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a job like mine
finding more to life than coffee
by sarah ficke (@DameMystery)
2.3.02
general


Here I am in the Real World, and it's kicking my ass.

This doesn't really surprise me. After all, I just spent four years in an extremely liberal Liberal Arts College. Despite the administration's attempts to keep the matter quiet, I suspected all along that the process of gaining a BA was actually a ploy to line their pockets while convincing us that someone cares what the narrative structure of Vanity Fair is. No wonder the voices in my head kept telling me to chuck it all up and become a plumber. Of course I fell for it, hook, line, and sinker, and I can't say I didn't learn anything. I learned to appreciate the act of sleeping (even a dorm mattress feels soft and welcoming after a day in the library and a night hauling scenery around the theater). I honed my skills of procrastination to the point where I could write a 14 page paper in one sitting and still fool the professor into thinking I went through several drafts before achieving the final product. I was, and am, proud of these accomplishments. I will also be the first to admit that their usefulness is limited. In my blacker moments, I rue every minute I spent making stage armour (out of wire mesh, felt, and liberal applications of duct tape) instead of haunting the career center in search of my future source of income. In practice, though, regret isn't any more practical than reading Plato in the original Greek. You certainly can't change the past, only ruin memories that you should be enjoying, even as you reap the consequences.

So, here I am, 8 months later, with memories (not to mention an encyclopedic knowledge of the uses of duct tape), but no job. Of course, there are upsides to being unemployed. Matinee movies (I had my own private showing of Hedwig and the Angry Inch at noon one day) the 11am showing of the Smurfs...And, of course, the time I've had to wander the streets of my new city and learn her idiosyncrasies. Boston, I've decided, is characterized by the ubiquitous presence of Dunkin' Donuts. There is a Dunkin' Donuts down the alley, across the street, or around the corner from every business in Boston. In fact, it may be a city ordinance. And of course, the used record stores. Yet another invitation for me to spend my money.

Ah, money. The root of all evil, discontent, or at least minor inconvenience. After tossing around the idea of setting up in Harvard Square with a sign, "Will theorize for food" and possibly starting up an underground business supplying papers to Harvard students suffering from writer's block or terminal laziness, I got practical and signed up with a temp agency. Ironic, since I hate answering strange phones, starting new jobs, and being clueless - all a daily part of a temp's life. So it is that I spend my days either doing something I am less than thrilled about or not doing anything at all. Abstractly, I wonder how long my morale will be able to stand up under the strain. This abstraction is my saving grace, since I am far too pragmatic to allow myself to just not get out of bed in the morning. "Don't be ridiculous!" Snaps the tart Mary Poppins voice inside my head, "You'll get out of that bed on the count of three, or else..."

This morning finds me parked at a desk, armed with a phone, message pad, a 7 page list of names and extensions of people I am supposed to take messages for, and the official Telephone Orientation Guide. This is a godsend, being designed expressly for the clueless receptionist. Between phone calls, there isn't much for me to do besides twiddle my thumbs and watch the screensaver on the password-locked computer, which flashes between landscapes, cute fuzzy animals, and French desserts like "Double-Drizzled Pears and Cheesecake" - a cruel reminder that lunch is still hours away.

While I'm twiddling my thumbs and waiting for lunch, I tend to ponder the state of my life. You know, in my younger days when I imagined my post-college life it involved a fabulous job, an equally fabulous apartment, and, of course, love. These days, I dream of a job that lasts for more than a day and a time when I can afford to buy a vacuum cleaner. Realism is a bitch sometimes. I have to say, though, that it's good for me. After 22 years of working within the structure of school and college, being forced to stop and think about where I am going next instead of sliding along in a comfortable rut is a revelatory experience. Granted, I do my share of bitching and moaning, but by making the choice harder, I am making it more my own. I have to take my dreams and seriously ask myself, "how badly do I want this?" Because I've got this uncomfortable feeling that if I am not able to make myself go after an interesting and challenging life then maybe I don't deserve one. Ultimately, I have to have faith that I can make my life happen; that I can create the pattern, not just follow one. In a sense, I am fighting Cinderella, and every other storybook character that got things through luck. Not that luck doesn't happen. I believe in luck, joyful incidents of fate, and occasional flashes of beauty (watching Amelie reminded me of how important these things are), but I also believe that luck and fate are the sort of mischievous entities that only visit when your back is turned. I'd like to thank all of the people in my past that kicked my ass into gear, but now I need to learn to kick myself in the ass. A wise person once pointed out that you can't take a vacation from doing nothing. It's true, and I need a vacation.

