
It’s almost like those first few weeks of school when you promise yourself that this will be the semester when you finally knuckle down and use those notebooks you always buy, take good notes, do the reading, and become super student. To go along with that theme, I will be sick of these damn kids and the traffic nightmares they cause in about two weeks–you can time me.
If I still don’t have a real job by the time it starts to get crisp and fall-like outside, my plan is to pass some time walking around purposefully in herringbone and knee-high boots. Maybe I’ll get a coffee too, and act really impatient in line like I have somewhere else very important to be.
In the interest of frugality, health, and stopping my friends from making fun of my eating habits, I’ve been meaning to cook more. I’ve been a vegetarian for about 12 years, but I am also quite intimidated by vegetables, so my diet is mostly carbs. I learned how to cook a little bit in home ec class, but my mother never taught me any of the wonderful cooking techniques that she learned from her mother because we never really sat down and had dinner as a family, and because even when I did eat meat, I didn’t really eat meat, and she had no idea what I liked besides bagged rice. Honestly, there wasn’t much I liked besides bagged rice, that’s a little less true these days.
Over the years, I’ve grown fonder of vegetables and have experimented with various recipes–my mashed potatoes are sublime, and my baked mac and cheese is a show stopper, but with the increased number of potlucks I attend bringing the same dishes or just beer, and the shame I feel when friends say things like “Oh, that’s chard, we can blanch it with the skdjlhfghiuas and stir fry the dfhkghla with the df.gjnh, and that should be good” I realize that I need a new dish. Chard, and kale, and all those things– I like them when people prepare them for me, but I look at a big leafy bunch and panic. Squash, pumpkin, and eggplant are other vegetables that I love, but find incredibly intimidating.
I’ve been saying it for a while, but I’m actually slowly working on this whole cooking thing. My past two shopping outings have had me spending an inordinate amount of time in the spice aisle, which has now left me with two things of oregano, no nutmeg, and no parsley–oregano is good, I’ll use it somehow. The problem I find when I cook, is that everything comes out bland. Even if I load my dish up with garlic and other flavor agents, it still just isn’t very exciting.
Yesterday, I decided to try my hand at rice pudding. I found an easy recipe on the interweb that got rave reviews, and I went for it. It was only after the rice was nearly done cooking that I read the comments saying that you should never use long-grain rice, which, of course, I had used because it’s what we had; and that the recipe was so simple some woman’s eight-year-old excelled at it.
My rice pudding tasted like rice–that’s it, mushy, slightly crunchy rice. I gave Gentleman Scholar a taste, and to his credit, he was quite gracious as he poured cinnamon on top and took it into the other room. I burned my tongue taste-testing it, and even after dumping in an inordinate amount of sugar and vanilla extract, I’m left with the fact that my rice pudding is just blah.
I am not defeated, I will try again, but I just don’t understand why everything I make comes out tasting like paste.
We’re having a house-warming potluck on Saturday and I’m planning on making asparagus and morel bread pudding, minus the morels, substitute portobellos. This is one that I’ve never made before, and if it comes out like a dish of mush with a crunchy top, I will be forced to send Gentleman Scholar to the store to buy a lame loaf of garlic bread. That would be shameful, so I’m hoping for the best.
A while ago I read The Year of Living Biblically One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possibly by A.J. Jacobs. Wise Lawyer Friend’s Husband is a Religious Scholar, and she went to a lot of Catholic schools growing up, so this appealed to her. I am also a bit intrigued by organized religion, so I thought I’d read it to. I enjoyed it, it was funny, enlightening etc. Then I read his earlier book The Know-it-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, where he takes a year and reads the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Considering I’ve always wanted to read a whole set of encyclopedae, but never had the chance, I felt miffed that he stole my idea. There’s another book simply called Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages by Ammon Shea (apparently you have to have an obscenely long title), which I checked out of the library, and Gentleman Scholar promptly claimed for himself and secreted away meaning that I still haven’t read it, though he wouldn’t stop talking about it, so I feel like I got the highlights. I was also miffed by that one, because after I realized that the encyclopedia scheme was taken, the OED was my next idea.
