You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘work’ tag.

when_i_grow_up_become_architect_bannerI worked at Barnes & Noble for five years.  During that time, most of my friends also worked, or had worked at Barnes & Noble.  When we got together, we talked about the day to day, the crazy customers, the ridiculous decisions corporate was handing down to ruin our lives, etc, etc.  Then I got a job at tv station, and started hanging out with those people.  Naturally, we talked about tv station, so much so, that another friend, married to a co-worker, said that she didn’t want to hang around with us anymore because it was so boring for her.

Then at the end of a lovely girls’ weekend, my friends from high school told me that all I talked about was work, they didn’t care, and I needed to become interesting again.

Since those interventions, I have been hyper-aware of talking about work.  I realize that it’s inevitable, but absolutely do not want to be a one-dimensional person who only talks about my day-to-day rather than “real” stuff.  This was a particularly difficult thing when I was working at the call center, tv station, coffee shop, and doing very little else.  I wasn’t in school for the first time since I was six, and was working the most hateful job in the world, which left me feeling both angry and brain-dead.  I spent much of that period of my life writing angry blogs, sitting in silence, and feeling sick out of guilt for calling in sick all the time.

Part of the reason I picked librarianship is the variety that it presents.  Since no two days are alike, and each day involves learning something, I figure I can handle only having one job for once in my life–of course, I need to get that one job, but whatever, work in progress.  Even if my position does contain a lot of variety, and I do like talking about it, I fear that it will, inevitably, become all I talk about.  Most of my friends are librarians, and our conversations tend to veer toward the information sciences, but we do talk about other things too! Don’t we?

I haven’t blogged in quite a while, because I haven’t really had anything to say.  I’ve been going to work, coming home, watching LOST, reading, and running–it’s all pretty normal and not worth mentioning.  Naturally, this fills me with the panic that I’m becoming boring or regular, which has always been my fear, which is why I usually try to have too much going on.

I lack real hobbies because my hobby has always been having three jobs and having no time for hobbies.  It seems like everyone has their thing, whether it be gardening, or bird-watching, scrapbooking–granted, I wouldn’t really want to talk to anyone who only wanted to talk about those things, but it’s more the spirit of it that I’m after.  Most likely, I’m overthinking this completely. Often, when I’m having a good conversation with people, I cannot remember what topics we talked about.

The bigger problem is that when I’m not in school, I freak out.  If I don’t have a concrete goal, I feel like I’m floundering.  Even the other day when I was telling Jewish Friend about this panic and she reminded me that I have two jobs, a column, am reading for the Rhode Island Teen Book Award, and am a patron of the arts–all I could think was, she doesn’t get what I mean.

It’s an elusive thing because I don’t really respond well to long-range planning, but at the same time must have something to look forward to.  For now, I’m going to start listening to modern scholar lectures in the car again–starting with Unseen Diversity: The World of Bacteria, and hopefully this will work itself out.

providencebannerI’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.

work_for_myself_bannerA while ago, a friend of mine did a radio piece about crappy jobs.  I helped out and told her some stories about my more colorful experiences. Once it was all edited, a group of people met  in the basement of a restaurant to listen it the finished product.  It was interesting, hilarious at times, but I found myself annoyed on more than one occasion with the attitude of the some people interviewed.

At least two people described hateful work experiences, and then said “it was then that I decided to work for myself.”  The tone used to say that was a sort of smug “I can’t be penned in by others’ expectations and rules,” and it just grated on me.  It sounded spoiled, obnoxious, and immature.  Isn’t working for yourself the dream of many people that they never quite get to realize, or have to work very hard for years to achieve?  Somehow these 20-something hipsters have one lousy experience and then decide to shrug off the yoke of oppression, and answer to no one. Of course these are all assumptions about the people who said that–I don’t know who they are, but I picture someone who still receives a healthy allowance from his or her parents, and earns little-to-no-money making eco-friendly shoes or being an urban farmer.

Around the time I heard this radio piece, I read a short article about entrepreneurs who have manage to successfully work for themselves because they simply did not have the temperament to work for other people.  One example was Penelope Trunk, whose blog I actually read because despite her rampant narcissism, she makes some good points.  She recounted how she was fired from an ice cream shop for refusing to scoop flavors she disliked (something like that, anyway). To that I say: what the hell is wrong with you?  Did you not expect that that would become an issue before even applying for the position?

This may be my Midwestern work ethic is showing, but I’ve always had the attitude– do your job.  The article was praising people who refuse to fall in line, or who are too creative to work for “the man.”  I’m pretty creative, but I also live in the real world, and know I need to get paid.  I’ve had terrible jobs, jobs that I hated more than I even believed I was capable of; jobs that sent me into a depression and made me question everything in addition to being low-paying and soulless— but I had to do them, because I had pay rent and eat.

Maybe I don’t understand all of this because I’ve never had a full-time job.  There’s a chance that going to a hateful 9-5 would make something snap in my brain that drives me to create a career where I work for myself, but more than likely I would starve and be homeless before getting that career going.  In my first interview for a library job, they asked me why I wasn’t pursuing writing.  I said that I was, but I’m also realistic enough to know that while I’ll always be a writer, I may never make a liveable wage doing it.

