Tuesday, she spent the day in a class at work. They pay her to sit all day in a classroom, learning about the sorts of tasks other people do, the sorts of tasks she might do, if she chose to switch roles at work. (They pay her a handsome wage to learn. Not the pitiful wage of a TA, but a real wage. I can't even imagine. I wonder if she has the slightest understanding of just how much I relish that, how envious I am even). The class let out early. According to policy, she bills her hours by percentages, not by hours, to whatever "programs" she's assigned to. 100% of time that day to the class. So... she came home early, with only a slight tinge of guilt over it.
Yesterday, she left for work around 7:30. I spoke with her around 4:30 or so. She said to expect her around 6:00. I watch the boys from 4:00 these days. I normally start cooking dinner when she gets home. 6:15, the boys and I were playing in the backyard, the sky was darkening to evening. The phone rang. My wife. Oh, sorry... I'm just leaving work now. I'll see you in about a half hour?
[SIGH]. It was alright. We were having a good time. I decided to put on a movie for the boys, and get dinner ready: pasta shells with a white clam sauce, fresh salad (with lettuce and arugula from the garden and homemade clover, alfalfa, and fenugreek sprouts).
When she arrived, I noted that perhaps she was not so ready to chuck it all as she might have thought. Good days. Bad days. But what does she want from work, from life? Balance, she suggests: time for being intellectually useful and time for family. A worthy goal. But just what is that balance? And just what is being intellectually useful?
She mentioned surprise a bit at my drive to start a consultancy. But a few weeks ago, you said that all you wanted was for someone to hire you. Indeed. But no one has. I take it as it comes. There are many things I have wanted these past couple years, many things I expected, many I felt I deserved. But they have not come. No one has hired me to teach, or research. No one pays me to learn what might be useful or interesting to me. So, I grasp at the wind, throw my net in the water, turn over the rocks in the field, climb trees and shake the limbs. I wander in search of a home, a home for my intellectual and professional pursuits.
Ah, to be intellectually useful. That
Would have bought this when I met you. Don’t buy it now. You’re not doing this anymore. ... Feels to me like you’re getting pretty damn close if not already doing it. What am I missing?It were quite easy to hold on, to focus on the imbalances, my lacks. It were quite easy to compare myself to others, and wonder why, and how, to feel wounded, and neglected, wasted, unsure. In short, it would be quite easy to sabotage myself. But then... I've got better things to do with my energy and my time. Sure, I feel those things. But just like ideas, feelings are the easy part; it's what we do with them that matters.
The road ahead is not the one I have built; neither was the one behind. But I've left my mark on the past, and will inscribe myself on the future. There are choices we can make, and some options we simply need to accept. I am thankful for the success of those around me, my wife, my friends, whether any of them fully appreciate these successes. I am thankful for having had the opportunity to develop myself as I have, to have learned the things I know, and for the support and strength that others have given me.
This isn't such a bad place to start building tomorrow.