Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Self-Indulgent Life

"The desire not to be anything is the desire not to be." -Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

There are some people who are not motivated to do anything with themselves or with their lives.  Perhaps I'm a typical Type A personality, but for me there needs to be some point to my existence, some reason for my being here.  Maybe there really is no point to our existence, but I don't feel satisfied unless I feel that I've made some kind of difference.  And maybe that's the problem with me.
There are people out there who live only for themselves and are happy with that.  I sometimes wish I could be that way because it seems like a more relaxed, self-indulgent way of living, but I don't know if I would be happy living like that.
When I was 19 and worked at Barnes and Noble,  I came across an individual who had worked there for years and planned on staying there until he retired.  He was single, between 35 and 40 years old, and was a lead bookseller, but did not aspire to ever reach a management position.  I was young and perhaps not as tactful as I should have been when I asked him "So, is this all you want to do? Isn't there anything else you want to do in life?"  Luckily he didn't take offense, but he answered that the job suited his lifestyle.  He worked enough to get by, got out at a decent hour and was able to focus on writing his poetry.
Back then I couldn't understand it.  Here I was in college, trying to make something of myself, and here was this middle-aged man, content with not making anything of himself at all.   But then, who am I to judge this person's choice of lifestyle?  Maybe this is all he wanted out of life.  He enjoys writing poetry, and I can relate because I enjoy writing too. 
I find myself wishing sometimes that I could just have a job instead of a career so that I could do more of the things I like to do.  But I remember that I wasn't happy at Barnes and Noble.  Nor was I happy at the daycare I worked at for two months a couple years ago when I was strapped for cash. So I know I wouldn't be happy with "just a job".
I often wish that I didn't have to work at all, and could devote my time to catching up on my reading and writing.  If my financial circumstances allow that to happen one day, I'd love to try it.  I'd also love to see how long I'd last without getting restless! 
I wish I could live a self-indulgent life, but apparently it isn't for me.  For everyone out there who is able to do so, more power to you.
Just curious what other people think of the Ayn Rand quote...

Friday, February 26, 2010

That Very First Day

It was a cool October morning, and I donned a formal black sweater jacket I had purchased specifically for this occasion. Standing at the bus stop with a handful of other people, suitcases in hand and also dressed in business attire, I waited. I had taken the bus from my home in New Jersey into the city countless times before, except never this early or with these types of passengers. I arrived at New York Port Authority forty-five minutes later. My heels clicked importantly on the floor as I headed towards the escalator, where I walked single file down the left-hand side with the rest of the commuters who were in a rush.
I wasn’t really in a hurry, but I did want to get to work early on my first day. At 22 years of age, I was working my way through graduate school, and heading to my first real 9 to 5 job. Gone were my days as a minimum waged bookseller. I had been hired as a child development specialist at a hospital, a job that sounded way more professional than I felt. Apparently, I was qualified for the position, but I couldn’t have felt more nervous or unprepared.
When I reached the bottom of the escalator, I saw a swarm of people all headed in the same direction, down to the subway. I suddenly felt like I had become a part of something much bigger. I had joined the ranks of people who got up early, went to work, got home, ate, and went to sleep. I was proud to be a part of the club, but I also felt a slight disappointment that I couldn’t quite figure out. I chose to ignore it.
One subway transfer and five long city blocks later, I arrived at the hospital. Incidentally, this was the same hospital my mother had taken me to for most of my childhood years. I had seen the renovations made on the hospital during the summer, when I had my series of interviews, but I still couldn’t quite get used to the new look. I felt like I had stepped back into my past, but someone had tampered with the memory. I saw familiar things and unfamiliar things simultaneously, and it was only adding an unwelcome touch of the surreal to my already hectic morning.
I entered the elevator, where I was squeezed in among strangers as the elevator was filled to capacity. Slowly, we traveled floor by floor until I reached my destination, the fourth floor: Pediatrics. I got off the elevator and headed to the double doors that were to the left, as I had been instructed to do, which is where I reached my first obstacle. I reached out and pulled the handle to open one of the doors. Nothing. I tried the other one, but it didn’t budge. I pulled and pulled to no avail. Would no one help me? Apparently not. People walked past me and paid me no mind. I walked over to the registration desk, where a man was sitting at a computer. I explained my situation, stressing the fact that I was “new”, as it was my only defense. With a confused look on his face, he got up, walked over to the double doors and pushed them open. I thanked him sheepishly and quickly went inside, hoping nobody had witnessed my stupidity.
I entered a long hallway of windowless doors, all of them closed. Now all I had to do was find the doctor whom I’d never met before, but who was supposed to be my supervisor. Checking my notepad for the correct room number, I walked slowly towards room A124. I hesitated before knocking. There’s something about a closed, windowless door that is so uninviting.
I took a deep breath and knocked quietly, but nobody answered. I knocked louder, but after a quick look around, it was obvious that not one person had arrived to work on this floor. I checked my watch. It was 8:57am. With nowhere to sit, I stood in front of the door, trying not to look or feel foolish. Surely someone would appear in three minutes.
Fifteen minutes later, I was still standing there when someone finally appeared. Fortunately this kind woman allowed me into her office until my supervisor arrived. But by then, I just wanted the day to be over.
I don’t remember anything more about that first day at work, but I do remember not feeling the same exhilaration going home that evening as I had felt getting in to work that morning. All it took was one week for the novelty of the experience to wear off completely, because I began to realize that I was no longer free to do as I liked, but tied down by the monotonous schedule of whatever job I chose. Was this all I had to look forward to, for the rest of my life?
Although we all had our vacation days, and were entitled to use them, it still felt as if taking a vacation was no longer my right, but a privilege that had to be scheduled months in advance in order to decrease any competition for specific dates. Being a rigid person by nature, and wanting to overcome this personal flaw, I felt as if any spontaneity I had hoped to achieve in my adult life was dead.
That was five years ago, and I’ve since moved on through different positions, searching for the best fit for me. I can’t say that I’ve found it yet, and I don’t know if I ever will. But I know that as long as I am physically able, unless I win the lottery or something crazy like that, I will continue to search for the job that doesn’t feel like it’s changing me into someone I’m not, or holding me back from being who I am and becoming who I know I can be.