“Real” Jobs

There’s this term that’s become part of the common vernacular and it is “The Real Job”.

Used in a sentence: “I make copies all day and sit in a cubicle, I guess that I have a Real Job now!”

I’m not entirely sure that I’ve ever had a real job. I’ve spent the past fifteen or so years working hourly positions – even when I was working for The Internet Institution With The Free Books, I was an hourly employee. I considered that to be a “Real Job” mainly because when I told people what I did they would ask questions and tell me that my work must be “fulfilling” and “interesting”. Which it was.

But then I relocated and after a bout of being unemployed (the first time!) I found a job working retail. Friends from “away” and new local friends who did not work in the service industry would say things like ‘This is just for now! With your background, I’m sure that you will find a Real Job soon!’ and that always made me feel sort of terrible because my retail job WAS a Real Job – I had insurance, and PTO, and it was full time – which is kind of unheard of up here. Beyond that, I felt tired when I got home, like psychically tired.

The thing that really got me, and honestly it still rubs me the wrong way, is how classist the term “Real Job” is. There are some pretty sticky implications inherent in that particular terminology. For example “Real Job” implies that there are “Fake Jobs” or lesser jobs. I find it hard to believe that any one of my bar-tending friends would tell you that their job is “Make Believe”. 

Now, obviously I am making my own assumptions as to what the term “Real Job” implies, but the basics are pretty clear: Full time. Benefits. A Title, probably with a nameplate on one’s desk and/or office door. A Salary. A 401k (or an understanding of what one is, I had to ask my mom the other day and I was pretty embarrassed). A “Real Job” is not making coffee, selling tchotchkas, painting, writing a blog, or scrubbing a toilet. Or really doing anything that requires serving someone else – like someone with a “Real Job”.

People frequently ask me what kind of work I am looking for, and on occasion someone will say something along the lines of ‘are you looking for work to tide you over until you find a Real Job?’ to which I always reply ‘I am looking for a job. So I can pay my rent. Any work is an improvement.’ Then they laugh and suggest that I apply at Whole Foods. Which I have done. I would be happy to work at Whole Foods. They have decent benefits. I’d be able to support myself again.

Here’s another sticky bit though. I’d be more than happy to accept a job at Whole Foods, but in the interest of being totally honest, that isn’t my Dream Job. My Dream Job is to work in a place where I am never too far away from a vault full of Old Things. I want to help people research their family history. I want to read the old scratchy handwriting of People of Note. It isn’t completely out there, and I’ve set a few balls in motion, so maybe that will be a reality at some point.

In the mean time I am still looking for that elusive “job”. A real one where I trade my services for monetary compensation. I need a job to survive, and so that I can afford to dream, and to make plans.

Real Jobs are expensive…

Reasons for Not Writing.

I used to write a lot, but now I don’t.

I used to live in this shitty apartment in Allston with housemates who always fought because they were very young and very different. My housemates would fight and listen to their bad music very loudly, so I would shut my door and write and write and write all night. I had a website called “incurable paranoiac” after a line from a Blond Redhead song that I listened to a lot at the time because it didn’t sound like the music I had to listen to at jazz school, and that was satisfying. I can’t find the website anymore (I think I deleted it), which is good because I was 19 and I’m not sure I want to spend a lot of time with my younger self. I remember writing about being goth and going clubbing and going to basement shows and going to big Victorian houses in the South End where everyone was an artist and how I was sad that I quit art school and that I wanted to quit music school too.

I don’t write anymore because I’m having trouble finding a job and I feel guilty when I do things that seem selfish – like writing about what I think or how I feel. The only writing I do now starts with “To Whom It May Concern” and ends with “Thank you for taking the time to review my information…” I’ve started to resent my degree in Creative Writing. I spent three years of my life writing for grades and writing for a BA and now I’ve had it for almost ten and I resent it for not being a degree in something else – like engineering, or programming, or medicine… or whatever. I resent my BA for being a piece of paper that represents all of the hard work I have put into being creative. I am full of regret for not getting a piece of paper that says I am good at retaining and then spitting out information. My BA is framed and hangs over the toilet. When I brush my teeth or dry my hair I feel frustration when I should feel pride.

It was more than ten years ago that I sat in that shitty bedroom in Allston writing about feeling like an outcast and not studying music theory. I didn’t think about what it would be like to be thirty at all. I know that my current position in life has little to do with the fact that I was too busy dreaming at 19 to plan ahead. I know that many of the things that have been preventing me from finding solid work are beyond my control.

I used to want to be a writer. I wanted to write fiction. I wanted to create worlds and fill them with magic and words and people. I have the beginnings of two novels in a folder somewhere on my desktop. One is about a woman who is a sea monster and this guy who works at an occult book shop, and the other is about a girl who works for a florist and an alien who lives at a funeral home. I feel a little guilty that all of those people are just sitting there in limbo with incomplete stories – sad incomplete stories because all of them are about grief and loss and are far from being resolved. I feel a little bit guilty that I get frustrated with fiction. I feel guilty for writing this when I should be scanning more job listings, signing up for another temp agency, bugging more friends-of-friends to hire me…

I used to write a lot, but now I don’t – mostly because all I can think about is how I don’t have a job and how it is really hard to get a job. And then I feel bad because I know that I have it a lot better than a lot of people do because I got to go to school. I feel bad because I think about Privilege a lot and how I have it even though I don’t have a job. I have it because I majored in Liberal Arts and everyone in my life was fine with that in 2003 and I got to transfer from a fancy art school to a snobby music school to a big university . I GOT to change my mind and to live in a shitty apartment in Allston and listen to music-snob music and go clubbing and hang out with artists. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to waste my time when I was a young adult, and I am fortunate enough to have taken fancy Liberal Arts classes so that now as an adult I know that I have Privilege and I feel bad about it but I don’t know what else to do because I still need a job so that I can pay rent and bills and buy food and pay for my domain so that I can whine to strangers about my Privilege. 

