Obama endorses same-sex marriage! Which, frankly, he really needed to do. It may have been little more than a strategic political move, but we got Barry back. The man we thought we elected, who, like, cares about the underdog, and makes decisions, and is a Democrat. Thought we lost ya there, pal! Nice to have you b(ar)ack.
But seriously, did anything else happen this week? Anything that doesn’t pale in comparison? Oh yeah, the CIA thwarted an Al Qaeda bomb plot. No big deal. Maurice Sendak, beloved children’s author of Where The Wild Things Are, who didn’t even like children, died. And Hillary Clinton is just a boss, in so many ways.
Well in my personal life, I am faced with a classic early 20s problem. An early 20-something in 2012. A beggar who wants to choose!
After a wonderful and really real visit with my mommy, who is also a boss in so many ways, and never fails to put everything into perspective, give me a confidence boost, while criticizing my generation, get silly tipsy, and ridicule my house’s ant problem, she also convinced me to quit my job.
Some background. I’ve been working in the restaurant industry since my college graduation. I know I’m supposed to be embarrassed about that, but I’m just not. Please, don’t feel bad for me. I beg of you. I support myself completely. I sleep in. I go to museums during off-hours. I catch matinees. I have breakfast dates, and my lunch dates last for hours. I’ve thoroughly explored the DC coffee shop scene. I can buy myself things. I can go to New York at the drop of a hat, and pretty much do once a month. And when I am working, I’m moving. I’m talking to people. I’m practicing public speaking. I’m maintaining a very high level professionalism. I’m learning a LOT about food, beer, and wine. And I’m working my ass off, with fun people from all different walks of life. And going out for drinks after work isn’t Happy Hour. It’s the seasoned, cool, late night week bar crowd. Who knows what they’re doing.
I’m not trying to validate anything. I’m trying to make you jealous.
But, no, I don’t want to be in the service industry forever. I will always respect it. I will always tip 20%, because I know how hard it is, I know the degree of bullshit that one has to deal with on a regular basis, I know how much goes into making a restaurant run if even remotely smoothly; it’s a whole lot. But, I do think my skills could be put to better use in a different, perhaps more intellectual environment. I spend many days applying to jobs (yeah, in coffee shops) hoping for my big break, but apprehensive about giving up this quite luxurious lifestyle for a desk, a commute, office politics, slacks, flats, and overall dronedom. Knowing that I have the rest of my life to be on the Monday through Friday 401k HMO grind, I truly relish my off-beat schedule, and wonder what the rush is to get rid of it.
Benefits would be nice, though. The security of a salary. Being able to go to things that everyone else is going to. Cooking myself dinner. Watching and keeping up with a primetime network television show. Weekends. And yeah, having a better answer to the question “So, what do you do?” usually asked first in an introductory DC conversation.
And so then I got one. A job. Not a “real job,” you asshole. I already had a real job, that paid me real money, that I paid my real bills with. But one of those jobs that looks good on a resume, that’s relevant, with general working hours between 9am and 5pm. Of the sea of applications I sent out, I remember being particularly excited about this Multimedia Editor position. Oolala! And then all of a sudden I’m nailing the interview. And then all of a sudden I get an offer. And then all of a sudden I’m working in an office (PART-TIME) on a horrific hourly wage transcribing (mostly government) files for a contracting company an hour away on public transpo in Virginia. Sitting in a room of about 10 people roughly my age with headphones on, transcribing. Our primary mode of communication amongst each other being gchat.
So I’m gchatting with people ten feet away from me whom I’ve never had a face-to-face interaction with. I eat lunch alone in the blindingly white kitchen, and feel like I may as well be in a bathroom stall of my junior high. And then I rush to my next job and work til 10:30, maybe 11:30 at night. And then I wake up at 7:30 and do it all over again.
Now, some of the files are genuinely interesting. The Army Investigation I did the other day read like a real murder mystery! I was emotionally invested in the characters, and for lack of a better phrase, on the edge of my seat, reacting audibly to several plot twists. But that conference on China’s economy almost put me to sleep. And the hour-long investigation on the US Marshall who used US Marshall letterhead in a fax to the judge he was hoping would waive his son’s traffic violation fees was infuriating. And listening to the voicemails of a government official, MOSTLY FROM SEARS AND HIS DOCTOR’S OFFICE, was enough to make me blow my brains out.
I was looking forward to going to the Sexual Harassment Assault Response Prevention (SHARP) conference on Tuesday (to record, take notes, and then later transcribe…), but then they said they didn’t need us. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission public meeting today should be interesting, but it really throws a wrench in my plan of quitting.
Oh yeah, I’m definitely quitting. I mean, I have to. I can’t do this. I can’t sit at a computer for hours on end typing verbatim whatever is coming into my ears with the only hopes of moving up typing faster and getting maybe 2 more dollars an hour. In six months! Fuck that. My neck hurts.
There are no ideas. I’m a robot. I contribute nothing unique to this team. I’m not valued for anything more than the scripts I produce, and the efficiency with which I produce them. I know I have to start somewhere, but this is not it. I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for way too long to settle for this shit. I’ll stick to waiting tables, thank you, and happily make a few less bucks a week for my free mornings and spontaneous Wednesdays.
But that’s the question. Am I really in the position of turning down anything? A recent college grad in a devastating economy?
Today as I ate cake in the office kitchen to celebrate the tenth anniversary of this company I feel no connection to, after the president said a few words about how we got here, (couldn’t have done it without us!) I felt like I was having an out of body experience. Is this what life is? Is this what being a grown up is about? Is adulthood really this mundane? Is office culture really as ridiculous as it is on TV and in the movies?
I hope not. I reeeeeally hope not. I know there are cool, exciting, vibrant offices out there doing commendable work with big ideas. And I aspire to work in one some day. Some day soon. Ultimately, I’m not sure an office is the place for me, but I’m willing to put in my time.
And I know we’re in the throes of a crippling recession, and our college degrees aren’t worth what they once were. But I refuse to sell out. I refuse to become a drone. I refuse to hate my life.
Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, because these other transcribing cats seem to really like it. They take it very seriously, and for them, this is their big break. That’s great. We need people like that. Sensitive government and private sector files need transcribing! I’m just not gonna be the one transcribing them…come, say, Tuesday of next week.
But I’ve taken something from this experience, of course. After two weeks of gruelingly long days, no free time, and borderline soul selling, I’m really going to make better use of the free time I do have once I get it back, say, Tuesday of next week. (Oh God, quitting is going to be so awkward. It’s going to involve me gchatting her from 8 feet away, and asking if I can speak with her privately, in…the hallway?) In addition to applying to jobs I’m worthy of, while still recognizing I have to start at the bottom, I get that, I’m also going to heed John’s advice. With the world ending in just seven short months (which obviously isn’t going to happen, you guys realize this right?), I’m going to focus more on two things: reading and running. I’m going to read more books and run more runs.
MAN! Thank God It’s Friday.