Saturday, January 21, 2012

semicolon

i start my new job on thursday! i have a huge stack of paperwork to do this weekend, finalizing everything. i still don't know what time to show up or which building to go to next week. the company i'm working for is spread out all over the world (although it's small in terms of number of employees--most of them work from home from wherever they happen to be), but the actual offices are on site at the campus of a computer company. i'm being cagey about this because i signed a confidentiality agreement, which makes me paranoid enough to not want to share any details online. i never mention the names of my employers on here anyway, for privacy reasons. tomorrow i'm getting coffee with one of my future coworkers so she'll fill me in on the hours and exact location.

i'm confronted with the possibility of having my shit together pretty soon. this job pays three-and-a-half times what i was making before, which is about twice as much as i realistically could've hoped to make any time in the next decade or two. i have no debt, never live beyond my means and i'm always good at saving money, even with a small income, so i don't expect my frugality to budge a whole lot...but if the job works out i'll finally feel stable enough to make some major purchases i've held off on. like the $2.5k full-frame sensor camera i've been lusting after for two years now. i almost pushed the button on that one the other day, but it's too soon.

there's a lot of change going on in and around my life right now. so much has piled on that it's not overwhelming anymore, it's time to let go and go with it, be happy for myself and everyone else. my cousin (with whom i have a close, sister-like relationship) got engaged. my friend bethany took a job sewing samples for a fashion design company, her first job in five years, and she's moving back to boise (from nampa, which might as well be in canada for as often as i'm willing to drive over there). jason was offered a tempting new job at an organic bakery and he might move to king hill where another friend of ours lives, over an hour away, but he'd come back to town on weekends. laura is probably going to law school next fall, and same goes for the owner of the magazines i used to work for.

that regular freelance writing/photo gig is no more, along with the magazines themselves for now. there's a small group of longtime, frequent contributors, myself included, who might leverage the debt they owe us to buy part of the publishing company and start up the magazines again. we'll see how that goes. no hard feelings no matter how it turns out. they paid me well and treated me well for years, and i was ready to move on. this frees me up to write other things. i even started writing a poem the other day, for the first time in ages.

other changes are more subtle. my informal new year's resolutions were to "read more" and "do more stuff." by "stuff" i mean experiential social stuff that involves more than just hanging out with friends. i signed up for groupon and livingsocial and all those discount sites, which are awesome not only for the pricing but also as notifications. i miss a lot because i'm not on facebook or twitter.

the resolutions are successful so far, making me branch out and de-rut-ify in certain areas. jason and i went to see MOMIX: botanica last weekend (check out the youtube video, it's phenomenal.) last night i went to red light variety show with jeanne. in the last couple weeks i've read mary roach's "stiff: the curious lives of human cadavers" and patton oswalt's "zombie spaceship wasteland," now reed and i are both reading "one hundred years of solitude" by gabriel garcia marquez.

yesterday i was talking with this guy who works at moxie java--incredibly kind, gentle person, reminded me of the paul rudd character in "our idiot brother”--and he was asking me about my new job. i'd already been feeling plenty strange about the idea of having a full-time professional job, but somehow talking to him drew that out more than ever. i think what i wanted to convey to him was something along the lines of, "i'm like you! i'm poor and part-time and that's what i'm comfortable with. i enjoy my job, but my occupation is incidental to my identity, and i'm a complicated and well-rounded person." the new job won't change who i am, but it will change how some people perceive me, or at least how i perceive people perceiving me.

with my last job i felt a stronger sense of occupational identity than with any previous because it incorporated so many of my skills and passions. it felt like volunteer work. i have mixed feelings about occupational identity, just like i do about every other goddamn thing in the world. on one hand it's crucial to enjoy your occupation, because in our unfortunate system it's an enormous, obligatory, and relatively static part of everyday life. it's wonderful when people can feel fulfilled by and gain happiness from their experiences at work.

