B y L a n c e A r t h u r
There's a saying I try to keep in my head: "It's not my life, it's just my job."
When did my Job become my Career? Where was the line drawn, and when did I cross it?
I have been doing what I am doing for eight years, now. Prior to that, the most that I spent in a single job was three years selling records. I liked that. The manager made that his Career. He got free concert tickets and bottles of booze from record distributers and cool promo albums this was back when music was pressed onto polyvinyl discs with a groove in them and I got to take home posters for the groups and albums I liked.
I could turn up my nose when buyers came to the register and asked for some no-talent jerk-off artist on cassette and play whatever the hell I wanted on the turntable. We had hash brownies at the Christmas Party, got all our music at discounts (sometimes very, very deep discounts) and got paid shit. But I didn't care. It wasn't my Career, it was a Job.
I worked at a movie theatre. I told the lines of ticket holders to get out of the street because if they got hit, our ushers weren't paid enough to come out and hose their bloody remains into the gutter.
I threaded the films into the projectors when United Artists kicked the IATSE out on their old, soft behinds. I ate free popcorn and drank free Coke. I brought in friends to watch unscheduled midnight showings of movies with the Dolby six-track cranked to 12 and all the lights, even those tiny ones along the aisles, were black.
It was my favorite job.
I worked at a TV station. I started by sitting behind the talking head Asian anchor and scrolling her newsfeed on the piece of glass suspended in front of the camera's lens. She would pivot on her extra high seat and yell at me during commercial breaks because she wanted the sentence she was reading to leave the monitor exactly after she spoke it.
I hated her.
Once I managed to keep her yelling all the way through the break and when the camera came back on, people saw a helmet of hair screeching profanities on the nightly news as they feasted on pork chops and creamed corn.
I took the network feed, watching the un-narrated, full-color horrors of the day spill onto a tape I would eject and edit all the good parts from so viewers could watch the beheading over and over and over again. After a while, nothing was shocking and we spent the dull moments making jokes about the latest terrible disaster because it was impossible to remain effected by it.
I worked at a bank. I was a drive-up teller, then I was a "new accounts officer," then I tried to sell mortgages, which was when I discovered after another three years that I really hated banking.
I gave notice, even though I didn't have anywhere else to go.
Then I started a new job. This one.
But it doesn't matter what I do. It doesn't matter what it says I do on my business card, or what people think I do. So many Careers are built merely to keep the big engines rolling. I am not here to change anything.
I am not here to be inventive, or creative, or effective. I exist in this slot because there is a need to answer the phone at this desk, and to print memos off this computer, and to initial departmental distributions. I keep telling myself I will quit. That I am too good for this job, and worth more.
But what I hear from friends in the job market is that there is no job market. I feel stuck. I feel enslaved. I feel useless.
It's not my life, I tell myself. It's just my job.
It's not my life.