Thursday, January 19, 2006

Hopeward, Homeward

Today was my first day back to work since the birth of LilyAnne Miranda Sleiman. I had two weeks off, and I cherished them almost as dearly as my new daughter.
Often I drive home from Starbucks in the dark. The night-time streetlights give everything a dingy orange glow. Usually, whenever I leave my coffee shop, I leave in the middle of jokes and laughs--or else busy-ness. Since August of 04, when I began working there, I have not spent more than three days in a row at home. Everything I did in the home was either on the way to work, on the way from work, or between shifts. Life felt disjointed, honestly. I did not know why I was coming home--or where I was headed--just that I needed to be there. I cannot say it was an obligation. But if there is a softer word near to "obligation," I would use it. In short, I felt a connection as strong to my job as I did to my home.
That exalts my job more than it really should. Starbucks is by no means a permenant position. Everyday, my ears prick up at the idea of a different position--either in a law office doing clerical work or pursuing a bank teller job. Further, Starbucks represents the transient role that all jobs have to my life. I am a writer--published even, if you want to know--but I do not have any writing venue that pays or provides insurance like a "real" job. I may not have such a venue anytime soon. That does not mean I consider this barista-ing a career path to pursue. I was someone who, throughout my "formative years," believed a job was not a goal. I moved toward achievements, sure, and I was the boy without ambition. But finding the high-paying job was not among the list of achievements I sought. I looked for the high-satisfaction jobs. Starbucks was that for a time, a time when I lived on the community college campus and wrote for hours in my own workplace. After that, tutoring provided an excellent transition. I met other students, helped friends, and (how I wish everyone could experience this!) walked to work. Satisfaction, again, was high. Then I moved here and, I admit, I chose Starbucks out of fear. A fear of failure, I think. My father (and my mother, though in a different way) impressed on me the great importance of well flowing finances. That was the decision I made in a crunch: Rather than stick to my high-satisfaction principles, I buckled under a bit of pressure and chose the path of least resistence, the path of money.
Then I see my wife's pocket-book. Bless her heart, she doesn't see what a mine of gold she sits on. You must understand, she is an industrious worker with an artist's eye and a lawyer's professionalism. At the same time, she fears a great amount of success (I don't understand it that well.) She has sold scarves and shirts for $78... in the winter, she plays her harp for a hotel and earns in two weeks what I earn in a month. She derives great satisfaction from her work (less so from performing, because of the stress and her back-pain) and earns good money. If she exposed the talents she really enjoys a little more, she would certainly be the breadwinner in the family. And there, in my own home, is an example of someone taking the higher road--and being justly rewarded for it.
This post began with my reflection that I felt a confused sense of connection with my job at Starbucks. That connection, over the course of two weeks and the introduction of a daughter, has lessened, and my connection to my home has increased. When I drove home tonight, I felt as if I could exhale when I entered. I hung my cloak in the closet and sensed an acceptance, that I was home. I felt no equal pull to Starbucks, as if I could enjoy spending free-time there. I felt liberated to be at home. And here comes my point.
I want to be home more. I will willingly sacrifice gobs and gobs of money--"sacrifice" implies a hardship; no, the word is "trade"--trade gobs and gobs of money for time. Isn't that the trade we all want to make on our death-beds? "More time" is what Ebenezer Scrooge begged the Ghost of Christmas Future for, time for Tiny Tim and time for himself. One thing I'm sure the dying never say is "Well, at least I had a real job." (Even as I type, I hold my daughter in my hands and take long five minute breaks to hold her and speak to her. That's priorities.) This is hardly a new concept. Rather, our contemporaries are thinking of ways to use this idea either for financial gain or societal good. I refer to books like "What Color Is Your Parachute?", "Better Off" by Eric Brende, and others that have begun filling our shelves in the past thirty years. The conventions are changing, and we, the growing generation, should embrace what we believe rather than what we fear--or what our parents feared. I want to spend more time in the home, and that will probably mean that I study sewing more industriously. It might also mean that I focus my attention at the E.W.U. Master's program, though I'm not sure yet how that step fits in to all of this. (The vague notion of home-schooling comes to mind.)
The two weeks I was given to be at home with my daughter have in turn given me more than I can imagine: that missing center to my life. Those centers alter our course, dictating our direction. When you learn what those centers of life are, fight to be near them. Otherwise, what value can anything else have?

No comments: