I just got off work. I clocked in at 9 this morning and haven't thought about anything else since but this intrinsically fabulous thing: five o'clock. At five I'll be able to, I don't know, eat what I want, watch television, stare at the wall if I choose, make a phone call? Mail a letter, organize my bills, clean my room, or-- ???
Christy read something the other day about work and I can't stop thinking about it. Why is it so boring to us or so awful? Sure I am not particularly thrilled with my job. Fine. Sure I'd rather be riding a jeep around Africa taking pictures and writing about my culture shock. Who wouldn't? But since I'm not there, and since there's no where else I can be between the time I clock in and the time I snap off my name tag and walk through the sliding doors, hadn't I better just relax?
I hear it all day long: “Do _______. It makes the time go faster!” or “I hate ________! It makes time go so slow.” And of course I say it too, and I think about it all day, and it positively rules me. I want to cram the hours into a shredder or space out into complete oblivion. But today for some reason a small miraculous voice in my head reported the bleak calculation that I spend over thirty hours a week (and this is quite optimistic) wishing the time in which I am living didn't exist. Think about this for a moment. What is reality but time?
Ah, but this particular time is not my reality, you say. This time is not me. What I truly am is a biker/banker/philanthropist-gardener/listener/lover/computer nerd. Well, okay. And maybe it really is so. But a job is a job is a job, and earning the money may be merely the means to an end, but it is (hopefully, unless you pay your rent with buttons and pocket lint like I do) a forty-hour means. And this deserves consideration.
Why is 'shop talk' taboo again? I just spent eight hours there. I'm not talking she-said-he-said, but you know, the stuff. When I'm at work my mind is a whirling file of expiration dates and case labels. I know the prices of at least a dozen products including the SKU for a bag of lemons which is, by the way 00917827 and rings up at 1.39. I think about hummus (garlic); I know what case it comes in (about the size of a Asics shoe box); when it expires (10/09/09); when it is delivered (4am, seven days a week). This IS my day. And when I come home at five, this is why I don't remember anything I've done: because (other than one's closest friends who are of course, exempt from most of this discussion because you talk about this sort of stuff anyway) people just don't ask me what its like, what the stuff has been, and I'm too ashamed to say so. Why?, you ask. And its a great question. But isn't the answer obvious?
Because its boring as hell.
And this is true; no one will argue. But something about it still nags at me. The statement that work is 'boring' or that the stuff of my day isn't worth talking about when I get home is the result of an assumption that what I say must, as a general rule, be exciting and as an obvious addendum, what I do. What we say to each other must have a flavor of interest, uniqueness and certainly reflect a certain type of identity. You all don't want to hear about my day because, let's face it, it's uninteresting, un-unique and as a bonus, it doesn't have a thing to do with the main event, me!
If I tell you, for example, that I spent the morning organizing spoiled food into banana boxes, and that I got chicken juice on my hands, but still managed to eat my poptart and only got a tiny smudge of Lily pollen on my t-shirt, it would be, sadly, nothing different than most days, nothing of my own importance in the world and far less interesting than nearly getting eaten by a tiger.
But its what I did all day. So what if its not how I choose to spend the time I'm off work? So what if its not a job that defines me? Because when I look back on my life from the unimaginable future at the year when I first moved to Seattle and away from everything I knew, I suspect a great many of my memories will be hitting the alarm at five AM, pulling on a hoodie and staring up at the Dips case, deciding what to pull.
I am all for deep conversation and reading books about concepts. Great, let's do it. It'll change the government and the economy and the way we think about reality and ethics. But I'd like to make a plug for wide conversations also-- it is possible to talk about a little of this and a little of that, which happens to be my day, and doesn't need to be awesome or unique to be true.
Additionally, the truth is that in order for our society to work, a very few of us can have unique, life-defining jobs. The rest of us have to learn to push a broom, count boxes and talk to customers. This is maybe why I love running so much: that I'm constantly overwhelmed with my own presence in the moment, even though my immediate desire is that this moment be over. Its a bewildering, invigorating space between let this end and here I am. We must of course not labor under the delusion that we will change our lives or the lives of those around us. But if we keep doing well what we must keep doing anyway, we do have the overwhelming opportunity to be present in a single moment. Not to love our jobs with reckless abandon. But just to say on any given day, here I am, here I am, here I am.