I don’t know how close technology is to being able to digitally transport food, but it does feel like I was emailed a year’s worth of groceries along with rent, alcohol, and those straws that bend around and you can wear them like glasses.
Last week, I interviewed for a job because sometimes when you want to keep participating in existence, you have to sit in a little room and prove to an audience that your approximate use value is equivalent to a salary they are willing to pay. A few days after the interview, I received an email that told me two things: I will be able to buy groceries, and I know exactly how much a year of my life is worth. I got a job teaching full time.
Considering I’ve been taught that my existence can be roughly summarized as the financial and symbolic equivalent to a dollar store ham sandwich, I’m actually super jazzed that I could convince someone that I and my English degrees are worth at least a fraction of the money that went into getting them. That seems like the real goal of college: convince someone that the degree you bought with all that time and effort and midnight fast food is worth, at least, as much money as went into getting it.
New job, no homework, and a paycheck that would actually let me buy real catnip instead of just letting my cat sniff some of my more pungent teas. This all sounds amazing, but at what cost does all of this really come? Sure, I spent 4 years in what amounted to a stress, nap, and work frenzy. Sure, I spent two years following that bribing my body with caffeine so it would let me put in just one more 80-hour week. Sure, I actually admitted I am not a paragon of writerly brilliance and sought out help in writing my application materials, but I feel like there’s something more. I feel like there will be some new cost that comes once my name is on the contract and my foot in the door.
I think they’re going to change me. I’ve bought enough Coke and “hydrating facial cleanser now without microbeads that turtles choke on™” to know I’m relatively susceptible to suggestion. I think I got into studying rhetoric because some part of me recognized just how much of my purchasing and Youtube history showed that commercials are a pretty big part of my life.
Along with my role as the ideal audience for literally every commercial, I have also noticed I have something of an addictive personality. I used to drink a doctor-certified unhealthy amount of coffee. I had a brief-but-loving fling with tobacco a few years back. And some who analyze my writing very, very closely might eventually come to the conclusion that I think alcohol is just neato.
What do you get if you combine someone open to suggestion with someone easily ensconced in obsessive and addictive habits? You get someone who is eager to dive face-first into the shallow end of a job until they’ve somehow managed to create a deep end where once there was none.
I have this habit of making too much work for myself while also relentlessly arguing, again at myself, that I actually enjoy it. The problem here is that I already love teaching, and I’m already at that point where I’m really excited to get started working. However, I’m a bit worried that my habit of burying myself in whatever I’m doing will end with me absolutely consumed by the dispassionate machine that is academia. If I get in over my head, there isn’t going to be an end in sight. If I start drowning under all the work I’ve made for myself, trudging through to graduation isn’t as much of an option anymore because I usually teach in the summers too.
I know I’m not the first person to worry about getting too involved with their job, but I also know it’s the first time I’ve actually had only one thing to really focus on, which means this, like a fresh field of plastic grass, is new terf for me.
How do people find some form of balance between work and who they are when work is the biggest thing happening in their lives. For the last 18 years, my answer whenever people ask me what my weekend plans are was homework. Only more recently has grading also become a viable option. But now there’s just work and, I guess, other things? What else do people do? What happens where there isn’t more work than you can manage, so managing that work is all you are?