ON: Work

Here is something about my life that I don’t think people really understand.

See, when you go to work, you get to later on come home from work. Now, getting to and coming from work in and of itself is work (in the D. Smith meaning of the word) – Getting in your car, making sure there is gas, fighting traffic… etc. Now, if you are like most people, the “after work” work is generally “man, work was really shitty today. I need to get a different job.” Whis is still work – processing your day. But then you get to move on. Do what you really like – hobbies or just television. And you can go to bed with other pursuits on your mind until the next morning.

With my work, I don’t get that. Even when I am not “working” I am at work. I don’t get to “come home” and I don’t get to “take a weekend off” or go on “vacation.” See, the majority of my work is done in my head. There is still administrative work to be done (just like in a real job, I need to make sure I get paid). This is especially true when one is teaching. There is the work of constantly keeping up with the latest developments, important articles and books – lots and lots of reading. There is the work of filtering that reading out and putting it on paper.

Yet the key word there – the filtering – is what takes the most work. It has to bounce around and it has to be molded and strained and this all happens in my head. I have to be thinking about what I am working the moment I wake up all the way to the moment my head hits the pillow. Even if I haven’t typed a single word on my computer or read a single word, I have had a full day of work thinking. I can’t escape, and sometimes this can be grueling.

Don’t laugh.

See, when I say it, I think to myself – yes. You think. You never get to not think. Also: everyone thinks. This really isn’t a big deal. Yet, where it is different is that I feel compelled to think about my various projects, and I don’t feel like I can never “not think” about them. For example, when sitting in a movie theatre, I often feel guilty: the giant screen, the loud noises are taking me away from my work.  I say to myself – “don’t be stupid!” but I can’t help it. I feel guilty for taking my mind off of what I should really be doing. When I am called away, or if I have to run errands or to do normal stuff, it makes me feel anxious and guilty because it is taking me away from my work. This is crazy talk.

When I was writing my Master’s, some days felt like torture because I could never escape this feeling. Yet, this work of “thinking” is so unquantifiable, there is no way of accounting for any of it. Try telling someone that all you did all day was sit on the couch and think. They will think you have gone soft, or laugh because it is such a ridiculous notion.

I am aware of how lucky I am to be in this position. Even though it has its good and bad points like any other profession, I would take it over anything else in the world. I like being able to think for a living. And yet, I am trying to find some other way besides writing a paper or a book to quantify, to account for the “think work” that I do all day. I feel that if I could do that, I could show you. To prove to you that I am not lazy (or crazy). That these means have ends.

Yet how?  What would it look like?