Summer Dreaming

I knew this would happen. I juggle part-time jobs for over a year in search of the “perfect” full time job, and once I find it, I feel so overwhelmed that I want to drop everything and leave. This isn’t a new or profound way of thinking–we all feel a bit suffocated when we know the stakes are high and we can’t just walk out the door, right? Relationships, jobs, school–commitments can make you feel secure and terrified all at once.

Company X set the bar pretty low, so starting my new job at The NonProfit (as it will be called from now on) seemed great at first. You mean I don’t have to be chained to my desk and answer calls on the 2nd ring? You mean I won’t be fired if I don’t deliver this phone message in under 30 seconds? You mean I won’t have to stay here until 8pm every night?

As it turns out, I’ve stayed past 9pm some nights and the thought of an 8 hour, 9-5 work day is such an unrealistic dream that I’ve given up on it completely. My new boss is a kind, enthusiastic, emotionally intelligent man. He is also one of the most demanding people I’ve ever met. In the past week, I’ve been scolded harshly for paper clipping instead of stapling and handwriting a label on a folder instead of printing it in a specific font on a specific label. He was traveling abroad for work since the day I started, except for 4 days in between, which means I had literally NO training whatsoever. Now, after a month of working, my boss is back and things are 100 times more intense. Right now, it feels like there will never be a day I’ll be able to eat lunch (or even breakfast), never see the light of day or have time to do things for myself like…eat, exercise, do yoga, sleep. I tell myself I’ll get into a rhythm in a few months and these 45 million daily tasks will become easy.

Another part of me is completely resisting. Why would I want to spend 90% of my waking life managing someone else’s life? Why would I want to memorize someone else’s incredibly packed and stressful calendar? How is this a good learning experience? How am I helping the WORLD by doing this? Why are only women expected to be assistants? Why aren’t there any young men doing this?

And then I start to question bigger things. I’ve been reading some really interesting books that criticize the system of Non Profits (and the Non Profit Industrial Complex) and it makes total sense. The problem is, once I know about something, it’s like I ate from the tree of knowledge and I can’t ever see things the same way. Suddenly I’m naked and so is everyone else and I can’t be blissfully ignorant anymore, which sort of sucks sometimes. Why do Nonprofits model themselves after big, awful corporate places? Why doesn’t anyone realize that it IS important to think about where your donor money comes from and how that money controls the entire mission of the organization? Why do I have to stress about staples? Why can’t I just move somewhere beautiful and read a lot?

I went to Northampton last weekend and swam in a deliciously chilly lake, said goodbye to friends who are moving across the country to go to grad school and enjoyed the beautiful weather. I like Brooklyn. I like New York City. I like living here. But I miss that kind of beauty. I miss lakes. I miss real trees. I miss seeing stars–it’s incredible how you can forget they exist when you haven’t seen them in a while. (Current Smithies beware: I’ll be visiting you a billion times this fall.)

I suppose I’m just feeling tied down because this is supposedly what I’ve been working for–a stable, fulfilling job that will allow me to learn and grow…while I craft my next exit strategy. Which brings us back to the very beginning–is life ALL about planning the next escape? Is that a bad thing? Does it mean we can never really be happy doing one thing or just that we are constantly evolving and changing for the better?

    • wwjaustendo
    • August 15th, 2010

    Hmmmm your post really made me think, Brooklynbot. Actually (as most things do) it reminded me of Jane Eyre, which Prof Bruzelius (ha ha) described as one long series of escapes—Jane keeps getting trapped in situations and then finding her way out, until she finally has a nice home to call her own at the end. The authors of The Madwoman in the Attic argue that this pattern—confinement and escape—characterizes A LOT of literature written by women in the 19th century. And I guess it still does today…
    However, the whole process in Jane Eyre sort of mirrors “life stages,” like childhood, adolescent etc., until Jane’s grown enough to be the person she was meant to be. So perhaps, rather than thinking of these different steps as “escapes,” they can also be steps, moving us closer to our eventual home…anyways, those are my corny reflections : )
    I agree that the moment of commitment is terrifying—I both want to go to grad school really bad right now, but it also makes me hyperventilate a little to lock in for five years. My sister says something isn’t worth doing unless you feel a moment of “oh shit what have I done” before starting.
    Sorry to write such a long comment, I enjoy reading your posts : )

      • brooklynbot
      • August 15th, 2010

      So true, Jausten. I like thinking of these “escapes” as steps bringing us closer to “home.” And you and your sister are so right–starting something new and huge should at least be a little bit scary!

        • wwjaustendo
        • August 15th, 2010

        ha thanks ; )
        warning: I may be visiting you this fall!

        • nickyenperu
        • August 25th, 2010

        I have a paid vacation October 1 – 8? (my birthday is October 4) — COME HERE! Or let’s go to Japan and visit Naho! Or we can stalk Hannah and Susanna in Beijing.

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