I’ve been working for myself (in a way) all summer, and I’ve never been so bored.  The reason I’m bored, is that I’m learning very little and I never leave the house.  Everything I need to accomplish can be done from my laptop, and so I sit in my chair all day.  I love being able to roll out of bed, work in my pjs drinking my coffee, and still accomplish things; but making my home into a workspace makes me feel like I’m always working or should be working, and also gives me license to take many, many breaks.

I need interaction to feel creative; I need pressure from outside sources; I need to actually make enough money so I can play a little bit as well as work.  Everyone (or maybe just Oprah) says follow your passion, and I’m fine with that, but what I’m passionate about (and I suspect that I’m not alone in this) is not a real job.  Librarianship is something I care about very much, and I’m passionate about certain aspects of it, but when you ask someone “what’s your passion?” it makes the ordeal of figuring out what you want to do with your life that much more difficult. My cat gets to follow his passion, because he will be taken care of no matter what, but that’s not how people should live.  In return for his care, I expect him to pay attention to me when I want him to, and wait to be fed until I feel like getting up–he has no control.  You should have to deal with something unpleasant to get to the good–otherwise how do you do tell the difference?

Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs said something similar, a lot more articulately at a TED conference recently–you should watch the video, he’s pretty dreamy and has a great voice.

work_life_bannerEven though I have never had a full-time job in my nearly (gulp) thirty years of life, I’ve always kept my part-time jobs for an inordinately long time.  My first job not answering phones for my father or baby-sitting, was Dairy Queen when I was fifteen.  I kept that job for a full year, and picked up another one on top of it just to break the monotony of making Blizzards.  That next job– Bjornson Oil– I stayed at for four years.

After setting that precedent, I kept my two main jobs– TV station and Barnes & Noble for five years each, and interspersed those with other more minor gigs, most of which I worked at for at least two years.  Basically, except for a two week stint as a hotel housekeeper when I was 21, I had never had a job for less than a year that wasn’t a temp job–ever.

Then I moved to Rhode Island.

I was thinking about this yesterday, as I updated my employment section on Facebook.  I’m very meticulous when it comes to that section, for some reason, and feel great annoyance with people who aren’t the same about theirs.  Those people probably only have one job, and have had it for years, where I update mine every three months or so.

Since moving here I have worked at three libraries–two public, one private; done a year as a URI Graduate Assistant; was hired as an adjunct professor, and then got cut along with the budget;  and I am now a magazine editor.  That doesn’t sound like a ton of jobs– 6 in total–but I haven’t even lived here two years. That’s a lot of paperwork.

I sat down with a friend who works in public radio a while ago, and we talked about my many jobs for a piece she’s working on.

“Why do you think it is that you’ve never had a full-time job?” she asked.

I sat there for a full minute before admitting that I really have no idea, but that I’ve never really known what I want to do, therefore, never wanted to commit to something full-time that I was half-hearted about.  Also, doing something FULL-TIME always sounded so time-consuming and dull, so much like my parents.

Now, I would really like a full-time job, but no one is offering me one– bittersweet irony.

What I really don’t know is whether or not it makes me look bad for never having had a full-time job, or if all the part-time work I’ve done makes me more well-rounded.  Even though I have all these degrees, whenever someone says something like “professional job interview,” I get very sqeamish and feel like a dirty-faced kid again.  Professional just doesn’t sound like me.  Perhaps if I got a suit and wore it around the house…

I’ve returned from my triumphant return to the Midwest, and am now faced with the fact that I truly have very little to do.  Since the dryer situation is finally rectified, I have a lot of laundry to catch up on, but other than that, I’m kind of a lump.

I went from 2 jobs, internship, full-time class load, comprehensive exam dread to… 1 extremely part-time job that’s switching to shorter summer hours next week.  I have a very flexible (and very poorly paid) work-from-home gig that made my rather dour co-worker ask “Are you sure they’re going to pay you?”, and a screenwriting workshop to prep for.

A co-worker who graduated at the same time as me has started learning Spanish just to occupy her mind, and I screeched like a harpy at Gentleman Caller last night about how stressed I am now that I have nothing to do.

I fear I’m becoming unpleasant.

I just don’t know why I can’t relax.  I’m trying to convince myself to enjoy this downtime, and that I truly deserve a break, but either my fear of poverty or my ridiculous Midwestern work ethic are telling me otherwise.

The worst is, now I’ve started lamenting how many library classes I missed out on taking.  There were quite  few decent electives that I passed on because people said “It’s a really good class and you’ll learn a lot, but it’s a lot of work.” I did not have the time/inclination to take on a lot of work, so I opted for the easier road.  I don’t actually regret any of the electives I took, but I feel like others know more secrets about librarianship than I do.

I was talking to a friend of mine who lives in Minneapolis and who graciously put me up for the Minneapolis portion of my Triumphant Return to the Midwest.  She had recently decided to quit college, and to stop wasting money on classes she was either failing, or getting incompletes in.  She has been in college since I met her (about eight years ago), and goes to such elaborate measures to not go to class, that what she does in avoiding actually winds up being more work.

