Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Esoteric Business of Life

When I first got into my daytime job, I didn’t think I’d be staying. This was about six years ago, and back then, my hipster boyfriend and I had bigger plans. We were saving to move to Brooklyn and while he would continue his work with MTV, I would start writing for Psychology Today and The New Yorker.  Right around the time I received my first rejection letter from the latter publication (a classy letter, might I add), it became apparent that, while Hipster Boyfriend would continue his stint in Williamsburg, I would have to stay in Ottawa to make all of da mad cash money. Having passed the interview and obtaining a full-time job that paid the bills on the apartment I now occupied alone, I defiantly took every writing course I could find, planning for my big escape to the big apple.  This was a ‘jobby job’ as we hipsterly called it, not a career. A career-we believed with a steadfast hunger- would be the confetti of our lives: an explosion of the elusive symbiosis of talent, passion, and success. Anything less was bullshit.

As a side note, this is what I kept in a folder called 'inspiration', back in those days. I don't even

This too, but this makes a bit more sense
A short while later, Hipster Boyfriend disappeared like Harmony Korine’s creative flow in Spring Breakers (lol right???), and I was left alone in the nation’s capital with a job that mocked me. So, I mocked it back, by wearing donut sweaters to work, and using the word “masturbatory” in meetings, among other elitist wanna-be edgy terms, to the inevitable horror of my coworkers.  I hated what I did because I thought I could do better, but I didn’t know what better I could do, so my hatred remained stagnant and unproductive.

Maya Angelou said: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”  I’ve thought about those words for years, but as with most quotes, they look much easier and prettier on paper than incorporated in real life.  And yet, something in me knew that there was no purpose in complaining about a job that I didn’t know how to leave. I didn’t know where to go, so I began to consider the thought of actually enjoying what I did while I was there. A short while later, I started taking on extra projects, joining committees that were agents of change for issues I cared about, and asking for extra assignments at higher levels. Then, one day, I was offered a temporary promotion, just until they found a person to staff the role permanently.  The promotion was incredibly high and suddenly, my words were appearing in policies, and the writing techniques I had developed in those courses I had so defiantly taken while wearing my ironic t-shirts were now guiding my sentence flow in communication documents that were being read by hundreds of thousands of people across the country.  It wasn’t an underground oil painting collective, it wasn’t an SNL gig, or a screenwriting partnership with Terry Gilliam (or even Terry Richardson),  but it was a difficult job that left me feeling proud for those moments that were few and far between, when I did it right.

Then, the staffing process was announced, and I worked my ass off applying to keep my own job, despite the competition, despite how little I thought of my capabilities. Of course, some of the most stressful moments of my life had to coincide with the day my application was due, and I remember on several occasions, having to step out of the office to cry because my 70 million word job descriptions wouldn’t fit into the 200 word limits.  Over the next few weeks, I studied everything I could find about my job and its requirements, and while it meant me basically not having a break over the winter holidays, I’m glad to say the work paid off.  Just a few days ago, my managers and director shook my hand and offered me my position permanently, and when I left their office, I felt my eyes welling up with the kind of tears I had been reserving for Brooklyn.

My very sweet coworker treated me to a maple latte to celebrate...

And my thoughtful boss left a honey cruller on my desk! He asked if I would share it with my family and I said yes LOL k
What I’ve come to realize, and why I’m writing this now, is that a person’s happiness is not dependent on the type of job they do, but on how the job makes them feel.  A couple of weeks ago, I had provided some comments on a document that was later reviewed by my boss. I was later told that he had forwarded those comments immediately to his boss, because they had introduced an idea that nobody had thought of before.  On paper, that sounds utterly bureaucratic and dry. In real life, I must’ve smiled like an idiot while staring at my stuffed office monkey for about ten minutes. My silly ol’ words were resonating with a bunch of middle aged men! Wtfbbq! Also, my new office has a huge window so it’s always bright and sunny, which has been awesome for my new garden, and I’m far enough away from everyone that I can play my top 40 hits ad nauseum (a guilty pleasure since the end of my Placebo/Weeknd snob days)…

The flowers on my windowsill!

This morning, I found myself telling our boss to demand our stakeholders take the lead on a procedure that aims to establish roles that should have been defined in a working agreement years ago.  Then I did my nails and watered my roses. My job isn’t an eternal stream of happiness and creative out-pour, but it lets me balance who I am with being able to live a life of travel and endless desserts.  I wouldn’t be able to take my mom on a trip if I were working a low paying job in an over-saturated creative field, but with this one, I bought our tickets to Cuba for next month without worrying about what it would do to my Visa. You know what you just can’t top? Making another person happy, especially when you know that person could really, really use a break...

And on that note, I’m happy. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve come this far in this difficult job, that I haven’t lost myself, and that I’m this much closer to living the kind of life where we value today, and honour it, instead of worrying about where we aren’t, or about the things we can’t have.  Maybe I’ll discover another career path in the future. Maybe I’ll follow this one for a long, long time. I watched a video called “Status Anxiety” recently, from a series called The School of Life (you can YouTube it, it’s very cool) where, in the end, they say: “There remain so many vital sides of us that will never appear on our business cards, that don’t stand a chance of being captured by that maddeningly blunt and unimaginative question, ‘So, what do you do?’” So really, if all else fails, remember that you are so much more than where you sell your time for 7.5 hours a day. For me, that was the most difficult thought to live with, and something I wish I had stopped worrying about sooner.

Loving the job you have means taking all of the great parts from it and realizing how lucky you are to have them. I have a feeling the rest of life works that way too.

Alright, so back to being less serious…

1 comment:

  1. Alisa, congratulations! You deserve it. And have fun in Cuba :D xox