More Work Anecdotes

A man came into the farm market today with his little son in tow. The kid was maybe three years old, happily romping around the store examining everything and smiling at the cashiers, and his dad spent the whole time scolding him: “Don’t touch that, put that down, come over here right now and stand next to me, I’ve had about enough of you for today.” After they left I said to Suzie, “I felt bad for that little kid; his dad just kept yelling at him.”

Later on, during the last hour of my shift when I was the only cashier, another father came in with a girl who was around nine and a boy who was maybe six. He looked like he was in his late twenties or early thirties, and he was wearing a Charlie Brown Christmas t-shirt.
“Nice t-shirt,” I said. “I like that movie.”
“Ha ha, thanks… I figure Christmas is good any time of the year. ______ got this for me, didn’t you?” He looked down at the little girl, who nodded. I saw he was buying a whole bunch of corn.
“How many ears do you have?” I asked.
“Two.” I looked up and grinned. “But really seven.”
“I’m always hoping somebody’ll take me up on that.”
“If you like that joke,” he said, “you might appreciate this story. When I was about your age I worked in a meat market—a little local place, a lot like this. I was at the chicken counter when a woman came up and asked for three legs, and I said ‘Won’t that make it hard to find pants?’ She didn’t get it at all.” I laughed appreciatively as I finished ringing him up. On his way out of the store he let his kids help carry the bags and talked with them the whole way.


Optimism’s a Bitch

Aside from a brief flirtation back in high school, optimism and I have never been good friends. This isn’t to say that I’m a total cynic, or an emo kid, but I don’t look on the bright side of everything either. It just doesn’t appeal to me as a way to live. They say that pessimists are never disappointed…but if life sucks, then who cares? I see optimists as constantly setting themselves up for disappointment, which they then try to brush aside as soon as it appears. To me, neither of these seems like a terribly fulfilling way to go through life.

I consider myself to be a idealist, albeit a frustrated one. Is this more fulfilling than optimism and pessimism? …Probably not. The upside of idealism is the belief that a better world is possible. The downside of idealism is the acute awareness of the disparity between that world and the world we live in. It sucks if I focus on that part, but I think the way to make it work is to focus on the process of working toward that vision of a better existence…

In summary,

Pessimism: “Life sucks.”

Optimism: “Life’s pretty okay, and it’s going to get better… eventually.”

Idealism: “Life’s not that great—it could be so much better than this.” Or: “Life might not be perfect, but we can work to make it better than this.”

Worrying & Rationalizing

I got a list of my roommates’ contact information in the mail today along with a pre-orientation information packet…and all of a sudden all of this is starting to seem real. The fact that I got in at the last minute is good for me to some extent, I think, because I tend to have more enthusiasm for things I do spontaneously; but at the same time, I’m not sure how much it’s sunk in yet that I’m really leaving. That’s the way these things tend to go for me, like leaving for college and for Spain—it’s all theoretical until maybe the day before I have to go, when it finally hits me and I have to deal with it all at once. I’m not ready to leave. Hell, I’m still not ready to graduate college… But I’ve graduated whether I like it or not, and it’s time to get out and do something with myself. Because I can’t live how I want to live until I become who I want to be, and in order to do that I need to go out and have some experiences and take some risks and gain some insight. (And possibly stop being stupid…ha.)

A Long-Term To-Do List

Since I want to get the most I can out of this coming year, I thought it might be helpful to make a list of “goals” for myself in addition to the values the JVC promotes (which are community, spirituality, social justice, and simple living). I’m going to be working on those things by default, so these are some more things that I’d like to work on in the coming year.

  • Time usage. This summer, and throughout college on the whole, I have spent way, way, way too much time on the internet. When I’m bored, I go online. When I’m lonely, I go online. When I have a question or a problem, I look for the answer online… This wouldn’t be a bad thing if I didn’t do it to the detriment of other things in my life, but I can confidently say that most of the time I’ve spent online this summer could have been better spent reading, writing, biking, swimming, leading silly protests, or just lying on my back in the grass staring up at the sky. There are about fifty billion things I would like to do in life that I haven’t done yet, and staring at the computer screen for hours every night is not getting me anywhere.

    Therefore, my plan is not to allow myself internet access in the apartment. I’ll have the internet at work, and if I need it any more than that I can always go to the library. Essentially this goal is to spend more time doing things I want to do, and less time killing time. I’m hoping that this might spark some more motivation and creativity in me, since I’m afraid those things have been dwindling in recent years…

  • Living in the present. This is huge. I have been struggling to do this for years now, and I only achieve it in fleeting moments. I feel like I’m never completely present where I am because my thoughts are always elsewhere, and that bothers me a lot. I want to be able to experience life more fully and to feel alive all the time, instead of just on rare occasions. The thing I’m most afraid of is wasting my life, and it’s pretty easy to do that by living in the past. This is a major problem for me, since I seem to be abnormally susceptible to nostalgia: in other words, I miss EVERYTHING. It’s ridiculous. I miss things I didn’t even enjoy in the first place, just because they’re gone and will never come again. Nothing ever happens again, though, unless you can invent a time machine—each moment vanishes as soon as it’s born. I either forget to appreciate things by unthinkingly operating under the assumption that they can always happen again, or I manage to impress the transient nature of everything upon myself so thoroughly that I become absolutely terrified of messing up or missing out and therefore can’t bring myself to do anything at all.

