Monday, March 16, 2009

Just a Job

See, you have to understand that I never had a job before. Most people I know have salary jobs, where they go to work every day, and they either go home and still do work, or at least think about it (like teachers) or they don't (I actually can't think of many people like this). In my world (school), there wasn't this going home stuff, because you're always a student, no matter where you are when you're doing it.

So at first, I thought I wanted a 9-to-5 job, where I could go to work, do some work, then go home, and not do work anymore. That sounded pretty good to me. Of course, I couldn't think of any jobs like that, so I was kind of stuck.

Then I realized how nice it was to be free in the middle of the day, while everyone else is working (at work, as opposed to at home). I could go grocery shopping when the store was practically empty (except for retired people)! I could have a doctor's appointment whenever, without having to skip something! The gym is deserted at lunch time! It was fantastic. So I decided I didn't want a 9-to-5 job, but instead one where I could make my own hours.

Academics are always touting their freedom, that they get to make their own hours and choose what they want to study and be able to pick their kids up from school and get ice cream in the middle of the day. And yeah, that sounds really great, until you realize that even if they do that, they're still working ALL THE TIME. They take their work home with them. They think about it during dinner and vacation. Because they're passionate about their work, or because they're worried about getting tenure or a grant or whatever carrot they're reaching for at the moment.

There's this incredible pressure in academia to LOVE your work, because why else would you sacrifice your potential earnings in industry or a professional field, the alternatives for higher-education graduates? Academics always talk about the sacrifices they make, and their low salaries, which START around 50k, and average more like 80k or higher depending on the university and tenure. That always sounded like BS to me, but I just realized that it's because they compare themselves not to the rest of America, but to their classmates who became doctors, lawyers, bankers, and CEOs, making at least double that, with less schooling.

So when I talk about my museum job like it's just a job, that's because it is. It's great because I don't HAVE to love it. I can go, do my work (and do it well), and go home at 5pm, and not think about it again until the next time I show up at work. It's wonderful not to have that pressure to feel a certain way about the work I do, but instead to just do it. It's even worth rush hour traffic.

Plus, it's not every day, so I can still do errands in the middle of the day, while everyone else is working. Hah!

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