Thursday, December 15, 2011
But boy-o-boy, I wanted that bike.
So I picked up trash on our block, eventually earned the thirty bucks, bought the bike, and learned to ride it on the asphalt of the schoolyard up the street: Bryn Mawr Elementary (now the Bouchet Academy), the same school Michelle Robinson would enter as a kindergartener a year or three later, by which time my bike and I had moved on. Young Michelle's future husband, now the POtUS, was living in Jakarta at the time.
I did a fair bit of freelancing work between the third and ninth grades -- lemonade stands, selling greeting cards, mowing lawns, shoveling snow, baking dessert breads with my friend Henry and selling them to moms in our neighborhood, babysitting.
Then I got on a payroll. One payroll after another. McDonalds, Long's Drugs, miscellaneous lab assistant gigs, delivering flowers, loading lunch trucks, hauling obsolete machinery to a storage facility, wiring circuit boards, managing procurement for a tech startup.
Then I went freelance again: writing end-user manuals for software companies, programming, data-entry or temporary secretarial gigs when better-paying work dried up. When I got tired of looking for the next job with all that delicious "spare time" that was supposed to come with being your own boss I tried my hand as a cook.
And then I signed on as an employee at UC Berkeley, where I've been for ... a long time. Mostly in some job title or other that boils down to "professional geek." I'm billed as an "IT Architect" these days, and have trouble explaining exactly what that means, especially to people who don't work in software development. What I can tell you is that the title is less important than it might sound. And the truth is, most days I'd rather write fiction. (It's okay if my colleagues read this confession. My ambitions as a novelist are common knowledge at the office.)
Sometimes working as a professional geek seems ... complicated. The job claims a lot of mindshare, and not just during regular hours. The work involves a lot of lying awake at night, worrying. Every few months I toy with the idea of changing careers again. Mostly this sort of musing is make-believe, which is especially obvious when I fantasize about becoming a barista.
Yup. An espresso jerk.
In some moods, I'm really drawn to the idea of making a living at something that doesn't require deep intellectual engagement. My theory is that with a lighter-weight job I could save deep intellectual engagement for something in which I'm eager to engage, deeply.
I thought about it. About the sign, not about reading backward. And about asking the guy whether they were looking for somebody full- or part-time. About asking what the gig would pay.
In the end I didn't ask. See? Make-believe.
Maybe next year.
What would you do for a living if you could do something other than you're doing now?