Wednesday, February 11, 2009

8 to 3

“I’m burned out,” I confided to my husband. “Day in, day out, it just never stops.”

“It’s Wednesday!” my husband exclaimed. “You’ve been at this, what? Three days?”

Last week marked the first full-time work week I’ve logged since 1990. And it’s true: I was ready to call it a week by hump day.

Now, I’m no slouch. I can put in 12 hours on a newspaper article and turn right back around looking for an angle on my next assignment. I love deadlines, quick turn-around pieces, and nailing the closing line—even if it takes all day. I love caring for children and pets, and, hey, I’m even up for teaching a class or two—provided no one’s expecting me show up more than three days a week, and certainly not before noon.

But this all-day-every-day teaching gig? I’m just not wired for it.

In my three days on the job, I learned that the “daily grind” isn’t about sipping those first two cups of coffee over email with the cats. Turns out “punching the clock” isn’t a reference to silencing your spouse’s alarm after he’s hit snooze one too many times. And “working for the weekend” is more about holding on to a distant hope than it is about writing up advance blog posts on a rainy Saturday morning.

I’ve always suspected that I wasn’t quite cut out for the gritty world of the workforce. After my part-time, private school art program fell victim to a round of budget cuts a couple years back, I flirted a bit with the classified section, but lost interest quickly upon learning that a “canvasser” doesn’t deal in art, and that job involving an invigorating “office” in the great outdoors was with the sanitation department. And then there was the firm that bolded their big selling point-- two weeks of annual leave, the implication being that they actually expect you to show all the other weeks —51 of them, by my estimate. I broke into a cold sweat and tossed the paper into the recycling bin.

Frankly, I was relieved to find an opportunity to bolster my skills through academics rather than hard labor—but it seems even academia can’t shield one from the harsh realities of the work-a-day world, as my “culminating experience” requires 10 weeks of actual, on-the-job performance.

My Catholic friends tell me that this sort of thing is really good for the soul; that discomfort and even misery are strict yet wise instructors. I’m buoyed by this thought as I ready myself each morning under the cloak of darkness and wane prematurely each evening. But these thoughts of stalwart strength and fortitude are treasured most at the end of the week as I sadly contemplate the one working man’s maxim of which I still can’t relate: “another day, another dollar.”

I may be burned out from the daily grind, but pay day for this gig is something I’ll never see on anything but my graduate transcripts.


Jen said...

The interesting part of this post.. is that for me.. when I go to school I find it way more fun than "real" work. School is like one big play day for me.. I guess thats why the idea of full time teaching is good for me. But also think, if I like going to school, and hate going to work.. imagine how really bad "real" work must be ;)

(New) Jenn said...

I can completely identify with you on this one. To me, there is nothing worse than the reality of driving to work before daylight and driving home from work after sundown. I don't mind working hard, but there is definitely something to be said for working on your own terms. For years I thought that I wasn't a morning person. It was only recently that I discovered I truly am a morning person, it's the morning deadline that I don't appreciate. The "go, go, go" of leaving for the office puts a worse taste in my mouth than morning breath or stale coffee could ever contrive to compete with.


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