Thursday, June 23, 2011

The last of Summer is Delight--/Deterred by Retrospect.

Going from one of the most stressful times in my life (my first year of teaching at LMU and my last year of graduate school) to one of the least (a lazy summer of, so-far, not working) has been a disorienting experience.  At first, after such an exhaustive semester, I was exceedingly grateful for the time off.  It was blissful.  Rhapsodic even.  I cooked and cleaned and wrote and read (for pleasure, which I discovered is still a thing) and got caught up on all of the trashy t.v. shows that my hectic schedule had denied me.  But after about the second week of this so-called “vacation,” I began to feel a familiar stirring within me—the very same one that so often sabotages my leisurely Sunday afternoons, that kept me working long and awkward hours as a waitress during undergrad, and that would have probably made me a terrible 18th century aristocrat (or a modern day Real Housewife of Blank).  I just have this undeniable urge to work, to be productive, to DO something of value.

But to say that I can’t relax is unfair.  I have done it before and had mixed feelings about it. 

And contrary to popular belief, I am not a workaholic.  I don’t know as though I even particularly enjoy working.  I just feel compelled to do it.  I know for certain that I could never be one of those individuals, like small business owners or company executives, who live for their job and sleep cradling their blackberries.  I just wouldn’t be able to make the necessary sacrifices—to miss birthdays and anniversaries and holidays—I would get too resentful.  In fact, early on in my waitressing career, before I had acquired the better sense to request major holidays off, I was scheduled to work on Christmas night.  So, at our family dinner, I was forced to limit my wine in-take (despite my polish grandfather’s peer pressure) and to reluctantly leave my grandparents’ house early to make the cold and lonely trek down the hill to the restaurant.  I also had the added bitterness from missing out on Moses’ birthday celebration (since Moses is a Christmas baby).  As I'm sure you can imagine, I was a total pill that night.  I bitched and moaned the entire time and the other waitstaff (quite understandably) were so annoyed with me that they sent me home early just so they wouldn’t have to listen to me (suckas!).  I knew right then and there that I didn’t have what it takes to be a true workaholic.  Because as hard as I work and as much of myself as I give to any job that I have—which is arguably too much—I am just too much of a brat (or reasonable person?  I can never remember which...) to allow work to infringe on my personal life.

I think that the majority of my working-related neuroses is genetic and am fairly certain that it can be traced along paternal lines.  My father’s parents, in true immigrant fashion, worked unceasingly.  My grandfather held numerous jobs and so did my grandmother, who had the added task of also caring for her two children.  But that's not to say that my maternal grandparents didn't work hard, they did.  My grandfather owned and ran a dairy farm in upstate New York—but my mother’s side is much better at knowing how to relax.  

My maternal grandfather’s daily routine would go something like this: he would wake at dawn, work in the fields and barn all day, come home, eat dinner, and spend the rest of the night lounging in his blue easy chair while watching “Green Acres” (or some such stereotypical 60’s t.v. show).   

My paternal grandfather daily routine was somewhat similar (with a few notable differences): he would wake at dawn, work all day as a butcher, come home, eat dinner, and build a shed (without blue prints or any discernible plan).  Then he would leave to work the night shift as a security guard.

Just for fun, here is a picture of me and my sister with our paternal grandparents

And here I am with my maternal grandparents (and I apologize for my appearance, I was in the midst of my "ugly phase")

I am a bizarre hybrid of my two grandfathers.  I wake not at dawn, but usually around 9ish or so, work all day, come home, make dinner, and feel like I should build a shed but instead, I lounge on our day bed (courtesy of Moses’ lovely aunt Linda) and watch “Green Acres” (while secretly feeling wracked with guilt for not building any sheds).  It’s complicated.

So, as you can see, this whole “taking the summer off” has been a bit of a challenge for me but I am trying to learn to appreciate my abundance of free time.  At least, that’s what my mother keeps encouraging me to do.  In the meantime, I will continue to write this blog, to edit and rewrite old poems I wrote as a teenager, play with my friend Kate’s baby (well, it’s an infant so mostly I just hold him while he sleeps), and cook for people (because I have turned into my polish grandmother).  I’m sure that by the time fall semester rolls around and I begin applying to PhD programs, I will look back on this languid summer fondly.  And in my true deluded fashion, I will have edited out all the boredom and panic attacks and my time draped across our sofa online shopping while a marathon of “America’s Next Top Model" plays in the background, and it will resemble something out of Jane Austen novel.  Minus Willoughby and the ill-fated trip to London.

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