"You think I just lie around all morning, but really I’m awesome!" I called out as hubby stepped through the door, bringing the kids back home from their Saturday-morning playgroup with their tummies full of Happy-Meal goodness. My declaration of awesomeness was prompted by the fact that during their absence I had
- dusted, vacuumed, swept, and mopped the entire house
- initiated two loads of laundry (still in progress)
- picked up several of hubby’s ties from various locations around the house and put them in the tie drawer
- found three outdated phone books on hubby’s desk and relocated them to the recycling
- filled a garbage bag with junk including a broken iron, a hand-painted green-and-yellow kleenex-box cover, an empty box of clementines, and an empty Turtles canister
- done all of the above while pausing only briefly to read two blogs and one email from a blogger-friend.
Very impressive, wouldn’t you say?
My parenting-class/support-group for single moms is all set to go on Thursday, which means it’s almost time for my friend (you may remember her as Felicia) to hand over the reins to me. For several months now she has been a dynamo of activity, arranging funding from the Crisis Pregnancy Centre and from her church, locating volunteers, and working out all the details: she’s got two women committed to providing child-care each week, another one who will do the set-up and tear-down, and legions of other volunteers who all envision themselves taking over the ministry and reshaping it to suit their own vision. It has been very much a case of too many generals and not enough troops, and yet somehow she has managed to sculpt from all these competing ideas and egos and workable schedule. Three wonderful woman are going to run a cooking class at the end of each month, sharing ideas of how to turn a pot of chile in to a series of burritos and taco salads, or how to roast a chicken with mashed potatoes and a side of veg (I expect to learn a lot from these classes). Another woman will be doing a crafting activity during the class on "me-time," and every week I will be attempting to engage the attention of five very-pregnant or recently postpartum teenagers as I hold forth on such fascinating topics as housecleaning, laundry, bookkeeping, and baby care. My awesomeness notwithstanding (see above), I am somewhat daunted.
Not nearly as daunted, however, as I would have been had I been unfortunate enough to have Felicia’s job. The phone calls alone would have killed me – the task of wrangling that many opinionated and occasionally touchy human beings makes me feel slightly dizzy and ill. Felicia views my job with equal trepidation: for several weeks she tried to make sense of the curriculum materials before handing them over to me – the task of organizing that much information into a twelve-week schedule was overwhelming to her, just as the task of organizing that many people would have been overwhelming to me. Throughout this process, both of us have been looking at one another gratefully and saying, "I’m so glad I don’t have your job."
It’s not the first time, of course, that I’ve been grateful not to be in somebody else’s shoes. One of the perks of my job at the university is that I often receive free desk copies of textbooks and anthologies. Occasionally that creates storage problems (I have at least fifteen grammar handbooks, only one of which I actually use), but I’m never one to turn down a free book: an anthology of children’s literature or a critical edition of Pride and Prejudice is always a welcome edition to my library. The down side of this particular perk, however, is the publishers’ representatives who roam the halls of the English department, hoping to buttonhole professors and talk them into adopting a new text. I try to be nice to these people, but really I just wish they would go away. And I’m uneasily aware that this is one of those jobs for people with English degrees they don’t know what to do with. There but for the grace of God go I.
I don’t waste a lot of time feeling grateful that I am not a police officer or firefighter – had I been captured by aliens and brainwashed into pursuing one of these careers, I could count on the authorities to prevent me from entering a field where I would so clearly be a danger to myself and others. It’s the roads only narrowly not taken that make me most grateful: in a parallel universe, I might have ended up as a kindergarten teacher or a home day-care provider, a publisher’s rep or a non-profit manager. When I consider such parallel destinies, I become grateful for my job, with its 4:1 ratio of alone time to classroom time, a job that allows me to read for a living (and even occasionally write) and never demands that I sell anything to anyone.
What is your road not taken? What are the jobs you’re really glad you don’t have?