Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Staying Alive by Selling My Soul?

"Wanted: Laid-back bohemian free spirit with a strong sense of balance and artistry to work in a quiet, stable, low-pressure environment with a steady but reasonable work flow. Poetic and other creative instincts a plus."

I'm still waiting to find that ad. Most of what I'm finding runs more along these lines:

"Wanted: Energetic team player looking to rise to the challenge of a fast-paced, dynamic environment and able to work under intense pressure and deadlines. Multitasking capablities a must."

Translation: Let us burn you out.

For a few, blessed years I got lucky. In exchange for working the overnight shift as a computer operator, I had a serene, solitary work environment that, for the most part, had a steady but not unreasonably demanding work flow. The wages were adequate, not spectacular, but better than many worse jobs would pay, and on a slow night I often had two or three hours in which to pursue my writing while keeping an eye on the computer system monitor.

Best of all, my boss knew that my real career was as a fledgling writer; she not only knew it, but was very supportive of it. As long as the work got done -- and it did -- she harbored no illusions about where my job stood in the overall scheme of my life: something I took pride in doing well, but playing a supporting role to my creative aspirations.

Then came the layoff. The Powers That Be decided to move our company's operations to the East Coast, and I decided that I did not want to move to Philadelphia, so I found myself looking for another job. I took another computer operations job, also on the overnight shift, with a different company, but the difference was like night and day -- or should I say, day and night. The environment was far less supportive, and while I understood that I was in a busier environment that didn't allow the luxury of working on a novel as did my previous job, it was disheartening to have my writing actively disparaged and to be continually subjected to efforts to "put me in my place" whenever I showed any evidence of capability of thinking for myself. So I finally, desperately, applied for a technical support job within the company's larger I/T department. I knew I wasn't quite qualified for the job in question, but it was a way to say, "Hey! Look! I have a brain! Let me out of here!"

From that little "cry for help" things have gotten more, not less, stressful. I can't complain about the people aspect. The people in the technical support group in question have been very helpful, very supportive, and encouraging every step of the way, and I may well be on my way to moving into the ranks of the I/T professionals. But now that I am set upon this road, I suddenly find myself asking: Wait. Do I really WANT this?

I know what I DON'T want: to stay in the present company's computer operations room any longer than absolutely necessary. But this I/T professional career track, while vastly more interesting and stimulating than operations ever will be, and promising a much-improved financial outlook, also brings with it a new threat to my artistic soul. Will my writing career, nascent though it is, capitulate to the demands of corporate professionalism? If I stay on this road, will it, must it, become the focal point of my life?

I fear becoming engulfed by a job that is supposed to be the means to my greater end, not an end in itself.

Crisis, they say, also means opportunity. Perhaps the present crisis will prove to be the wake-up call I needed to get honest with myself, and with prospective employers -- an honesty which may well bring with it rejections, but when the acceptance comes, I'll know that what's being accepted is what I really have and want to offer, not an award for a convincing "performance."

Meanwhile, if anyone sees that ad calling for a bohemian hippie-chick poet/essayist/novelist, please drop me an e-mail!

Name Withheld

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