Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Luxury of Having No Time

I'm underemployed again. Probably I'm not the only teacher who feels despondent on the last day of class. But for an adjunct, who almost always teaches first-year students, it's especially hard. This is the last day I'll ever see these people, apart from a casual wave or the occasional request for a recommendation letter.

And now I'm facing the great abyss of stuff I was too busy to do all semester. You know, the kind of stuff that has to be done eventually, but gets put off because it's even less fun than grading papers.

I would like to persist in the luxury of having no time. I'd like to be too busy to do things that I know I should, but don't want to. I'd like to be able to hire someone else to clean my house, because I'm so busy working at an important and fulfilling career. I'd like to have an excuse for not coming up with any ideas for dinner, or not having the dishes done by the time everyone else comes home. I'd like to travel to conferences and run right up against the deadlines for preparing my talks, for the adrenalin rush.

But instead, I'm underemployed. I'm the person in my family who has to do all the tasks no one else has time for, and I should do them cheerfully, because, after all, I'm not too busy.

When you are too busy, you don't think of it as a luxury. But try going to any gathering and having someone ask you what you "do" and not having an easy reply. Try working as hard as you can to finish up a complicated and interesting task, and then walking out to the parking lot under a gray November sky, thinking that you may never be asked to do anything like that again.

When you try it, it's like the moment in this poem, Marie Howe's Part of Eve's Discussion:

It was like the moment when a bird decides not to eat
from your hand
and flies, just before it flies, the moment the rivers seem
to still
and stop because a storm is coming, but there is no
storm, as when
a hundred starlings lift and bank together before they
wheel and drop,
very much like the moment, driving on bad ice, when it
occurs to you
your car could spin, just before it slowly begins to spin,
the moment just before you forgot what it was you were
about to say,
it was like that, and after that, it was still like that, only
all the time.

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