What do you want to do with your life? pt. 2

Continued from Part 1

I wish I could be in college right now, for the first time. I love a lot of things today that I had no clue about back when I was actually going through college. The first book I read after graduating was Middlemarch by George Eliot. I had always loved to read, and I thought I read a lot. But I really didn’t. I barely even knew what I liked to read. I can’t say I’d ever read a book before that was “life changing”. Middlemarch was revolutionary for me because when I was reading it, I kept thinking to myself: Is this the best book I’ve ever read? I think this is the best book I’ve ever read. Why have I never read this before? What the hell have I been doing?

This is my copy and I love it so much.

And I’ve spent the years since then hyper-focused on making up for all the reading I didn’t do back when I was in school. I always say that the one constant good about my job is that it affords me a lot of time to read.

I’ve learned so much in the process. Reading Tolstoy during a time when I felt spiritually lost was the catalyst for me renewing my faith in God. Who, in a time of spiritual crisis, could possibly be left unaffected by Levin’s story in Anna Karenina? Or Pierre’s in War & Peace? Resurrection was so bold and unapologetic in its didacticism and I felt so challenged by it that I was left with a greater sense of confidence in my convictions I had previously been ashamed of.

Russian literature became a focus of mine. I have yet to make peace with the fact that it was left out of my formal education almost entirely–“almost,” because we did read The Cherry Orchard once in high school. I guess that was sufficient? I could go on for ages (take this as a warning) about how depressing it is that American students are only really exposed to American and English literature during their high school years. We talk a lot about diversity in authorship these days, and how to make room for more women and ethnic minorities among the authors of standard “classics” normally touched upon in the high school curriculum. I don’t really care to get too involved in that debate. We’re failing at including female voices and black voices, without a doubt. It’s a major failure in the culture at large. Remember seeing that incredible breakdown on film dialogue? I’m sure the dialogue in today’s best-selling books would fare much better, but that isn’t necessarily reflected where authorship is concerned and how it’s addressed in the high school classroom.

I’m getting a little off-topic. The reason I don’t want to get too bogged down in that specific debate is because if I’m “speaking my truth,” I think of Americans’ fixation on America as just as large of a problem. Do we even care at all about the rest of the world? The less we engage with the artistic output of other countries, the more foreign they’re going to seem to us as people. Americans have no qualms about practicing cultural isolationism, even in institutions of higher education. When we study literature, we study our own literature. We create an echo chamber and then we’re delusional enough to award degrees in it.

In the years following college graduation, I’ve learned that I have no particular affection or preference for American literature, film, or art. I used to think I preferred it, but that was all I knew. It’s pretty easy to have a preference for something when you have nothing to compare it to.

I entered college thinking that I knew what I liked. My focus was always on the arts, so I’ll keep these remarks along those lines.

I had no clue how great a book could be because I’d never read much of anything outside of the texts assigned in school. I rarely watched films that weren’t American productions, or at the very least, films with English-speaking actors. And I thought I loved these things! They were critically acclaimed! I was having fun and getting “cultured”–L to the O to the L. When I first signed up for Netflix and was getting DVDs mailed to my house, I watched a new movie nearly every night. This was one of my passions.

When I entered college and declared as an English major, it didn’t last long for various reasons. See previous post.

I should probably be glad that I took a different path. I was friends with enough English majors to know that they didn’t get to read Middlemarch either, anyway–at least not in school. Is it too long or something? I don’t get it. Here’s a hot take: books you read in school should be difficult. You should feel challenged by them. Your teacher is not mean or evil just because they might make you read something that isn’t easy to digest. Just the other day I had to listen to my 70-something-year-old coworker rant about a book he was assigned to read for class. In his words, his professor is a stupid idiot for assigning it and shouldn’t be allowed to teach anything. Why? Because it’s written in a stream-of-consciousness manner and my coworker thinks any book written in such a manner is garbage. God help his professor. It can’t be easy teaching a bunch of young adults who think they know everything, let alone a 70-year-old man who thinks he knows everything. Why even be in school at all? You know everything. Leave.

Maybe the books I enjoy now would’ve been lost on me when I was a teenager, or possibly even in college. It’s difficult to say for certain. I would love to have the chance again to study with intensity something that I love. I don’t mean to imply that college is wasted on young people. I do think that expecting any significant level of insight from young people whose brains are still developing is a Big Ask. And yet we expect them to know and decide what they want to do with their lives before they’ve ever really lived. If college were free, this would be no big deal.

