Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Quest of My Own

We are all aware that Bryant has begun his noble quest to find the supreme Greek burger place. However, you probably were not aware that I am currently embarking on a little quest of my own. Though somewhat less noble and certainly more selfish, it's still a pretty good quest: to find myself a job that will bring fulfillment and happiness... or at least that won't cause me to stick a fork in my eye.

What makes this quest such a challenge is that I have yet to decide what I actually want in a job. Tricky, huh? Well, in the process of scavenging the help-wanted websites, I found an article entitled "How to Find a Job You'll Love." Perfect! That's exactly what I need to know! While the article didn't make any life-altering decisions for me (bummer), it did talk about an interesting study conducted by famous economist Alan Krueger and psychologist/Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman. Their study examined whether or not people with high-paying jobs are happier than their less wealthy peers. ...And here comes the point of my blog post today. {dun-dun-DAH!} I wanted to share the following insightful conclusions from their study:

The belief that high income is associated with good mood is widespread but mostly illusory. People with above-average income are relatively satisfied with their lives but are barely happier than others in moment-to-moment experience, tend to be more tense, and do not spend more time in particularly enjoyable activities. Moreover, the effect of income on life satisfaction seems to be transient.

Cool, huh?

So at the very least, after reading this article about how to find a good job, my quest for the Ultimate job has broadened to include low-paying work as well. It seems my job search is expanding, not narrowing, as I venture on. (But I actually wasn't picky about pay in the first place. Honest.)

Oh well. Onward and upward we go!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Thank You, E. M. Forster.

One of my favorite reads in high school was E. M. Forster's A Room with a View. After my first time reading the book, I was so excited about it and easily proclaimed it as my favorite. But I realized about a week ago that as time has passed, I somehow forgot everything about it, minus the fact that I apparently love it. I knew there was a girl who went to Italy with some woman, and there was some business about a guy and his dad... and that's pretty much as far as I could recall. I started reading it again, because after all, a person should know what one of her favorite books is about. I just finished it this morning. It's definitely still deserves a spot among the list of my favorites. It's incredibly beautiful, even if it is a little sappy.

There are two quotes I kind of wanted to post here, and then I'll be done. Maybe they'll only be significant to me because of the jerky awkwardness of my life right now, but here they are anyway. Just in case you'd be interested.

It did not do to think, nor, for the matter of that to feel. She gave up trying to understand herself, and joined the vast armies of the benighted, who follow neither the heart nor the brain, and march to their destiny by catch-words. The armies are full of pleasant and pious folk. But they have yielded to the only enemy that matters--the enemy within. They have sinned against passion and truth, and vain will be their strife after virtue. As the years pass, they are censured. Their pleasantry and their piety show cracks, their wit becomes cynicism, their unselfishness hypocrisy; they feel and produce discomfort wherever they go.

Neat, huh? I like E. M. Forster.

The next quote is the wise, old, withered Mr. Emerson talking to Lucy, the protagonist. He's quoting someone else here:
"Life," wrote a friend of mine, "is a public performance on the violin, in which you must learn the instrument as you go along."

(Funny that my parents always told us kids that we could learn whatever instrument we wanted, except for a string instrument. Their reason was that it was too painful to wait for the student to progress from learning it, and playing badly, to actually knowing it, and playing well. An amusing coincidence in the context of this quote.)

But it's so true that we're all learning as we go along. I remember as a kid being irritated with my mom one day, and arriving at this childhood epiphany: my mom has never before raised me; this is the first time she has lived this day; she is just trying to get through it the best she can, improvising and figuring it out as quickly as life comes at her. I've thought back on that moment of realization many times as I've gotten older.

We make mistakes because we're new at living today. We'll always be new at living today. Hopefully, though, we gain some experience that will help us improve as we endeavor to keep living. At the very least, I hope we keep living.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

15 minutes late

Lesson #1: If it's 2:00 in the morning, it's stupid to try to set an alarm clock (especially if you've already slept for an hour and a half) because you'll probably be so disoriented that you'll set it for the wrong time regardless of how confident you are that you did it right.

This morning, my alarm went off at 6:30, and I felt very confused; wasn't I supposed to be leaving at 6:30? Oh yeah, I was. My brain knew that "6:30" was an important time, so it's the time I set my alarm for when I temporarily woke up at 2am. Great. Late again.

Lesson #2: There's a very thin line that separates us from homelessness. I'm not being jovial now. I'm serious. I think we live day to day quite unaware of this line, yet there it is. I suppose for some it's a bit thicker than for others, but for everyone, it's still only a line.

I got to the homeless shelter 15 minutes late, due to my poor judgment with the alarm clock last night. I was supposed to carpool with some folks in my apartment complex, but because of my tardiness, I drove alone. We were going to be preparing breakfast to serve when the shelter opened in a couple of hours, something I had never done before. I pulled up next to a red brick building and glared at the clock. It was telling me how many minutes I was inadequate. 15. I shifted my gaze to my rear-view mirror and watched the door of the shelter open. One by one, people trickled out and scattered onto the sidewalk to face the day. I'm so naive that I locked myself into my car as I watched. I feel pathetic thinking about it now. I felt such a giant gap between me and these people who were leaving this building.

I have this thing about being late where I'd rather not show up at all than show up 15 minutes late. I'm pretty sure I inherited this particular neurosis from my dad. In any event, I sat there and watched myself become 22 minutes late. I shifted the car into gear and drove away. Guilt surfaced, and so I drove back.

I didn't know where I was supposed to go, or whom I was supposed to be with, but I had to at least try. I paced across the street to that red brick building, trying to look like I knew what I was doing... though I felt completely unsure of myself. Caught up in my own naivety once again, I glanced back at my car to see if anyone was breaking in. No one was. I tried door after door on that side of the shelter. Locked, locked, locked. I walked around the corner to the other side, passing through a few clusters of people who were beginning to congregate outside (which admittedly made me a little nervous), but every door I tugged on wouldn't open. At the foot of the last door sat a beautiful woman in a weathered green sweater. She looked up at me as I pulled on the handle. She didn't say anything. She didn't even look very curious about why I was trying to get into this locked building. I was simply something else that she would look at today. I suddenly felt a little less awkward and and little more like the gap I first sensed between her and me was gone... it was a gap that existed mostly in my mind.

But I couldn't get into the building. Thwarted, and now almost forty minutes late, I walked back across the street and down the sidewalk towards my car. A man was sorting through some things in a shopping cart. As I passed him, he called out to a woman a few paces down the road. "Jackie! Come back! I found a size six here!" She ignored him and pulled a blanket up over her shoulders as she walked away. He shouted her name again, to which she turned around and yelled, "Leave me alone!" As I neared her, I noticed thick socks on her feet. She had no shoes. The man called out her name again and again. "Wait! Size six shoes! Come back!" but she didn't slow. I don't know why she refused his shopping-cart shoes, but at that moment, I felt very aware of the shoes on my feet. I felt very aware of the sound my key made as I unlocked the door. I was standing there between this car I hadn't really earned and this woman who had a blanket but no shoes. Juxtaposition stung. I piled into the car, and through the passenger window I saw her feet shuffle down the sidewalk. As I drove off, the man walked purposefully down the road, a pair of once-white sneakers in hand. He continued to call out to her as he walked.

I don't know if he ever got Jackie to put on those shoes, but I thought about it the rest of the way home. Walking up the stairs to my apartment door and welcome mat felt very different this time.

The line felt thin.