I had this funny moment recently, when I was thinking longingly about what my yearly salary would be if I manage to get one of the jobs I'm interviewing for on Friday (it's roughly 2.5 times my current wage, and honestly that sounds like leprechauns and unicorns to my dazed mind). Obviously, I don't have the job, and after a year of being rejected on any number of grounds, I think I might be past the nerves and the heart-set-on-it hoping to a point where I'm just going to do my damnedest and call it a day. No unhatched chickens are being counted.
BUT. Pretty much regardless of what job I manage to get, I will be making more than my present wage and tips. You can actually do pretty well at an established coffee shop since tips tend to be quite nice (and yes, I do have another coffee shop interview... pride is irrelevant when you have bills to pay and a cat to feed), but even a relatively low paying writing job would be a step up from where I am now. And one of my first thoughts was: "Oh hey, I can go out for drinks again."
It's a small pleasure, but it has been an expense that I can't justify. Food is food, so if I spend a few extra dollars to eat out, I'm not as concerned. But alcohol is a luxury, as you quickly discover when you're just trying to make ends meet. I did splurge and buy a bottle of whiskey when I got my tax refund (because it's cheaper to drink at home), but for the most part, that money went toward more responsible things like a car inspection, renter's insurance, and my savings account. Right now the mere thought of casually going out in the evening with a friend for a drink sounds like the height of indulgence. Which is actually really pleasant, as perspectives go. How much more do we enjoy things when we can't or don't have them very often?
My second thought, though, was one that caught me off guard. "...But then I won't accomplish as much."
Look, I like having a social life. I like spending time with people, usually only one or two and occasionally small groups. I'm an introvert, but I could do a lot of that one-on-one time without feeling like I'm suffering very much.
And yet, this combination of not getting home till 7, having relatively few friends in the city, and not really having the money to do much anyway has actually been really good for all of my other goals. If you've been following along/know me, you know there are a decent number of those. And I will freely admit that I don't typically make a lot of progress.
But here I am, astonished to find that I've been slowly working my way through my Latin textbook. I've been practicing my German alongside that. I finally made the grid sheet I needed for writing Copperplate. I've written a blog post almost every single day for the past month. I've read relatively enormous quantities of articles and essays. I've finished 9 books already, which puts me just barely on track for my goal of 50 per year. I've applied for quite a few jobs and heard back from four of them for interviews. I've gone to numerous meet ups and even led one of my own. I've knit a couple of things. I finally put my bookbinding press together and contacted a binder in Philadelphia about meeting with him and possibly doing some sort of internship.
And I frankly would not have managed to do even half of that if I had actually had an active social life. Also, if I'm really being honest, I wouldn't have managed a quarter of that if I hadn't had so many dull hours at work when there's literally nothing else to do so why not read an essay on Longform or a few chapters of Debt by David Graeber? As for that last point: I know that I need to at least be doing something that demands more of me and hopefully also pays better, but there's a small part of me that enjoys how much time I have had to feed my love for stories, real and fictional, and to keep abreast of politics. This has been a strange season, but not wholly bad, for all that it included February and some serious personal budgetary crises.
Having had that reprieve, however, March is just around the bend, and with it, the end of this confusingly enjoyable season. Regardless of how the employment situation turns out, I imagine that it will demand more energy, both on a daily basis and with regard to the overarching learning process. I hope, even so, that I will be able to carry some of this momentum into the coming months, or at least, be able to figure out which parts are important enough to continue and which parts can wait their turn. For now, I'm just going to enjoy my last few days or weeks of freedom.
*Fun fact: this is my 300th post on this blog. Hurray!
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Debtor's Prison in 21st-Century America by Whitney Benns and Blake Strode