Currently I’m reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, in which she and her family move to Virginia and create a working farm determined to live only off of what they produce for a year. Clearly that experiment will last longer than just one year, because they will have created a working farm, but I’m just pointing out a pattern.
A.J. Jacobs books are humorous and include tidbits about his daily life–mostly how his quest of the time affects his daily life, but not always, In short, they read a lot like this here blog. So, that leads me to the conclusion that I can certainly write a self-indulgent memoir if only I had a scheme, but I can’t think of a single thing.
It has to be something that impacts my life somehow, otherwise what’s the point, but I cannot come up with anything that I would be willing to take on for a year, or that I feel people would want to read about. This has been troubling me for a while now, so I open up the floor to you, gentle reader. Any ideas?
I’m finding an odd new trend now that I’ve graduated–everyone seems to think I want to leave. I came to Rhode Island, got my education, and now certainly must want to high-tail it back to the Midwest. This should be an easy enough misunderstanding to rectify, but I’m having a hard time convincing people.
I’ve been job hunting all summer, and the hunting has resulted in a few interviews. The first interviewer was a very brusque woman who looks at my application and said, “You moved here from Minnesota? What brought you out here?”
As this was a job in a cafe, I was hoping to avoid discussing my masters degree since it seems like a huge black mark against me, but as I really have no other reason for being here in Rhode Island, I had to admit, “I moved out here for grad school.”
“So do you want to move back? How much longer are you staying here?”
“I don’t want to move back.” I assured her, but she sat expectantly waiting for me to answer the second part of the question. “I don’t know for sure how much longer I’ll live here.”
“A year? Two years?” This woman was not letting it go. So finally I had to play the card that I really really hate playing, but seems to be the only way to convince people.
“My boyfriend is in a PhD program and has at least three years left. If I want to keep him, which I do, I can’t really move. Also, I love it here and have no desire to move.”
She wrote something down, “So you moved here because of your boyfriend?”
“No, I moved here for grad school, I didn’t even know him then.”
It was at this point in the interview when I realized that there was simply no pleasing this woman, and I would probably not be getting this job (also the fact that I told her that I only wanted to work part-time seemed to offend her in some way).
She followed up with asking me how much time I would potentially take off over the holidays to go visit my family, and when I told her “none,” she seemed to not believe me, and also think I was an ingrate/terrible daughter.
“I always work on Christmas,” I told her, “I worked in television for five years where there are no days off, and because my family doesn’t really do Christmas, I volunteered to take that day each year because it was more important to other people.” I didn’t mention that traveling at holiday times is also A. way too expensive and B. my idea of hell.
“Well, we’re obviously closed on major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.” she told me, “but if you wanted to take off three weeks in December, that would be an issue.”
Needless to say, that was an interview FAIL, but in subsequent interviews I’ve also noticed a bit of the “what are you still doing here?” vibe.
Most people are more reasonable about it. When I tell them that I love it here and don’t want to leave, they seem to understand me without me having to denounce my family, and cling to my boyfriend, but they still seem vaguely suspicious.
Living in my parent’s basement and refusing to look for work anywhere that I couldn’t walk to seems like it would be more acceptable than just saying, “I know this state is in shambles and jobs are hard to come by, but I’ve made a life here and don’t want to leave, so I’m going to stick it out.”
Also, I realize that interviewing and hiring is a tedious and unpleasant process, but I don’t think I should have to promise in an interview that I will live here for the next ten years. If I take a position and then want to leave it because I’m moving back to the Midwest, moving to India, found a box of money, hate the job etc., that’s my business. I’m not signing any kind of contract.
No one ever asked me why I was still in Fargo after I finished grad school there, even though the only reason I moved to that town was for college. Quite the opposite, people seemed confused and horrified as to why I wanted to leave. Even going back for a visit this past spring a former co-worker said something like, “You’ve got your degree, you might as well come back.”
