Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Thoughts While at 57th St Books

"Debit or credit? Would you like a bag?"

Zeb, who has had this same mind-numbing bookstore "textbook troglodyte" job for over six months now says that he "hates wage labor." He can't wait to get back to being paid to do what he enjoys, which is being a student. I've never seen a clearer candidate for a PhD student. I, on the other hand, am done with being a student. To be fair, I rather enjoyed writing my BA; in a twisted way I took pleasure in long hours at the library and the way my research consumed my every waking hour and even weaselled its way into my dreams. But I think I liked more the idea of it, the romanticization of grad-student life that I had to construct for myself in order to survive the ordeal. I constructed the idea of myself as coffee-fueled academic muttering to herself about obscure theorists, mostly because I knew I would soon leave that persona behind, perhaps forever.

I do not want to be paid to be a student, but I do want to be paid to do what I enjoy. Today I looked at job postings, everywhere from Human Rights Officer in Sudan to children's magazine editor to media blogger. Craigslist has become my new facebook, the elusive "4-6 years experience" my holy grail. I like to blame my lack of interesting jobs on the fact that I need money--I can't take the cool unpaid internships, I can't go abroad merely to volunteer, I lose health insurance if I leave my full-time job, soon I will have to start paying back loan and then what will I do?

I try to make the best of this job, which would make my Midwestern Lutheran mother proud. I try to occupy my brain during slow periods by reading, writing, or daydreaming. I look up recipes, I read magazines and fashion blogs, sometimes I read less frivolous things, like Annie Dillard, (A Very Short Introduction to) Marx, and short stories recommended to me by my coworkers. Unlike some jobs I've had recently, namely waitressing and controlling children, it doesn't leave me tired out. Most importantly, I like my coworkers, and they seem to like me. I think sometimes that I ended up here for a specific reason, to listen to certain people's problems, to be kind at particular times. There are so many conflicting pieces of cheesy advice that apply here: on the one hand "follow your dreams" and on the other "bloom where you're planted." As the deacon says at church: "Wisdom! Let us be attentive."