Thursday, January 31, 2013

Where's my halo?

It often seems as if admirable people, or at least overachievers, are always sort of blissfully tired. Like, a well-deserved tired. A tired that society can get behind. "I'm working full-time as a technical writer but going to night school for my law degree, and I log more hours volunteering as a pro-bono legal aide than I do at work or school. And also I have been learning to speak Arabic, and also I sometimes try to make time for yoga." (I just described an actual friend of my boyfriend's there.) They complain, or "complain," but you know they love it. It's like a version of the "humblebrag" -- "I am so exhausted because I just do so many things!" 

I've felt a little like that lately. Here I am, troopin' along, watching the sun rise from the grubby, sleeping-head-smudged window of a Metro car, workin' hard, thinking up ways to network and prove my worth so that I can maybe turn this "short-term contract" (*cough* temp *cough*) gig into a job. Also, this Saturday is my first full day (9-5) of training for my new volunteer gig. When I realized that this morning, dead-tired at Union Station, sitting outside a Starbucks so I could check my e-mail using their free wifi, looking back at the message I'd gotten from the volunteer coordinator... I didn't feel blissfully exhausted, tired like a saint. I just felt tired. "Aw, man... I can't even catch up on sleep Saturday?" 

Also, all day I've felt grumpy. I keep trying to fight it, keep trying to do the ol' mind-over-matter thing, remind myself that I'm living a different life than I was when I started this blog, a life that I willed to happen, a life that I made happen. ... OK, so I'm still technically temping. But I did the math, using that little calculator that pops up when you click on "Accessories," and now I'm making $900 per week pre tax versus $487.50 per week pre tax. And now I'm doing something besides answering the phone or plonking in CAPTCHA codes for e-mail programs -- I'm creating a legacy, man! I'm drafting documentation, some of it from scratch, that will help folks use this organization's new Intranet. I've even been given the OK to write articles for one of the organization's Internet (as in, "outward-facing," the world can see it, non- Honeycomb Hideout) sites. I'm creating, developing; not entering, administering

I'm also now temping -- but in the city! Not in a suburban office park, but in a place that has dudes in rastafarian hats playing banjos for their lunch money, and where an exploded manhole closes down the street for security reasons -- because that is the street that the vice president of the United States takes to work each morning. (I've also noticed a strange phenomenon that occurs in the city come lunchtime -- you don't have to go to lunch, because sometimes it will come to you, in the form of a long line of lunch trucks offering an ever-changing smorgasbord of adorable options: empanadas, crepes, Cajun barbecue).

But it's not as if I walk into the office, or into the city, and it's shooting rays of sunshine everywhere and spraying roses at me all the time. My role straddles the marketing and HR departments -- normally anything web-related falls under the domain of marketing, but the Intranet is filled with employee-centric news and resources, stuff about when is payday and don't forget your access card and make sure to wear red on Friday for heart-disease awareness (for real, that's tomorrow, and I totally just posted a blurb about it on the homepage). I sit in the HR half of the floor, but I have a daily meeting with the web lady over in Marketingland... and the two halves of the floor are night-and-day different. Or they're Patty-Duke-Show, country-cousin-and-city-cousin different, to be at least marginally more original. 

HR land is your typical office, only strip away anything fun. Nobody has anything sitting on their desks or thumb-tacked up to the walls of their cubicles. I sit among the rule-makers and the rule-followers, after all. I sit among the people who tell your boss how to fire you. The tattletales and the mama's boys, the sticklers and the party poopers. 

Then I cross the lobby to where all the zany, imaginative marketing folks live -- the creative professionals -- and I want to run away to there. I want to sneak back to my cube in HRville just one last time, pack up a tiny hobo bag on a stick, containing maybe that one good pen I inherited from the chick who sat there before and my bathroom key, and hit the road for good. In Marketingland, people have art and dance posters tacked up for inspiration. There's the Snap, Crackle, and Pop of ideas in the air, a fizzy electricity not running through the wires. They had a holiday cubicle-decorating contest, and this one chick built a huge sparkly fireplace out of felt. It's still up by her desk, orange felt flames roaring, and I kind of love her for that. 

Meanwhile, I noticed the other day, the HR folks had hung a whopping total of four underwhelming ball ornaments from the ceiling. I can just see one of the HR people now, perhaps the Senior Director of Access-Card Rules Enforcement, hanging one of the balls and going, "You guys, we are livin' la vida loca up in here! Whew, I can't take it!" I'd be surprised the HR folks left the ornaments up for so long -- but they are seriously so underwhelming that it took me more than a week to notice them up there.

I'm noticing side effects of living such a pious, do-what-society-tells-you-to-do life. For example, when I get more -- I want more. I get a web-content gig -- I start to jockey for a more creative assignment, for writing feature articles. For example, I get up early and work hard -- and now I'm tired, too tired most nights for any kind of writing. Is all that virtuous busy-ness really, at the end of the day, what I want? Maybe I want to be a little bit pathetic, a little bit idle, a little bit of a loser, if only to have some goddamn free time. 

I'm also bragging too much about volunteering, and I only go to my first training session on Saturday! I haven't done even one good deed, haven't helped even one soul, and off I go yammering about it on Facebook, listing it as one of those terribly grave-looking "Life Events" (if you indicate that your Life Event is volunteer work, it posts the entry with an icon of two hands holding each other). 

I have a feeling that I'm not going to be one of those cool, modest people who volunteers but doesn't like to talk about it much -- "Oh, I don't do it for the glory, really." Hell nah. I'm going to be one of the insufferable ones who somehow works it into every sentence. "Oh yeah, I did hear it might snow... Hmm, wonder if it'll delay my volunteer training on Saturday?" "Oh, you had a delicious meatball sandwich for lunch; that's nice... Hmm, wonder what they'll serve for lunch during my all-day volunteer training on Saturday? I'm not getting paid for that, by the way."

Because sometimes I just feel so tired, and I want to say, "Where's my halo, bitches?" 

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