No Work Neurosis

I treat spare time like parents treat their teenage children: I don’t really want you, and I’m not sure how you got here, but we’re stuck with each other. Through my undergrad, I found new and interesting ways to bite off more than I should have tried chewing. During grad school, I treat my own classes like an obsession, and I treat the classes I teach like I am the last bastion of reason in a world overrun by roving swarms of Michael Bay cultists. In short, I work a lot, and I always have, but now one of my jobs is over. My high school students have finished with me for the Summer, and I am left with only one job. I am listless, stagnating, a hard candy shell of my former fully-sugar glory.

I was great once

I don’t know what to do without work. Suddenly, I have a few dozen extra hours a week to exist, and it’s only when I have those hours unfilled that I realize I’m not that much of a person. I’ve come to lean on work like a crutch because I’m weak and frail without it. I find myself wondering what real people do with their spare time. Do they knit? Should I knit? Can I get into competitive knitting? What if I find a rival in a local knitting arena, and we compete–me, the up-and-coming underdog, and them, the old pro. Then, what if just as we’re finishing our final knit-off, we both stop, toss down our needles, shake hands, and join forces to make the best scarf this world has ever seen.

Just like in the movies

I don’t know what’s happening to me, but I keep falling into fantastical wormholes in which I find new, weird ways to use all this spare time, but none of these fantasies are useful or practical or even plausible. I have so much time, and I’ve got no idea what to do with myself. If I’m not stressed, what am I?

I still check my email like I’m going to be the first to respond to a real Nigerian prince. The group of students I’m still teaching contact me unless they want me to edit their work or write it for them. The only job I have and my students think I’m their on-call word jockey. I still check to see if they’ve sent me any new requests. Rude as they are, any work is something.

I heard someone talking about meditation as a chance to really get in touch with yourself. I worry about that person because they are either destined for insanity or world domination. Get in touch with myself? I’m much too in touch with myself. I know myself better than anyone, and I’m really not impressed. Now that I’m out of work, I’m spending a little too much time in my head. Even when there’s someone delightful around, there’s still a little part of me preoccupied with itself.

A million of these things


I haven’t been diagnosed with any kind of obsessive disorder, and I have serious doubts that me being bored with myself is serious enough to consider that sort of thing. I’m not really ill. I’ve just got bees in my head. A thousand thousand bees that get bored when they haven’t got anything productive to do so tey buzz around and make a mess of things. Bees need work, and so do I. When I have trouble sleeping because I’m not preoccupied enough, I imagine a little cloud of aimless bees zipping around my head like my own insectoid atmosphere.

I miss work. I miss being stressed and having a reason to get moving quickly. I love my free time, and I love how I’ve been spending it, but I have too much, and my loosely cobbled together life is usually propped up by work and stress so once that stress is gone, I really don’t have any idea what to do with myself.

20 Replies to “No Work Neurosis”

  1. Ah, just wait until you retire. That might be years away for you, but it’s the here and now for me. So my advice to you is to learn how to train those bees; harness them to be productive. Otherwise they’ll sting you into oblivion.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Knitting, bees, listless, too much time. Sounds serious. One thing missing from this scenario though, muffins. A veritable Pandora’s Box you have there. The point about getting in touch with yourself may not be to your liking but worth a try. I always find lying on the ground (on grass of course) and looking up at a star filled sky helps put things in perspective. Failing that knit little coats for your bees…

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    1. I have this problem that whenever I look up into the infinite night void, I imagine colossal black tentacles wriggling their way toward me to pull me to some beaked cosmic maw.

      So maybe I’ll knit a bit. Yeah, knitting sounds good.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hm, that Lovecraftian theme resurfaces. Did you at anyone one time enter into unholy alliances with said Old Ones? Alas, I can only reiterate taking up knitting. May be a little safer. As safe as existing in a chaotic and impenetrable Universe of our making.

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      2. I’m not certain why this particular theme keeps surfacing. Maybe it’s knitting that reminds me of Them. Maybe it’s the constant squid-themed nightmares? Who could tell

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  3. You know what? You could write a book about ‘ 7 highly effective ways of passing those slow walkers who live at grocery store between 3 – 5 pm’ or knitting sounds good too. You can watch return of John Cena while you take part in knitting competition, he could motivate you to smack down your competitor.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmmm, you could try tutoring on Skype, there are many lame people who enroll for online courses but can’t bring themselves to study on their own and some of them don’t have study-partners to work with, so they just laze around. You could offer assistance 😇😬

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  4. Knitting would add a whole new shopping adventure. Fighting an old woman for the last size 8 needles, looking for the perfect row counter, picking out some cute stitch markers, standing shoulder to shoulder with those professional knitters picking skeins of yarn. Are you up for the challenge mister?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You totally need knitting and/or crocheting as a hobby. It’s a very introverted hobby that you do at home, all alone, without talking to people. Also, it allows one to express that special talent we few have of browsing the internet obsessively, sometimes coveting things, other times laughing at truly horrid things, etc. etc. etc. Then, it allows one to express that superficial side that otherwise never has the opportunity to react in a positive way to marketing, and I don’t mean by this spending money, but rather admire a photo of something purely useless but at least decorative.

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