I don’t know if I’ve actually gained any insight in regard to a future “dream” career. I was hoping to someday discover deep within myself some kind of passion for accounting that had been lying dormant all my life. Then I’d just go into the family business and I’d be set. I don’t think that’s going to happen though. Maybe some of us aren’t meant to make loads of money. Maybe it’s a good thing that I’m one of those people, if indeed I am. Maybe I’m able to deal with it better than someone else would.

What I’m saying might contradict what we’re taught to believe about the American dream. Plenty have called it out as a bogus concept, often citing examples of how opportunities for success simply aren’t made available to everyone equally. It’s a good point, and I get it. I just want to question what makes it worth pursuing in the first place.

Being able to choose your own path in life regardless of your background is a relatively recent human invention. Sometimes I think true happiness would be easier to find if we weren’t seeking the answer in our choice of career. Your job is just one small part of you.

Right now I’m thinking of those faith-based organizations that preach the “Prosperity Gospel.” Here’s another hot take: they are gross and they should be ashamed of themselves. If you’re reading this and you think God not only cares how much money you make, but wants to actively help you make MORE, you’re gross. Close this tab, exit your browser window, throw your computer out the window along with yourself–whatever you have to do. You are gross. You are harming yourself and the people around you.

It’s easy to mock prosperity theology, and to tell its believers to off themselves, but I think a lot of us live by its principles without realizing it. We idolize money. We idolize people who have it. We’re taught to pursue it even if the pursuit of it destroys our soul. We refuse to be content with what we do have. We assign value to actions based on how lucrative they are. Just recently, I skipped a shift I was supposed to work at the Humane Society because it got in the way of me going to my new part-time job. The only reason was money. One pays me, the other doesn’t. Which one I actually enjoy doing more–that didn’t factor in at all. I’d rather be with the dogs (note to self: new epitaph idea). But I didn’t go because they don’t pay me to go.

It’s almost time to end this. I meant to talk about a lot of other things–mainly just movies and books I’ve loved. I can’t find an easy way to go back and add any of that in among what I’ve already written. I’m sure I’ll have other opportunities in future posts. This is getting long enough as it is. I’m at work right now, but I’d rather be with the dogs, if ya know what I mean.

Kind of a tough few days

Many problems at work. I feel like my department is a lost cause sometimes. We have little recourse when it comes to addressing our concerns. My shift might be the ideal shift to be on at this time, if only because we haven’t fully entered “hostile work environment” territory (if you can ignore Gun Guy from previous post). I have noticed that people have found it easier to succeed on my shift. Despite its many issues, we have a good crew that for the most part supports each other.

I recently began working some earlier shifts on days when I’m not the fill-in Evening supervisor–granted, it’s only two hours earlier than my norm, but it means I clock out at 10 p.m. instead of midnight. I was hoping to create a better work/life balance for myself, and now I can actually spend real time with my boyfriend. We’re looking to buy a house soon if everything works out, and we’re planning on getting engaged soon as well.

We don’t live together currently–I live with my brother, but he’s graduating from medical school soon and awaiting news of his placement. He wants to move as close as possible to wherever the place turns out to be. We’re all hoping he can stay in the same city we’re in now. He has a pet cat that is paralyzed and his hope is to be able to find a place within walking distance from his future workplace. That way, he can walk home during his break to take care of his cat. I do hope everything works out for him–he has put everything he has into caring for his cat, who is very happy and much more mobile than you’d imagine. The cat is somewhat famous on the internet and was even featured on TV this year during the Cat Bowl. I didn’t get to see it air because work always gets in the way of things.

But now I’ve started this slightly earlier shift. I was very nervous for my first day. I’m not particularly well-liked among some of the Day crew in my department, and now I’d be overlapping that shift by a couple of hours. The first one went just fine though. Leaving at 10 p.m. was amazing.

Wednesday was a tough day though. I learned that one of the Day shift supervisors was intentionally trying to “get to me” in an effort to force me off of that shift entirely. I’ve long been aware that the shift is very insular, and they’ve successfully managed to ban at least five other current or former employees from their shift since I’ve worked there. Interlopers are made to feel very unwelcome. They are currently trying to get our newest employee fired or moved to another shift. She’s a very nice woman who I don’t know much about personally since she only works part-time and during hours that I’m not there. The moment I met her, I worried that she was too nice to survive on that shift for long. They’re already working on a list of complaints against her. This is their usual tactic and so far it has worked every time. Wednesday was the day I found out that I might be the next target.