Come back to what, though? I don’t have a job there any more than I have one here. Just because I know all the staff at Fargo Public Library doesn’t mean they have a position for me. Most of my friends in Fargo moved away long before I did. My parents left the town I went to high school in before I even finished my undergrad degree and now live in what I call a “Stepford Village” of identical duplexes that I hate visiting in a town I’ve only seen a handful of times. From my perspective, I actually have a full life here.
A while ago, I read the New York Times article entitled Towns They don’t want to Leave, which listed Providence and Fargo as being in the top five of US cities where college grads wind up staying–so I’m not even that strange, the New York Times has proclaimed me completely regular, why all the questions? Also, I know that I’m not even alone among my fellow library school graduates who have come here from “somewhere else” and want to hang around a little while longer. I’m wondering if they are getting these questions too.
When I lived in the Midwest, all I could think about was leaving it and the great wide world that was my oyster. I barely paid attention to the intricacies of what was going on around me, because I just took it all for granted. When I had been on the East coast for about two weeks, I went to a concert with my brand-new Jewish Friend, and we got to discussing where we come from.
“What did your grandfather do?” she asked.
“He was a farmer.” I told her.
“Mine was a Cantor.”
Then we sat there for a bit, marveling at how completely different our lives were.
“What’s a Cantor?” I asked.
“What did he farm?” she asked.
And therein lives the problem. I actually had no idea what my grandfather, the farmer, farmed. We never talked about that, we didn’t spend a huge amount of time with that side of the family, and I just never asked. I always assumed that my other grandfather was a farmer as well, because he lived on a farm, had a lot of tractors and a huge garden. Now I’m starting to suspect he was just a hobbyist.
The reason that I keep thinking about all of these things, is because I am friends with a lot of people who are interested in local food. I’ve been to see King Corn, I’m reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Jewish Friend won’t shut up about The Omnivore’s Dilemma etc. Then I’m called upon to tell people how it really is, or at least is where I’m from–and I got nothing. I can certainly speculate, but when people start asking pointed and informed questions, I crumple like origami.
I was talking to a friend the other day about this and she asked what we grew in Cavalier, ND. “Sugar beets, mostly.” I told her.
“How do you get sugar out of a beet?” she asked. Naturally, I had no idea, even though I grew up eating beet sugar exclusively, so I changed the subject and told her about how we sandbagged the American Crystal Sugar plant during the 1997 flood. I could have turned the conversation around and asked her a lot of questions about orange juice (she’s from Florida), but she probably would have known the answers.
My parents were not farmers, so even though farming was a part of our daily lives by proxy, we never really thought about it. My father helped out occasionally with sugar beet harvest, because the entire town did, but that’s about it. I grew up sitting on my grandfather’s tractors, not really understanding how they worked–and I still don’t know if he actually used them, though I suspect he scaled back his operation just before I was born.
One person who does actually know firsthand about this is my dear friend Mtanga. She grew up on a family farm that her brother is now prepared to take over now that he’s done with his PhD–because running a large-scale family farm isn’t just something you inherit, you have to learn something first. She and I had a brief conversation about urban farmers, and how we are glad that they do what they do, but also annoyed at people coming down on large farms without knowing anything about it.
She said it better than I could, but the point is, I feel like if you want to be a farmer, you should learn the history of your business, learn how others do it, so you can take the good of what they do, try to leave the bad, and ultimately be successful. The mob mentality of assumption doesn’t do anyone any good, and the attitude that large-scale farms are all evil and destroying the land is just ignorant. After all, if you assume that the people that grow your food are intelligent human beings (which I would hope you would) why would they destroy their own means of production?
Here’s what the EPA has to say about the state of farming in the US:
There are over 285,000,000 people living in the United States. Of that population, less than 1% claim farming as an occupation (and about 2% actually live on farms). There are only about 960,000 persons claiming farming as their principal occupation and a similar number of farmers claiming some other principal occupation. The number of farms in the U.S. stands at about two million.
What is a farm?
