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
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
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
e x t e s s a y -
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