Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Where Do I Go From Here? On Work and Leisure and Life After Grad School

In the latest Slingshot! there is a piece called "Don't Work So Hard - redefining productivity" that really struck a chord with me.

The author basically makes the argument that capitalism structures our ideas of "productivity" and "leisure" and creates a binary system through the concepts of productivity/leisure that shapes the way we experience the world: through productive work and consumptive leisure.  Kermit wants to reject this framework and create their own, or at least "to take apart the tools of the system and use some of the pieces to build new tools for our own autonomous purposes."

In particular, the ending of this piece is what got me wanting to write out my reaction to it:
I want to experience the indulgent pleasure of a vacation and the accomplishment of a productive day at work every day. Rejecting the division between work and leisure necessitates the destruction of both. Work has already taken so much of our time, the projects that interest me are the ones that do not feel like drudgery.
This is largely how I felt about/experienced my work on my thesis (at least the last semester).  One of the things that was so pleasurable about that process was that because I did not have to work another job (and did not have classes to take), all of my time was structured around this one project, and this allowed me to wake up when I wanted, pick the times I wanted to work on it during the day, takes breaks when I wanted, and dedicate time away from it every day.  On the best days it was, for me, precisely what Kermit is talking about here; I experienced a productive days work and the feeling/knowledge of accomplishment that came with it alongside the indulgence of a vacation (sleeping in, organizing my day largely at will, having time to myself, watching television, etc.).  Like Kermit, I found I did need tools likes deadlines and collaborative work to structure my time and "force" me into productivity - tools of capitalism, for certain, but I saw them for what they were and have to acknowledge their necessity (for me).  But this largely WORKED.

Which is probably why, at least in part, it has been hard adjusting to the non-thesis-centered life I'm wading into now.  Job hunting is a whole other can of worms.  "Selling" myself to prospective employers or networking contacts is incredibly distasteful.  Worse, the question of what I "want to DO" has been hard to answer.  I can't help thinking that these things are related to what Kermit is talking about.  If I didn't have to "make a living" what I just did is what I would want to continue to do, while also branching out into projects outside of just writing/critical cultural analysis.  I have been feeling largely "blah" about this whole process, and not driven in general towards some big career, some passion that I absolutely know I want to do.  That's what this project was, and now I continually find myself saying "so now what?"  At the same time I very much want to work, because I want to be able to support (or at least contribute monetarily to) the household and ultimately allow for my husband to go to school as I did; with it being the whole of his "work" for a time.  It is a strange ambivalence, but I think I may be closer to an answer of its cause than I was before; hopefully that will lead me to a plan of action (soon).