When I was in college, I was extremely active in extracurricular activities. Basically, I had two jobs. The main one was supposed to be getting all my school work done well and on time, but I spent a whole shitload of time leading student groups and writing a column for the school paper and performing in The Vagina Monologues and writing my blog and doing research assistantships and, you know, having a social life. I didn't sleep enough. My grades were pretty good, but they weren't stellar. I don't think I understood at the time what the opportunity costs were of these millions of activities.

Now I work at an awesome sex and BDSM shop. My boss is generous and clearly values me as an employee. My coworkers are great, and I've made lots of good friends here. I get to do buying for the store, and I spend lots of time working to make it better. I have agency and responsibility. As jobs go, it's pretty great.

But it's still retail. It's not my life's passion or magnum opus. It's a high energy service job with random lulls in between activity. While there are no customers in the store I can theoretically work on, say, this blog or my PhD applications or my insurance claims. However, I'll always have to drop whatever it is on a millisecond's notice if a customer walks in. This makes it hard to concentrate on outside projects during my work day, and I'm tired after my week of 40+ hours.

I understand now what it's like to do a job that takes up all your energy, one that distracts from any other job you might want to do. I only do laundry about every 3 or 4 months. My room is often messy. I mostly only read books on the subway, and I've been (very) slow at writing on here. It's been a long time since I performed or did anything which would let me call myself an activist. Do I cook or do the dishes? Nope.

I'm excited now, though, because I'm researching schools where I can get my PhD (in Cultural Studies or American Studies). The prospect of going into a rigorous program and getting to spend the bulk of my attention on something I'm passionate about, something I want to turn into a career, is now very appealing. I'm psyched to take hard classes with lots of reading, and to do big research projects on stuff that fascinates me.

At this point, I don't even want to do any extra curricular stuff. If I get to spend my work time on the work I actually want to do, my free time will actually be free. I'll get to rest, to have fun, and to recharge to keep my main work going. In undergraduate I was really just there to do the next thing and to learn about myself and do a lot of personal growth. The outside activity was good for that, but I wasn't ready for a career or a true work focus. Now I can hardly wait to get to do all those hours of work on something that excites and interests me.

Working full time at regular-joe jobs for a few years has given me that excitement. The relative boredom and energy drain of these jobs has indeed been a distraction, but it's helped me figure out what I want instead. For that, I'm extremely grateful.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on recognizing just how much of a drain on your personal energy a 'regular-joe job' can be, and becoming so energized and focused on going back to school so you can pursue your passion. From personal experience I'll tell you the old saying is true - do something you truly love and enjoy you'll never be 'at work' another day in your life. Good luck getting accepted into a program and fulfilling your dreams.

On living, loving, learning, and fucking with the materials I've got at hand.

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