So Ru Paul said “You Better Work” and We May or May Not Have Different Definitions of the Word “Work”…

So I’ve been doing ten hour days which rendered me too tired to think.

For the past few days I’ve been doing an advice/consulting thing in the name of ye olde Alma Mater. Meaning I spent ten hours being squished into a booth with ten other people doling out advice about studying to the future of the nation, aka teenagers. I don’t like talking. We’ve established that. But the fact of the matter is, it’s unavoidable in daily life. And people seem to listen to me, because I can make myself sound like I have my shit together. The thing about introversion is you’re not completely unable to function in public. You just don’t like it. I don’t like it. But I think I’m doing a rather okay job.

And I might actually get paid! Is this what working life feels like?

Thing is, my work history is a bit frazzled. Any job I ever had I didn’t have for longer than a couple of months, mostly because I only ever had jobs in one of two categories: bored-out-of-your-skull or drained-of-all-life-force. No in between. And, uh… I actually don’t mind working odd-jobs? Is that weird? Like, I have no problem schlepping boxes for three days, get my money, and move on to sorting through someone’s paper work for a week. It’s no plan for the future, but basically, that’s my work history. The sort-of job I now have, I think it might just be the longest I’ve ever had.

I mean, that might be another consequence of being a socially awkward nutcase: I like the kind of jobs where there’s not chance of getting too close and personal with people.

Also, I may or may not be leading a workshop next month. And I’m on a committee to find ourselves a fresh new professor. I just feel like things are moving, you know?

But back to the advice giving stint. So I repeat the same things over and over again, and it gets really tiresome. I mean, there’s only so many ways to explain the prerequisites, or lack thereof, to people, you know? And then the age old question, the question as old as time, the first question: Doctor who? What do you do with a BA in English? Well, if you’re lucky, you’ll be stood in a booth at an education fair and rattle off the same spiel about your curriculum to eight dozen people a day. Well, I mean… hope you’ll get into some sort of internship, get some sort of job using all your parents’ connections, actually, yeah, looking back taking a language course and studying law or economics would have been the better choice, but…

And now I’m crying, thanks a lot.

No, seriously, if you want to make your life an adventure, choose English. Getting a job will be your adventure. You’ll do battle with uppity bosses, uptight old fossils, rigid administration, you’ll traverse the fields of “not quite enough experience”, climb the mountain of “‘But everyone speaks English already!’ they say as they proceed to write ‘definitely’ as ‘defiently'”, meet the league of evil wizards who will curse you thusly: “‘But you didn’t study translation! We’d rather have someone who studied translation’ as they hire someone who thinks idioms are to be translated literally”. And many, many more!

But I can’t say any of that. Because I’m at work. I have to make this shit look worthwhile. All while feeling like a meandering fool and maybe I should have done something like office administration, which admittedly I would have had to start at age 15 because this is an old-fashioned country…

And those kids make me feel so old. Like, I didn’t know what the hell to do with my life at age 18. I couldn’t even find a successful way to end it. And then there are these bright-eyed young things who look twelve and arrive with their parents, and they ask me to divine their future career. Sorry, kiddo, this is Languages and Literatures, the fortune teller lady is down the hall and to the right.

Dammit, why couldn’t I have been a fortune teller and scam people?

And then of course there were the special cases. The special kind of wack job variety who should burn in the special hell of specialness. Because… oh dear… they are oh so special.

Let me set the scene. Friday, late afternoon. We are already fidgeting in hopes of going home, it’s only an hour until freedom and food and sleep. No one has come up to the booth in at least fifteen minutes. We start to relax. I’m sat out front at the desk together with a colleague from the comparative literatures department.

This fifty-something woman comes up. We do the hello-how-can-we-help-smile-smile-thing. Oh, how can we help indeed. “Well, my son is thirteen and he writes, he’s a great writer, he has always loved to write…”

You know how in movies they do this sound like a tape whirring to a halt, or a needle being taken off a record suddenly? I can hear this in my head right now.

First I think I misheard her. She definitely said seventeen. Maybe sixteen.

Nope. It’s thirteen. The kid is thirteen and loves to write and don’t we have a study program for that?

Lady. This is an education fair for people who are about to finish high school. This is Languages and Literatures. Creative Writing is not part of the menu. And even if it was, your kid is way too young. They’re doing something like that at the art academy, but… your kid is thirteen.

We say something akin to that, albeit a lot friendlier. Lady has that special kind of stare that bores into your soul until it finds the answer it wants to hear. We can’t give her what she wants. Hell, I don’t even know what the hell she wants! For us to pull a writing degree program out of our collective arse? Think we’re hiding the good degree courses in the back of the store?

Thankfully, I am called away to help someone else. Colleague is stuck and I feel sorry for her.

Lady leaves rather disappointed-looking after about, oh, fifteen minutes of back and forth. I mean… your kid is thirteen. He’s currently graduating in Excessive Masturbation. Also, you think his writing is great. He probably thinks so, too. My parents thought my writing was great. Everyone thinks their writing is great at thirteen because we never get any critical opinions. It’s called encouragement and it should die a slow and painful death. Also also, what the hell does your son even write? Is it anything worthwhile, or just erotic Sonic the Hedgehog fanfiction? And just because all the other thirteen year old perverts on fanfiction.net love to jack off to it, doesn’t mean your son’s the next J.K. Rowling.

After we recover from this nightmare, we receive a battalion of people over the weekend who are absolutely convinced that we only offer language courses. No. We don’t. Please don’t get pissed at us, we can direct you to the proper place!

Then there’s those fuckers whose kids are, again, so special the world just bends to their desires, or at least it should. Look here, Mistah and Missus Our-wealth-is-not-blatantly-compensating-for-our-lack-of-personality, there’s no need to look down your noses at us like that. Yeah, like that. You know what I mean. Yeah, that look. The look that says, “Well, if youre doing this, it can’t be that hard”. That fucking look. Well, excuse the hell out of me, guv’nor. I will point and laugh when your kid comes home crying because they failed the intro lectures.

And just like that, it’s Sunday. Last day! We gon’ get that money, money, money aaaaand we have to deal with Snotty McWasteourtime first. Snotty looks like Kylo Ren in blond. Snotty comes up, carrying a brochure for Physics, looks at the title of our booth with a look of pure patronizing judgement, and proceeds towards me: “So, what do you even do in a language degree program?” I rattle off my lines about how we study linguistics, literature, history, cultural studies…. Snotty looks at me like I’m speaking a rare dialect of Tibetan. “But do you study one language?” Depends on the degree, in English yes, it’s only English, but if you study Romance languages you choose one main language… Colleague from Romance languages department pipes up beside me: “For example, you could choose Spanish as your main language and French as your sec…” – “I had Spanish in school,” Snotty says in that tone that heralds to the world his disdain for us and everything we stand for, and also that he thinks we’re idiots to even answer his question. “Okay, great, would you like a brochure for our program?” – “No, I don’t want to study this.” And walks off. Thanks for wasting our time, I guess? Have fun finding a job with a physics degree, it’s not like you’re the next Einstein, you’ll be teaching fourteen-year-olds to build a battery for all eternity! …thus rang my silent curse.

And after all these trials and tribulations I am finally home in my pyjamas, in bed, with my laptop, where I belong, because fuuuuck the public. I’m never leaving this room again. Until tomorrow, anyway, because the next week of “you better wooooork” is about to begin.

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