I was not prepared to also discover that my Evening shift supervisor is hoping that these tactics will work on me and that I’ll come back to my normal shift from 3:30 to midnight. Apparently he was hurt when I put in the request for a slightly earlier shift.

I’m finding it difficult right now working for two different supervisors who are both rooting for me to fail–albeit for different reasons. I guess it’s “nice” that I’m wanted back on my old shift, but I don’t actually think it’s nice to sabotage someone else’s opportunities. The reason behind it becomes irrelevant if the result is something that hurts me.

One of my favorite coworkers just got an amazing job opportunity and will most likely be leaving. He’s considering staying on part-time, but that remains to be seen. His new job sounds amazing. He gets to travel to D.C. for a month of training. The job pays a lot more and once training is completed, it will be mostly work-from-home. In this past year he has lost two immediate family members, so getting the news about this job made me very happy for him. He’s a great guy who deserves some good news for a change. And I’ll miss having him around.

Imagine being the type of person who is unable to feel happy for this guy because his absence might cause you a slight inconvenience. Or because you feel threatened by someone else’s success. Those seem to be the Top-2 reasons why people at this job sabotage each other on a frequent basis.

I’m not sure how much longer I can stick it out here. I want to stick it out and I want to show them that I’m not bothered by any of it. If you’re reading this, you’ll know that in truth I’m very much bothered by it. But they don’t have to know this and I hope to make sure it stays that way.

I no longer talk to my Evening supervisor in confidence like I used to. I don’t enjoy the idea of having to defend my request for a better shift. It should be apparent why anyone would want a better shift– it’s because it’s better. Loyalty in the workplace is a joke if it’s only meant to benefit those in positions of power. True loyalty looks like this: You get an unexpected phone call from a person because your coworker has used you as a reference during their job search. You like this coworker, and even though it means you may no longer get to work with them, you give a glowing recommendation to their potential future employer. Even if you don’t like your coworker, you keep your personal feelings out of it and give the best recommendation you’re able to based on their job performance as well as any good qualities you can hopefully emphasize about them.

Loyalty also looks like this: Your supervisor levels an accusation against you that you know isn’t true, or is perhaps embellished. You know the full story, but the full story implicates someone else you work with who might then take the brunt of your supervisor’s anger if the supervisor knew the full story. You know that you don’t have anything to gain by throwing your other coworker under the bus just to clear your own name. The issue is over a matter of hurt feelings, and nothing that would lead to anyone getting reprimanded anyway. You choose to let your supervisor think you’re “guilty”, because the alternative involves your coworker being treated as the guilty party instead. And if the supervisor knew the full story, the hurt feelings would be multiplied tenfold.

I’m trying to show some loyalty here to my coworker because he told me something in confidence. This is what happened:

I came in for one of my earlier shifts. I saw on the daily schedule that I was assigned a certain post at 3:00 p.m. that is generally unpleasant for me because it means I’ll be in the dispatch office. And at 3:00 p.m. is when certain people, my supervisor included, like to sit in that same office, turn on the TV (which I hate and is very distracting when you’re trying to listen to all the radio calls coming through) and watch the show Maury (which I find distasteful and absolutely despise, more on that later).

My supervisor has given me that 3:00 p.m. post every single day that I’ve come in. It’s normally a post reserved for the shift supervisor, it being the last dispatch post during Day shift and a time that requires the Day shift supervisor to pass on information to the Evening shift supervisor.

This supervisor knows that I never watch TV when I’m in the dispatch office. He knows that I find it distracting. He also knows how much I hate the show Maury (someone else told him as a heads-up, which this supervisor took offense to). My supervisor puts me there, hoping that I’ll be so bothered that I’ll request to move back to my old shift.

When I came in on Wednesday, a different coworker was in the dispatch office at the time. I made a comment about how I wished I didn’t have to be in there at 3:00 again. My coworker offered to cover that post for me. This is a normal occurrence–people swap posts all the time, especially in dispatch. Usually on my normal shift, those requests are made because someone wants to watch the news at 5:30 or a hockey game that night or something.