    So this year, I want to live in the present as much as I can. I want to keep myself focused on where I am and what I’m doing so that I can experience everything more fully, and so that I can slow time down a little and keep my life from slipping away from me. I’m going to have to make sure I don’t get too caught up in missing—of course I’ll miss everyone, but I can’t dwell on it to the point of moping around thinking about what they’re all doing without me and forgetting to enjoy where I am. Of course I’m probably going to feel that way sometimes, but I don’t want to let it become my general state of being.

  • Other things. I’d like to gain confidence and perspective, and I’d like to learn to cope more effectively with my crazy mood swings. I want to learn to function in the world as an adult.

I may or may not actually make a lot of progress on these, but the idea is more direction than perfection. (The rhyming there was not entirely intentional…) And if I do lose sight of these things, don’t hold it against me, eh? I reserve the right to mess things up.

Work Anecdotes

One of the consequences of working at a farm market is that I get a lot of fruit- and vegetable-themed songs stuck in my head during the day. During strawberry season it alternated between “Strawberry Fields” and “Strawberry Swing.” This week was the start of homegrown peaches, so I’ve been standing there thinking, “Movin’ to the country…”

This morning a 14(?)-year-old girl with a Questionable Content t-shirt came to my register. “Nice shirt,” I said.
“Thanks! It’s from a comic.”
“I know, I read it.”
“Oh my god! Isn’t it great?!”
“Yeah, it’s a good comic.”
“I think Sven is hilarious!”
And she got really excited and started telling me about how she’s trying to collect all of the t-shirts, and then she ran and told her parents that I read her comic too. It was cute, but somehow I never pictured 14-year-olds reading it—although I guess it’s not that surprising. [Side note: See how the dialogue is single-spaced? I used HTML to do that! Me! Coding! :D ]

And it rained, this morning, while I was working. It was one of those spectacular downpours where the sky just opens up and soaks everything in sight, and every street becomes a small river, and the sound of the rain hitting the roof is so loud you have to shout to be heard. I walked over to the open door and stepped outside in it, but only for about three seconds, since I don’t need my boss to think I’m too crazy… I’d have loved to take off and run til I was drenched.

Interview Number Two

Nira from the agency in San Francisco called and left a message while I was a work today, and I called her back as soon as I got home. She wanted to schedule a phone interview for sometime tomorrow, but she was only free when I was at work, so she asked if I had time to do the interview right then. It hardly felt like an interview at all—she was really friendly and we just talked about the job and some of the things on my resume. After that she put me through to Kate, who is the current Jesuit Volunteer working in the position I was interviewing for, so that I could talk to her and ask her whatever questions I had. She was very friendly as well, and overall I just got a great feeling from this place.

Right now I’ve been “conditionally accepted” to the JVC, which means that although I’m accepted to the program I still need to be accepted by the specific placement. So far it looks promising. I have to call Cedar back tomorrow and tell her whether I want to work for the agency, and the agency will call her and tell her if they want me, and then it will be settled, as long as I didn’t somehow mysteriously mess something up. I would be working in an office 9-5:30, five days a week, so it would be like having my first regular job. I would be responsible for doing client intake interviews and going to the legal clinic on Tuesday evenings, as well as contacting attorneys and working to spread the word in the community about the services of this organization, and I would be using my Spanish a lot.

The living arrangement is a 4-bedroom apartment with a kitchen and living space, in what Kate described as one of the nicer-looking apartment buildings in the city. She said that I would probably be living with 6 other people, and therefore probably sharing a room, which is alright with me. There is internet available there if I want to pay for it, but I would have computer access at work too. She also said that there’s always a lot going on for free in San Francisco and that she tried to compile a list of these things for future volunteers. …And she gave me a lot of other details that are good for me to know but would probably bore you.

Sooo… yeah. I’m actually kind of excited. San Francisco! I’ve never been there! And it’s warm! And I potentially have something of value to do with myself for the next year of my life. It’s kind of scary too, but it’s not that scary… To me, moving to a new city to start a new job on my own without this program would be a lot scarier, as would going to Spain on my own to teach English. This way I have people to live with who are in a similar situation, and I have this whole program behind me for support. They’ve basically even budgeted everything for me: I get $75 a month for food and $85 a month to do with as I choose (which I imagine would largely go toward transportation and doing things around the city—and no, it’s not much, but that’s a part of the JVC value of Simple Living), and my placement would cover my transportation to and from work as well as my health insurance. I would meet all of the Southwest Jesuit Volunteers during orientation in San Jose, which is August 9-14, and they would get us together for (I think) 4 retreats during the course of the year. So it seems really well organized, which I like.

So I’ll let you know when I find out whether I’ve gotten in or not! And then I can start stressing out, either way.

And in case all of that detail hasn’t bored you to death yet and you want to know more about the program itself, this site is a good place to start.