Working

This is the home of all things work-related…and I mean “work” in its biggest sense.  Not just the paid stuff, or the high-profile stuff.  All of it.  Diapers, driving, memos, meetings.  I’m intrigued by work and what we’ve made of it: the thing that entitles us to health insurance, if we’re lucky; the thing that maybe pays us a living wage, but mostly if we’re well enough off already that we don’t fully need it; the thing that takes us away from our kids but only if we earn enough to pay someone else to manage them while we’re “at work.”  I’m curious about why we so often don’t do what we love, why our systems seem designed not just to privilege but to revere obedience over creativity and satisfaction.  I’m hyper-conscious of the ways that “women’s work” and parenting are overlooked and undervalued.  I’m a fan of old systems like bartering and buying local, growing our own food and living where we work.  I believe,with whoever said it, that we all have things to teach and we all have things to learn.  And so we see how work connects to all the rest.

Personally, I’m trying to parent and work part-time.  Which is surprisingly hard.  Moreover, it’s surprising WHY it’s so hard: because for the first time in my life I’m actually able to feel the richness of multiplicity that has always characterized me.  For real: in college, I changed majors four times, the last time in the middle of my junior year.  But I never reveled in my adoration of so many fields; I never celebrated my competence at such a range of disciplines.  Instead, I agonized over my indecision, certain that there was a “right” answer I had to discern, and that if I got it wrong everything would collapse.  You should have seen me the day I bailed on pre-med.  It was a right and freeing decision, and yet I was convinced I was a failure.  The only real reason I left was because it was becoming clear that I couldn’t stay and succeed.  You see, I had confused “success” — in this case, doing well in classes — with happiness — in my case, having the freedom to study politics and culture and ethics and literature and why people do what they do in this world.  I’m getting better at seeing the difference now.

And now, of course, is precisely when that difference is most important: at this stage of my life, I need to be clear about what moves me, what gives me joy, what gives me a sense of utility, what pays my bills.  And I want to be flexible about my choices: I need experience to learn more about how to make a living as a writer, for example, so I can go ahead and volunteer to edit that volume a friend is working on.  I need experience to know if free-lance PR/marketing work is a useful path for me, so I can go ahead and barter those services for a friend’s business in exchange for babysitting hours.  I need experience to know if there’s a market out there for my teaching-how-to-garden, so I can go ahead and offer a springtime workshop for some of the college kids around here, using my own garden as a test site and hands-on demo.  There are so many possible configurations for my life that it’s hard for me to choose just one — and for the first time, that feels like it might be okay.  It’s possible that I myself am the “laundry line” (to borrow from Michael Pollan) I hang my story on, my own connecting thread.  Weird and implausible and ineffably dangerous, but also gloriously possible.

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