but that can easily go too far. people can become so wrapped up in their occupational identity (including that of "mother" or "wife"--though rarely "father" or "husband”) that it flavors nearly everything they do and talk about, it even alters their personality--they lose dimension and become grotesque. society can use occupational identity to simplify, categorize and dehumanize an individual--bad, but not as bad as when the individual uses it that way on themselves. i've seen it happen multiple times in varying degrees and it's always disturbing and painful, though thankfully reversible.

the obvious answer is balance. i think it's totally possible for me to maintain the proper balance if i'm vigilant and proactive about it throughout my life. it’s just that major life changes throw me so off-balance, it’s easy to imagine myself teetering on some potential ledge.

my dad recently made lots of calls to family and family-friends to tell them i'm not a fuckup anymore. i keep getting emails congratulating me on the job, using the c-word (career). it's not that i feel like a sellout, it's more like i'm mourning the loss of a lifestyle, or an anti-occupational identity, i guess. i'm going to miss being seen as a fuckup. i'll miss people looking down on me and reacting to me with condescension and disappointment because it feels so reassuring to ignore them and recognize that their values are different from mine. i enjoy having secrets about me that only certain special people can see and appreciate--i like the convenient exclusivity of not being obvious. that won't change, but now it's a whole different set of attitudes, assumptions and expectations that i'm faced with the task of merrily disregarding.

6 comments:

GoneferalinID said...

One of the best things that happened to me is when it hit me like a ton of bricks and I realized "archaeologist" had very little bearing on who I was. Your new job will undoubtedly open up more opportunities, and will also expose you to those types whose title makes up their identity, thus reinforcing your goal to remain an individual. I hope that camera is in your near future.

Bumble Lush Kitchen Garden said...

I think you write too intelligently to be considered a fuckup, lol. I'm sorry to hear about the mag for your feelance writing/photog gig closing down. I hope you find other opportunities like that, if that's what you want to do. Sounds like there's a lot of change and transition in your life now. Good luck on your First Day of New Job!

Amber said...

wow; seems as though everyone I know (including myself) is going through big changes this year...Congrats on the new job :) I am in the process of turning part of my art into a "real" biz: having a few of the same feelings--having embraced being the starving artist for years now...its a strange transistion, but I'm trying to go with it & discover my new equilibrium along the way :) Good luck in your new adventures; hope you will continue to share on this blog.

Amber

Andrea said...

Emily, you seem so wise — I can't imagine anyone viewing you as a failure, no matter what your life path, and I doubt you'll ever become a one-dimensional occupationist. The transition from poor to moneyed is a strange one indeed, but I believe you will handle your new-found means with generosity and success.

Emily said...

goneferal--that sounds like a monumental realization, i'm happy that you had it. after my first two days on the job i'm a little surprised by the types of people i'm meeting so far--people who seem like maybe they used to identify as one thing (engineers especially) but were then laid off, and now that some recovery is happening and they're back to work they seem almost a bit confused. that's a very preliminary observation, though. and i'm happy to say that no one i've met seems one-dimensional at all.

bumble lush--haha, thank you! it's totally fine about the freelance thing, honestly. it's liberating to no longer have deadlines hanging over my head all the time, and it was never really the kind of writing i particularly liked to do or felt proud of doing anyway. i know of some other magazines that would probably take me if i ever change my mind. lots of transition indeed--thanks for using that word, i think i like it better than change.

amber--i'm surprised you don't consider your art a "real" business already--you seem really successful to me! i see your stuff around town a lot, in fact i was just in tully's the other day and noticed your business cards and one of your pieces on the walls. i look forward to seeing how you expand your reach!

andrea--what a kind comment, thank you so much. the "failure" label is just part of growing up with certain expectations placed on you, and not quite living up to them--partly rejecting and rebelling against them, partly trying to secretly live up to them without looking like you're trying. i would like to say i don't internalize the label or the expectations but it's hard not to, at least a little.

be said...

you are so utterly awesome!!!