At first I said no to swapping, saying that it wasn’t that big of a deal. My coworker offered again and told me that the offer was on the table because it would get him out of having to make keys later with Jason. Jason is this supervisor.

I was only too happy to make that swap after he said that. It made me laugh. Jason is very difficult to be around, so it was like we were doing each other a favor. I wouldn’t have to be stuck in there during Maury time, and my coworker wouldn’t have to be stuck making keys with Jason.

Jason saw the change made to the schedule. He complained about me to our boss, saying that I was crossing my name off the schedule and wasn’t showing up for my posts. This happened only that once, and it was prearranged. His account made it sound like this was something I had been doing consistently and without getting my post covered.

If Jason knew the actual story, he’d feel very hurt. Unlike his feelings toward me, he actually likes and respects this other coworker of ours. Coworker may not return those exact feelings, but he always works well with everyone and has never shown any disrespect toward Jason.

Jason is pursuing this “action” against me, and I really hope it stops. I don’t want to tell him the full story. I hope it resolves itself, and I hope I get to keep this new shift that I’m on.

I’m pretty sure there will be a Part 2 to this post, because I haven’t addressed the “hostile work environment” comment from earlier. In case you thought I was including my situation underneath that umbrella–I’m not. I found out yesterday, my day off, that one of my coworkers on Midnight shift has put in a request to leave our Security department in order to return to the Gallery department (where he first started out). I suspect it’s because of how poorly he’s been treated by his coworkers on the Midnight shift. So I might return to this subject in a future post in order to provide some context. I don’t want to lump that in with my problems in this post because the treatment he has received is far worse than anything I’ve ever experienced at any job I’ve had.

So I’ll just end this post by talking about why I hate Maury. I don’t care what Maury Povich has said in defence of his own show (I’m thinking back to an interview with him on The Breakfast Club). Maury is a show that encourages its viewers to laugh at black people. Most of the guests on Maury are black. Half of its home-viewing audience is black, per demographic reports. While I was trying to look up hard stats on Maury guest demographics, I came across this article on The Root. Read if you want, it addresses some of my concerns.

My coworkers who delight in the Maury show, who mock and belittle its guests, are white. They enjoy imitating loudly any perceived laughable thing that is said on the show. When Maury is on at work, the dispatch office turns into a circus. Few seem to question whether this is appropriate behavior to be engaging in at work.

White people also love Cops. I presume that this show is still on the air because there’s no limit to how much we’re willing to laugh at poor people going through difficult situations. Some may claim to watch Cops because they like watching criminals being taken off the street. Call me when they decide to tackle criminals who are in actual positions of power. I might consider joining in on the laughter if I ever got to see Donald Trump being led away in handcuffs.

Maury viewers of all races and backgrounds are given an opportunity to feel superior to the people on screen. You’re not supposed to come out of it with a greater sense of understanding or empathy for its guests. If Maury makes you feel good, it’s because that good feeling is one of superiority. Cops does the same thing through the way they focus on people considered “lower class”. At least you didn’t just get busted smoking meth in your trailer, right? You might verbally abuse your own girlfriend, but at least Cops will present to you as entertainment some other domestic abuser who seems a little worse than yourself because he lives in undesirable conditions. Poverty in this country is equated with a lack of dignity. We’re encouraged to make only the worst assumptions about people experiencing financial hardship.

I feel like conversations involving issues of morality often fail to address basic human dignity. Instead we use morality as an excuse to legislate people’s intimate lives. Here’s something I don’t care about: who you’re having sex with and how often, whether you’re married or not, how many sexual partners you have, what this or that church says about sexual morality– it’s all bogus and irrelevant. It’s a titillating distraction from the ways in which society is actually morally bankrupt. Consider how we treat the poorest members of society before you ask me to care about someone’s sexual orientation, or how many “baby daddies” someone has.

I find a lot of behaviors at work to be highly immoral, but addressing that at work is not acceptable. I can’t ask someone to turn off Maury because the show is morally offensive and mean-spirited. I can say it’s annoying, maybe. I can say I don’t like having the TV on. I might be able to say that it’s inappropriate for the workplace, but I’d love to be able to say that it’s degrading.

We all think we’re smarter than the media we consume. We tell ourselves we’re not influenced by advertisements and commercials. We defend the garbage we watch on TV as “entertainment”.

Garbage in, garbage out.