I really never expected to be back at Chaco this summer, and yet somehow here I am, back at Chaco and working again. When I left last summer I was so sick of the place and the job that I was sure I’d never want to go back. I liked the idea of being back in school, without all the troubles of working full-time.
What I’ve realized over the course of the past year, however, is that although in the abstract school seems like it should be a good environment for me, in practice it’s actually not that great overall. Grad school has in fact served largely to remind me of all the things I had almost forgotten about what it was like to be in college. Both the positives and negatives came back with a vengeance. Intellectually it’s fantastic, of course. I do really like the opportunity to learn things and be surrounded by a scholarly atmosphere and all its advantages. Socially, however, it’s problematic, and I’ve begun to realize that being in school tends to lure me into a sense of false security about my social life. I’ve always been very good at school and comfortable in a classroom context, and that has led me to neglect my social life outside of school. It’s find during the week, when I see people in class, but when the weekend comes around I realize that I don’t actually have many opportunities to see people. I’ve tried to be better about this now than I was in college, and I was proud that I went to all the regular social events in the spring semester, but overall I think it’s largely a problem with the intersection of my personality and the school situation that will be very difficult to overcome completely.
I also made a conscious decision early in the school year that I was going to focus on my studies and not worry about girls and stuff. I explicitly decided that I was not looking for romantic opportunities and that I was not going to obsess over finding them. I think that was a good decision overall, and it allowed me to get a lot done with minimal angst, but by the end of the year I was realizing that there were downsides to it. Obsessing about girls had been a big source of stress in my life before, but it had also been a source of hope, and I realized that I was not really willing to give that up entirely. Of course, I came to this realization around the same time that everyone was leaving for the summer, so it didn’t actually help me at all in practice, but it gave me something to think about going forward into the next school year.
Furthermore, the job I finally got working for one of the professors at my school was fine, and I got to do some interesting research work, but it turned out to be more difficult for me than I expected. I could do the work fine, but motivating myself to do it was incredibly hard, and I wasn’t able to put in the number of hours necessary to both make significant money and do my best work. I began to realize that what I really prefer is a much more structured type of work, and ideally the type of job where I had to be at a certain place at a certain time, do something, and go home, with the rest of my time totally free. Having lots of control over my own schedule sounded good, but I realize now that it just meant I would never get anything done unless I had a very firm deadline, and that the rest of the time I would always be stressed out about not getting anything done. In other words, it would be too much like school, with lots of free time that I couldn’t enjoy because I was worrying about getting stuff done.
So by early June I was getting pretty frustrated. Also, my roommate was moving out, so I needed to find a new roommate, which was yet another source of stress, and it took forever for me to get my first paycheck for all the work I had been doing. I was stressed out and running out of money, and getting increasingly frustrated with my life in New Jersey. Then one day it just occurred to me that I probably could still come out to Chaco to work for a few weeks, and that realization somehow made me feel better. That was the kind of job I was realizing I preferred, and it would also earn me much more money than the part-time work I was doing for the professor. I went ahead and did it, despite the many loose ends I ended up having to tie up long-distance, and I think it was the right choice.
I definitely wouldn’t want to do this exact job forever, but I now know that this is much more the kind of job I want than the research work I was doing. There are frustrations, no question, but the advantages outweigh them so far, and I’ll only be here for a few weeks, which hopefully won’t be long enough to get totally burned out on the place again. Then I can go back to school refreshed and ready for a change, rather than frustrated from spending my summer reliving all the least pleasant aspects of school life.
So that’s what’s going on with me, in case anyone was wondering.