For the purposes of the U.S. Census, a farm is any establishment which produced and sold, or normally would have produced and sold, $1,000 or more of agricultural products during the year. (Government subsidies are included in sales.) By that definition, there are just over 2.1 million farms in the United States.
It has been estimated that living expenses for the average farm family exceed $47,000 per year. Clearly, many farms that meet the U.S. Census’ definition would not produce sufficient income to meet farm family living expenses. In fact, fewer than 1 in 4 of the farms in this country produce gross revenues in excess of $50,000.
According to the 1997 Census of Agriculture, the vast majority of farms in this country (90%) are owned and operated by individuals or families. The next largest category of ownership is partnerships (6%). The “Corporate” farms account for only 3% of U.S. farms and 90% of those are family owned. However, the term “family farm” does not necessarily equate with “small farm”; nor does a “corporate farm” necessarily mean a large-scale operation owned and operated by a multi-national corporation. Many of the country’s largest agricultural enterprises are family owned. Likewise, many farm families have formed modest-sized corporations to take advantage of legal and accounting benefits of that type of business enterprise.
It’s easy to look at a large farm and its shiny equipment, and assume it’s something that it’s not, but 90% of those farms are family-owned. People throw around phrases like “death of the family farm,” but that doesn’t really seem to be the case, it’s just that the family farm looks different.
One thing I do know about my family history is that my grandfather quit speaking to his grandson for almost a year because that grandson brought a tractor onto the farm, and that was “not how it was done.” It’s not how it was done, but that’s how it is done. People need to eat, and farmers need to earn a living. You can urban farm for the love of it all you want, but understand that a lot of other farmers don’t have that luxury.
Since this summer has been a bit of a drag workwise, I’ve actively stopped calling my parents. Calling them is something that wears me out in the best of times, but when I can’t tell them anything they want to hear, it’s that much more taxing. Last Monday was my birthday, and they called me Sunday night and left a voicemail, then Wednesday it was my mom’s birthday, so I made the call.
Naturally, the conversation eventually settled on my job prospects and she asked what it is that I’ve been doing all summer. “Well, I’m writing for a magazine, and doing that text-message answering thing, and I taught that screenwriting workshop, I did a medical study, secret shopping–basically anything that makes me a little money.” She sat there for a minute taking it all in, then burst out, “So you freelance!”
“Yes, that is what I do,” I told her.
She seemed so relieved to put a name to it, I almost felt validated. My parents like labels, they like to compartmentalize things, so even the fact that in the same conversation we also talked about them buying me emergency-only health insurance (just in case my appendix goes) she seemed relieved.
Later that afternoon, I was coming home from the grocery store and ran into my upstairs neighbor. He’s a nice, older man– friendly, quiet, etc., but he also has a tendency to do what a lot of people do when they find out that I’m trying to find a full-time job–give me a lot of career advice that I already know. When he first found out that I was looking for work, his immediate response was, “The Rockefeller Library, that’s just down the street, why don’t you work there? The Providence Athenaeum, that’s pretty close too.”
I listened politely, and chose not to remind him that just knowing where libraries are isn’t enough to get me working there–they have to want me as well, and have money to pay me.
This time when I saw him has asked, “How have you been? Where have you been?” I haven’t bumped into him on the stairs in a while, but I haven’t been in hiding either.
“I’ve been in my office, mostly.” I told him, “I’m doing some freelancing.”
“Did you get a job yet?” he asked.
As thrilled as my mother is with me having this “job”, things that I’ve read about the perception of people who freelance, are becoming all the more true. See, since I have the time, and no idea how long I’m going to have to shine this on (plus I figure I can keep it up once I’m actually working and pay those loans down that much sooner) I wanted to do it right. So I did a bit of research. A lot of people who get enough work freelancing that they’ve been able to quit their “real jobs” report that most people just don’t understand that what they do is a viable job. People either think your schedule is completely flexible you can certainly avail yourself to them for anything, that you must not take what you do very seriously, or that you really don’t work at all.
I’m fine with it, even if my neighbor is not. The fact that my mother accepts it is just the icing on the cake.