For now, I'll continue to hone my people skills (they are improving by leaps and bounds, as is my phone voice). But first will come the obligatory coffee break - Dunkin' Donuts, of course, just around the corner, next to Starbucks.

I don't want to work away, doing just what they all say, "Work hard boy and you'll find, one day you'll have a job like mine." 'cause I know for sure nobody should be that poor. To say yes or sink low, because you happen to say so, say so, you say so. I don't want to work away, doing just what they all say, "Work hard boy and you find one day you'll have a job like mine, job like mine, a job like mine. Be wise, look ahead, use your eyes" he said, "be straight, think right." but I might die tonight!
-Cat Stevens


ABOUT SARAH FICKE

Sarah Ficke will make sport for you, and laugh at you in her turn. She has channeled her obsession for books into a career as an English professor.

more about sarah ficke

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COMMENTS

jael mchenry
2.4.02 @ 10:21a

I believe there are parts of Boston where you can stand at one Dunkin Donuts and see the next Dunkin Donuts coming up. Maybe Porter Square, or thereabouts.

mike julianelle
2.4.02 @ 12:17p

I feel like my thoughts have been channeled through a not-quite native Delawarean female's perspective. Dunkins are everywhere here in Boston, and that's a good thing! Screw Starbucks!

matt morin
2.4.02 @ 1:53p

Here's my keep-your-chin-up temp story:

When I first moved to San Francisco 6 1/2 years ago, I temped at a publishing house for a week. I sat next to Katie, another temp. Two weeks ago we met again (very long story). Saturday was our fourth date.

You just never know...

sarah ficke
2.4.02 @ 2:10p

I believe there are parts of Boston where you can stand at one Dunkin Donuts and see the next Dunkin Donuts coming up.
Actually, my favorites are the Dunkin' Donuts across the street from Dunkin' Donuts just so you don't have to cross traffic. It all ties into this greater theory of mine that if you desire a Dunkin' Donuts, one will appear on the horizon, no matter where you are.

mike julianelle
2.4.02 @ 2:19p

Clever move, Matt, trying to sneak your secretly hopeful love-connection story in an unrelated discussion. This won't go unnoticed...

I have been temping for a while now, and I have yet to meet my soulmate. I have had several good relationships with computers though.

matt morin
2.4.02 @ 2:23p

I was wondering how long it'd take for someone to notice that...

Like I said Mike, it took 6 1/2 years for that temp job to pay off.

And who said anything about soulmate?

mike julianelle
2.4.02 @ 2:26p

I was just hacking on ya. You're lucky it was me who noticed it, because I don't care and won't grill you.

I think I'll take a lifetime of loneliness over temping for 6.5 more years, Alex.

jael mchenry
2.4.02 @ 2:51p

There's a great bit in Best of Show about a Starbucks across the street from another Starbucks. In keeping with the Matt/Mike snipfest above, it is also about romance, that same bit.

mike julianelle
2.4.02 @ 3:18p

Best in Show rules. "What are you a wizard? A genius?!"

adam kraemer
2.5.02 @ 12:08p

I think I once counted that on my bus ride from Medford Hillside to Harvard every morning, I passed 5 Dunkin' Donuts. Including the one on JFK street that tries to camouflage itself as a cafe.

mike julianelle
2.5.02 @ 12:14p

The most annoying thing about my commute from Brookline to Waltham is that on the stretch of road I take before I get to 128, there is not ONE D'n'Ds on my side. SUCK.

sarah ficke
3.11.02 @ 11:36a

Here's an interesting news flash. My sister just got back from Prague and said that they have Dunkin' Donuts there too. Amazing.

adam kraemer
3.11.02 @ 11:37a

My friend Paul reports that Chinese food in Prague is not very good.

sarah ficke
3.11.02 @ 11:38a

But I heard that there was a fabulous all-night bagel place. Someday I plan to go and see for myself.



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