Thursday, November 21, 2013


Another personal post coming up (book review soon, don't worry!).

Part of my current dissatisfaction (which I'm still happy to blame on grad school) is my adjustment to being a person who sits behind a desk. Four years ago (!) I wrote about being a blue collar worker, and though my current situation isn't just a difference in economics (I make substantially less now), it is a difference in the actual job. In that post, I discussed my inability to wrap my head around what my parents did for a living: they were very successful at their jobs- well-respected and well-liked and well-compensated. At times, they've told me they even liked their jobs (and I'm sure they'll correct me if that's wrong!) But *I never understood it: what does someone in an office do all day? It's like I learned in school about widgets and assembly lines and policemen and firemen and then my brain stopped. People in offices? That's the stuff of New Yorker cartoons! Nothing really happens there, right?

I tried office life a couple of times as a teenager and college student in internship and volunteer work and basically bombed out: I can't sit still and do that officey work too fast, which meant I was a terrible free employee. Copies weren't for me. I was a bad New Yorker cartoon. Then, as detailed throughout themacinator, I found animal welfare. This was perfect: no desk, no sitting, different stuff every day, single serving friends (see: Fight Club), and action all the time. Then I burnt out, quit and found myself with no office-free place to go. What's a girl to do?

Fast forward: after a year and a few months of vacation and being employed by a crazy lady I'm back in a familiar place in an unfamiliar job. I didn't REALLY get away from animal welfare after all. But this time, I'm behind a desk. All day, I sit at a desk. I get up, talk to coworkers that I can't hear when they yell, and move around to make those dreaded copies. Sometimes I get up and go to the bathroom. But my desk is my new spot. And at the end of the day, I'm still not sure what I did all day, much as I wasn't sure what my parents did all day. I know I worked hard and I know that I often don't finish all the things I needed to do, but somehow, like a person who lived before the Industrial Revolution (let alone the advent of desktop computers), I can't wrap my head around the fact that if my hands aren't dirty and my body isn't tired, I can't possibly have completed a day's work.

What is this? Always a fan of Durkheim, maybe it's anomie:
The developments in the division of labor associated with industrialization facilitated anomie. As work became routinized, broken down into dull, repetitive tasks, workers lose the sense of their role in production, and are less committed to the process and the organization. As a result, the norms of the workplace exert less influence on their activity. (see "Durkheim's theory of social class")
Maybe it's something in my personality: I literally need to see the results of my labor. I love a clean kennel after I scrub it, or some one's eyes lighting up when I finish processing their dog adoption. My current job, coordinating the volunteers at an animal rescue, is certainly meaningful, but it's a step removed. I recently hit a milestone- I have two hundred active volunteers- but it's an abstract number. I am happy when I staff a busy event with competent volunteers that I've trained myself and feel rewarded when volunteers fight over positions because they're so enthusiastic. But I am missing the feeling of *doing something. Just with my oath not to go to grad school because I wanted action, this is themacinator, chiming in with her #firstworldproblem of not having to work enough.