“Every time I go to class, I sit there for the first two session thinking it’s interesting, then I realize that I’m not learning anything new, or that the other people in the class are idiots, and it just feels like a waste of my time.” she told me.

While I agree with the some of the classmates being idiots part of the statement, all going to class does is make me feel like I know less.  Even f it’s something I’ve heard 100 times before, I feel like there’s a new fact or nuance that has previously eluded me, and that’s the point of the class.   Even if I know all of the answers, I get bogged down in convincing myself that the teacher must be telling me something new, or else why would they be teaching this class?

This dichotomy has resulted in me never having had a full-time job but having two masters degrees, and my friend making tons of money as a server and not enough credits after eight years of off-and-on college attendance to equal a degree.

I can’t decide which of us is better off because we seem equally frustrated.

My little brother has officially bested me in the unofficial “get a job” competition.  Truthfully, I didn’t put up that much of a fight, but it’s still weird to hear about my little brother having a company car and a 40+ hour a week commitment that requires him to wear a suit and tie.  It’s also weird that even though he’s only had this job for about three months, he’s already starting to experience one of the things I dread most about having a full-time job– intrusion into your personal life.

My brother is a funeral director– so he already has to work rather strange hours doing strange work.  There are some weekends involved, evenings, and late night body pickups, but now people are leaning on him to donate his weekends and evenings off to fraternal organizations and churches.

He lives on the same street as three pastors, all of whom are trying to win his attendance– all of them are Lutheran, in fact, every church in this town in some kind of Lutheran church (ahh Minnesota).  Also, everyone he works with is a member of Lions club and they’re leaning on him to join that.  My dad had also taken up this crusade (my dad really loves joining things), and during the weekly phone call he has taken to plugging Lions et al.

I know that professional development is part of having a real job, and I’m fine with that;  I plan on going to every conference I get a chance to, and sitting on committees supporting things I care about– once I have a job, but I really don’t want to be told what to do with my day off.  Last time I spoke to my brother, he said that one of his co-workers had to take vacation days after being roped into organizing some fund-raiser.  The guy was not thrilled about it.

I remember, growing up, my dad was a high school principal, which required him to join everything he possibly could.  He was athletic director, on school board– basically he was out of the house from 7am until 9pm.  Is it completely selfish to say that I have no interest in that?  Maybe I’m lucky in that my interests line up more closely with any extracurriculars my job might ask me to take on than they do for my brother, but I already have a lot of hobbies, and will probably cultivate more during my summer of underemployment– I don’t want to give up all my free time for a job.

I’m worried I’m going to come off as some insubordinate bench-sitter if I refuse to sign on for all this stuff, but I find it all rather unfair.  The point of working a full-time job (as I see it), is having free time and money– take away the free time, and that puts me back to feeling like I’m working three jobs.

My brother just bought a 46 inch flatscreen that he said is so glorious “it will make your eyes bleed”, so I don’t think he’s caving anytime soon.  I’m a lot nicer than he is though, I wonder how long I’ll last.

  • I’ve saved quite a bit of money on gas (obvious).
  • I’ve gotten a bit of a tan.
  • I feel now that I have more license to eat whatever I want since I’m getting exercise– not that my not getting exercise stopped me before, but I’m sure this has alleviated a bit of guilt that I may or may not have acknowledged.
  • A girl on the street told me that she liked my dress.
  • A rather unkempt man wearing a Harley Davidson shirt spit on the sidewalk in front of me, which grossed me out, but then without my even indicating that I was going that way, hit the walk button on the stoplight for me, then continued on his way.
  • I got hit on by a tall urban youth with nice shoulders.
  • A grizzled old man told me that I’m beautiful.
  • The crossing guard who works in my neighborhood stops traffic for me and allows me to cross safely even though I am clearly not a ten-year-old.
  • Oktoberfest beer is in season again, and this year I stocked up so I won’t run out before the end of September.
  • One of my bosses at my new job told someone else that I am “amazing”, my other boss told me, “we are so happy you’re here.”
  • I’ve been working half days and was told that I’d also better take off Friday, but this will not affect my paycheck in the slightest.
  • Jewish Friend’s car got backed into by an engineering professor, which is not a good thing, but it allowed me to refer her to my mechanic who I love, and love to give business to. She has also acknowledged that he is a wonderful human being, and he remembered me fondly telling her “Andria needs to keep her car cleaner.” I’m still unsure if he means the inside or the outside.
  • Since I’ve been working half days, I was able to have a lovely two-hour lunch with Curly-Haired Religious Scholar Friend and we caught up on all we had missed over the course of the summer.
  • I visited New York City for the first time and had a seriously kick-ass time.
  • With all of this free time I’ve had, I discovered that I too can make a delightful macaroni and cheese from scratch. I will use this knowledge this winter and subsist nearly exclusively on macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes, and feel more like a grown-up because I’m cooking for real and not from a box.