“When I was on my book tour, I went out for a drink with a girl who I guess is in her 20s. She is mostly a photographer but not quite sure what kind of artist she wants to be, and she confessed to me, after a pitcher or two, that she really wasn’t sure she wanted to be an artist. She just didn’t want to get a job. And I said, ‘That’s what an artist is!’ We pinky-swore not to reveal that to the public. It’s a trade secret.” -Tim Kreider for Johns Hopkins Magazine
There are a whole slew of things to write on a Tuesday afternoon from my work desk. Here’s the gist of it: I got a job and it’s with nuns, and then I got bored. Simultaneously, a bunch of personal-life stuff happened. I went on a series of bad online dates. On a date, one guy ran away.
But more about the job and the guy and the dates and the other people I’ve mentioned on this blog (yes, their lives went on, too) later. Keep those thoughts bookmarked. For right now, it’s a Tuesday and I’m at my desk and, even though I’m bored, I still have a job. I’m mostly doing it. If we’re honest, I would profess to not want a job at all, but there are bills and, even more pressing than bills, I’ve found, there’s this expectation in society to stand up and say that you’re doing something. At 24, it doesn’t matter so much what you are, it matters what you’re doing. Half of my friends are students and poor as shit. But they’re doing amazing things.
I spent 2013 in Malaysia with a group of Americans who taught English to kids in public school. The government liked the idea of us but they didn’t like what we might actually do, so they kept us around but prohibited us from having any power within the school. In our most reduced state, we were clowns, shiny-faced and flown in from halfway across the world for novelty. Some of us actually taught. All of us came home with stronger American friendships, and a greater affinity for alcohol, bagels, and Mexican food.
In any case, the most stunning part of arriving in Malaysia for me was the group with whom I arrived. Everyone spoke multiple languages, played multiple instruments, excelled in multiple sports. Most had studied or lived in an array of countries. One girl had started an orphanage in India.
They were humanitarian and diplomatic and brilliantly smart all at once. They cheered when Obama took the stage at his reelection, an event that we stayed up past midnight to watch live on American time (which is twelve hours behind Malaysian time). We all got Tiger beers and made a night of it. Of course, this is exactly the kind of thing that the State Department would hope to see for one of their foreign exchange programs, so maybe we were just being goody-goodies in some way that wasn’t conscious for us but was wholesome, nonetheless.
If college is a chance to be a little fish in a big pool, Malaysia made me a minnow in a national aquarium. When I called home, I didn’t sulk about my stomach’s poor reaction to Kuala Lumpur’s street food; I gushed in awe about the people in this program (and, really, how the heck did I get accepted, anyway?).
One year later, I was as assured as ever that these people would take over the world. I’m still as confident. They wasted no time in getting into Ivy-League graduate programs for Middle Eastern conflict studies, public policy, global poverty and practice, education policy, women’s studies, and so on. One went to Rabbinical school and spent a summer working on a Yiddish farm in Upstate New York. In short, they pursued their own lives –and boldly– and they’re intent to light the entire world on fire with peace and justice and kosher foodstuffs and lots of other good things.
In reality, they’re broke-as-heck students. Some have never had a nine-to-five job. But they’re in the process of doing amazing things. So it is for law students and medical students, or any kind of student who’s likely to have an amazing career in fifteen years, but will be poor and jobless until then. These are our twenties. We’re doing amazing things, we just haven’t done them, yet.
As you know, I didn’t go back to school. I fought hard for employment, and, eventually, I got it. It’s a full-time job and it’s a writing job and it involves nuns. I’m happy and thankful to have it. (And, because I still have it, I want to be prudent with what I say about it here.) But, what am I doing? Yes, there are projects and tasks, and there’s this business of religion and the frequency with which it is excluded from public radar. In a very broad way, I’m trying to make one specific type of religion “cool.” But, right now? Right now I’m just sitting at my desk, bored with my Facebook feed, tired of formatting another article, typing away about my own little nook of the world.
I want to be doing more, I think. Unlike my many American friends, I’m not quite sure what that means, yet.
Bookmark this: the job and dating and the others you’ve read about so far. I have a lot to catch you up on.