I want to write more but writing makes me honest and sometimes honesty is embarrassing later when you get older and your life is different and you don’t do the same things you used to do. 

I still exist.

Look…

I t has been hard to write here because I’ve been doing a lot. Going outside. Showing art. DJing. Quitting my shitty retail job.

 

Now I’m unemployed (again) and I have a lot to say. But I kind of need to do some other things before I chain myself to this keyboard.

 

But I will.

This Town Is Not Your Friend, pt III

If you know me, and/or you read this blog, then you know that I used to live in Boston. On and off starting in 2002. The longest stretch was from early 2007 to September of 2011. I used to dream about moving to Boston – to me, the tall buildings and public transportation represented a sort of freedom that my tiny rural town in Western Maine couldn’t provide.

I’ve been up here for nearly two years now. I’ve gone back two, maybe three times for appointments, staying only for a few hours – rarely even long enough to eat lunch. Each time was strange… like having coffee with an old flame and learning that they haven’t changed much but that YOU HAVE.

I’ve said some negative things about Boston over the past two years: That the people there are cold. That the art scene is unwelcoming and overly competitive. That everything has become bland and homogenized.  I’ve been a troll. This is what people do after a messy breakup – they say ugly things to build themselves up so that they can lather-rinse-repeat until the right one comes along.

But then Monday happened. I was at work. Someone told me that there was a bombing in Boston. I logged on to WBUR.org to confirm and saw a picture of blood splattered on the concrete in front of the Boston Public Library.

It didn’t make sense because that can’t happen at the Library. I used to sit in that very spot listening to Bright Eyes on my iPod while I waited for the #9. In 2008 I joined a crowd of happy revelers the night Obama was elected. We danced in that spot. I got into a screaming fight with an ex boyfriend on that spot. I saw that spot nearly every day for 3 years while I worked at the Library. And it doesn’t make sense that this happened.

After seeing that picture I made a point of not reading any more “news” about what happened because right now, no one knows for sure WHAT happened… and frankly, I can’t deal with the blood, and the too-graphic descriptions of injuries… I’ve read inspiring accounts of people helping each other, of people finishing the marathon. I’ve had discussions with my marathon-running boyfriend about the state of mind runners are in after running 26 miles. About how fucked up that must have been. The whole thing is a massive tangent, and I think we’re all getting sucked into the grief porn and finger-pointing and just…

Just stop, OK?

I want to say something a lot of people are saying, but that I haven’t said for a very, very long time.

I love Boston. Specifically, I love Copley Square. I love the blue-sky glass of the John Hancock building. I love the Library more than anything else in the whole city… maybe even more than I love a lot of places in the world.

Someone did something ugly and horrible to a place I love and it hurts, and there’s nothing I can really do.

I’m sorry I’ve been a troll, Boston.

Amelia, Ink on paper, 2012

Amelia, Ink on paper, 2012

This is new work not currently being shown at Geno’s Rock Club on Congress Street in Portland, Maine – but you should go see Geekphoria if you like this. Actually, go if you don’t like this. My stuff will be up through this month (Dec., 2012 – go before the world ends, or you forget, or whatever) – everything is $50.

Tuesday.

I got up early on Tuesday. In Maine you can still same-day register to vote which is an EXCELLENT thing – you know, because I’ve moved a lot in the past few years. Cambridge to Cambridge to Somerville to Southie to Portland, and now about a block away. All moves with new zip codes, districts, neighborhoods, polling centers, ballot initiatives.

I moved to Maine for a lot of small reasons. I wanted to get away. I wanted to fit somewhere. I wanted to be in Maine when same-sex marriage passed. And on Tuesday, I was. I got to close a curtain and make a mark and decide whether or not human beings are legally allowed to love other human beings. It was a weird feeling. I cried a little in the voting booth.

I’ve got to be honest, I only cared a little bit about who the new president would be – I’m relieved by the results, don’t get me wrong – but I was on pins and needles all day about Question 1. I lived in Massachusetts back when gay marriage was first legalized, and it felt great and right, but it didn’t feel like my victory because it wasn’t my home. So Tuesday night – early Wednesday morning, really, I got the news via my smartphone while having a beer with friends at Geno’s. I get my news that way a lot lately. 

So now I am even more proud to call myself a Mainer.
I’m glad I was where I was when the news broke, and I’m glad I was with the people I was with – all new friends who have accepted me into their lives this past year. It’s kind of staggering really, and I’m getting sentimental, but I’m in love with a place again, and it feels good.

I’m in love with a person, too – and that’s probably why I say things here less and less. That and the fact that I moved and went without the internet for two months. I didn’t miss it much… I learned how to ride a bike again. I went to two beautiful weddings. I hiked (badly). I survived an earthquake. I hosted a goth night (FINALLY). I framed my degree after letting it languish under a Kennedy brothers magnet on the fridge for six years, I may put it over the toilet. I drank a lot of tea. And whiskey.

I’m home, finally.