When I first came to realize that one could actually be an archaeologist, and get paid to do it, I was very excited. I knew it would not likely involve bullwhips or Nazis or any of the other Indiana Jones related quips one might offer up, but for much of my growing up years I did have a genuine interest in human prehistory. Thus when I finally made it across the threshold of taking a college degree seriously and actually choosing to pursue an Anthropology degree I thought my life had taken a very definite turn. And it did… no doubt about it. But then something else happened. I did something I was professionally advised against doing. I took the “first comfortable job” that came along.
So here I am, over four years later and I find myself scrolling through the local want ads, and what’s worse is the realization that in doing so I would pause – albeit briefly – when the “Laborer” or “Bartender” headings went by. Mind you I did not actually look at the ads, but the fact that I paused, however briefly, was somewhat alarming. The whole reason I went to college to get a degree in the first place, was because I was sick of those sorts of jobs. But that’s just it you see, I did NOT go to college because I was seeking a career. I just wanted to do something different. But I got a career, of sorts, and you know what? It is not the one I would have wanted had I chosen to go after a career. At least it did not turn out that way. I am neither Indy, nor Marcus Brody.
Instead, here I am, asking myself what the hell happened? I now find myself, primarily chained to a desk, not doing archaeology, barely doing museum work. Lately I mostly spend my time pretending to manage part of a website and responding to the ever increasing tide of “other duties assigned” tasks that come my way.
No wait, I think you’re confused.
When it comes down to it I really do not understand this idea that we all have to “do” more or “be” more. Every year for my job I am supposed to craft an Employee Performance Appraisal Plan. The idea being that I list out a series of tasks, duties, accomplishments, what have you – all in some quantifiable sense – which I will intend to perform that year. Every year it is supposed to become more involved, more detailed, more… well, just more. So not only did I accept the “first comfortable job”, but it has never really been comfortable and seemingly cannot really ever be, because of this inane desire of my superiors (society?) that all must do/be more… (more do/be might be better…) What the hell are we chasing? Who are we conducting these elaborate performances for? And when I think about it, truly think about it, I have to admit to myself that I really only took this job for the security of permanent, full-time work with good pay and benefits.
And to some that is the perfect reason to take a job… these days, any job it would seem. I understand that, I really do. The money and the leave time and the insurance are all great, but at what cost? It is a tricky business these first world problems and I do completely feel like an ass complaining about it.
But these empty performances, these hollow pointless accomplishments that say nothing, mean nothing, create nothing, change nothing, do nothing… where does it end? I can do nothing for no reason; wu wei, the action of no action. Likewise I am happy to work until my muscles ache and my skin is broken a cracked and bleeding… but for a reason. To provide a service or a function. But to endlessly, ceaselessly have to perform at doing pointless, meaningless things for no good purpose at times, drives me a bit more than batshitcrazy.
And then it is “spring” and there is four inches of new snow on the ground and on the one hand it adds a little bit more to the crazy, but on the other it is a nice reminder to not get too comfortable with what you might like to think is the status quo. I quote John Lennon, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”
Confusion is in the eye of the beholden.
I read a little thing recently on the problems of being an artist. I am not really in any way, nor have I been, nor particularly aspired to be an artist of any sort. I have dabbled in sketching and painting and writing poetry, I have goofed around with a few instruments and participated in a few plays, I have sang a few songs in public and done a hell of a lot of dancing, but none of that with any intention or purpose. It all just seemed the thing to do at the time. I enjoy writing these blog things, but the idea of making any money from it just seems silly. However, I have mentioned wanting to sort of be a farmer. What the hell is he talking about now you say? Well, I can see where starving striving artists and wanna be small farmers/homesteaders have some things in common. There is passion and hope and near ceaseless hard work, there is the necessity for some sort of structure and routine, but not what the modern world accepts nor promotes. There is the “Youarecrazynobodyreallydoesthatanymoreandgetsawaywithit.” attitude of soooo many of our peers (and perhaps even family). There is the doubt and the fear and the concern for security. But there is also the love and the payoff and the rewards from doing something for yourself.
And then there is that nagging reality of bills and debts and putting food on the table… well maybe more for one than the other, but you know what I mean. I cannot grow my precious coffee and/or bananas on This Land… and I have only sort of dreamt of having a “farm in Africa”. Extra points for those that get that reference.
But there is this mindset, this fundamental flaw that soooo many of us have been raised with that there is a certain form and structure to how we are supposed to live life. This damnable EuroAmerican Puritan work ethic that there is always something better waiting just up ahead if you work hard enough to get there. Dammit, what about the “heaven” that is right here and now!? Life is just hanging around staring us in the face RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF US while we are wiling working away the hours and days of our lives looking for what comes next. Another quote for you, “No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn!”
Don’t be fooled. Life and the world are what you make of it. I truly believe that. We are the sum of our experiences and thus we have a fair bit of control over our lives. Now, despite all of this, and despite the sometimes painfully agonizing temptation to burn the place where I work to the ground for lack of caring or want of a stapler (more bonus points here…), I am not about to up and quit my job. What I AM doing is making a concerted effort to learn more about being a farmer… with both feet in the muck. It is work and effort with purpose and for now so is my “job”… that purpose however is just not part of my performance plan.