A friend asked me how my “work downsizing” project was going and I reflected that it’s going pretty well. I looked at my calendar from last semester and realized I was working more, enjoying it less and not doing the sorts of work I wanted to be doing because I felt like I was so busy doing the work I should be doing. That had to change. It mostly did.
I kept most of my travelling work because I enjoy that a great deal, but I set things up so that I’m not coming back from a long trip just to go back to work the next day. I’m also not on call for as much tech support. I also say “no” more often. So I travel a few times a month, alternating between local and farther away. I charge more so I get paid better when I do travel and if the trip is a total nightmare (happens less and less often, but travel is always uncertain) I at least feel well-compensated. I trimmed down my drop-in and teaching days to one a week. Seems like almost none but teaching adult learners is a lot of work and this way drop-in time is full, rarely empty. I’m also a real librarian, sort of.
I’m helping a local library automate their collection of about 8000 books. I’m also doing their website and maintaining their computers. I have a job with librarian in the title but I’m not working with patrons, unless they bring their laptops in. I do that one day a week, sometimes a little more at home.
This month is vacation for a lot of the local students so I’m also lifeguarding at the pool. It’s just barely work to sit in an 85 degree room in the sunshine for a few hours but they do pay me. Add to this that my apartment is pretty much set up the way I like it — so I’m not endlessly re-arranging and can just sit and BE here — and I’ve actually got travel for fun scheduled during the holidaytimes when travel for work drops off.
Though I haven’t mentioned it much here lately, the treehouse has a guestroom, or a guest closet, and another spare bed. People cruising through Vermont won’t get quite the same palatial digs they may have gotten used to over the past five years, but this place also comes with no early risers and a barely used Bananagrams game. I’m expecting the WinterWonderland snowdump any minute now — had a little preview on Sunday as I was coming home — otherwise see you in the Springtime!
The maxim of the week is “How come every time I want to just run away and hide out from everything, it’s at precisely the time I can’t actually DO that?” A question which helpfully, now that I’m an adult, answers itself. I feel incredibly fortunate that this year I’ve got most of my holidaytimes planned out in advance; everything else is details.
So, I go to the pool and walk in the deep wet snow and try to eat decently and wait for springtime (or enough snow to go decently snowshoeing in) and realize that everyone else in my local community is doing pretty much the same thing, and to go easy on them. Today was the first day I had really bad roads to drive on and I reminded myself, like I do every year, that I live here on purpose and if I don’t like it, I can leave. I’ve reupped for another year or a few. Bring it on, winter. Please be somewhat lovely. I’ll be here all year.
I decided to get a post office box again even though I don’t need one because I do enough workish-stuff through the mail that having a non-home place to get mail seems like a good idea. In the post-9/11 world, you need to prove what your home address is to get a PO box. Since I got the PO box before I moved, and I can’t get mail delivered to my house in Bethel, I had to get a note from Ola saying that I live here. Ola thought this was amusing and scrawled me a note in pencil. The post office found this amusing but what could they do, say “go back and have her type this”?
My new mailing address has a nice sort of number pattern to it. Box 345, Randolph VT 05060. The box has a combination (letters instead of numbers) so I don’t need to carry a key around with me. Today is moving day.
I saw this as I was out lunching near Harvard Square yesterday. A quick Google showed me that there’s a pretty interesting story behind this pretty interesting photo of what it turns out are the Danilov Monastery bells being repatriated to Russia.
And yeah obligatory talk about moving and recitation of where I’m going and where I’ve been. I’m in Somerville at Kate’s place. I came down to do some helper-monkey work cleaning out some rooms full of stuff here, see my Mom, see my fella and give Ola some alone-time at home to do whatever she feels like doing there. It’s hot here. Kate and I put an air conditioner in the guest room. It’s the first time I’ve ever put in a window-mounted air conditioner in my life. It was scary. Scary but successful. Now I’m hanging out until my librarian Skype conference call — I’m on the usability committee for an open source library catalog project going on in Vermont, good works — and then I’ve got a good book for the bus back.
I’m thinking about my things. Since I happily spend maybe a fifth of my life lately away from “home” (and one third of my life asleep no matter where I am) the idea of what things I need to be functional and happy has shifted dramatically. That said, I’m sentimental and like having boxes of old letters and keepsakes around me. So, thinking about moving in to a new place, where I can arrange all the stuff and where I have to carry all my things up a long flight of stairs (or get someone to do it for me) has been a reflective time. I enjoyed this book review at Kevin Kelly’s site of the book It’s All Too Much which takes a step beyond just helping you declutter and organize and actually talks about quality of life issues and maintaining them with fewer things. Kevin quotes the intro by Merlin Mann, humorist pundit to techie people roughly my age, which has the little points that I’m taking away.
The biggest change in attitude this book made in my life was to teach me not to generate false relevance by “organizing” stuff I don’t want or will never need. Organization is what you do to stuff that you need, want, or love – it’s not what you do to get useless stuff out of sight or to manufacture makebelieve meaning. For me, this is about the opposite of organizing; it means disinterring every sarcophagus of crap in my house and, item by item, evaluating whether it’s making my family’s life better today. And if some heirloom really is precious to me, can I find a better home for it than a shelf in the back of my garage?
The guideline I always heard for whether to keep or toss old clothes was whether you loved it, wore it or it looked awesome on you. If any of those things were true, keep it. I generally don’t have a lot of trouble with “make believe meaning” wrapped up in my things but I may have a bit of a fetish problem with books and possibly t-shirts. And there’s my coin collection which I enjoy but rarely play with. It’s heavy.
I enjoyed cleaning up Kate’s crazy full-of-junk room upstairs. It was two hours of my life that saved her multiple hours of worrying/thinking/stressing about not doing it. Time well spent. If I was considering a career change I’d dredge out people’s shamehole rooms for a living. You can wear whatever you want, listen to your favorite music and people are always incredibly grateful for something that doesn’t seem at all like work to me. Coming home to a place that doesn’t itself seem like a decluttering project in process (soon, soon) is my goal for the next three-ish weeks.
Downside: I work on Sunday.
I went to Wisconsin. I stayed in the perfect B&B. I gave a good talk. I read a good book. I ate orange cheese. I had no idea that Western Wisconsin looked so much like Vermont, except for the cheese, of course. I had good bus karma; my flight arrived in Logan early and I caught the bus I was going to just barely miss. I got back almost before dark. I slept.
I am formulating a plan for dealing with the front yard. I’d like to just mow it with the push mower, but when I try to do that one of my neighbors will invariably hassle me to use their mower and then watch me (clumsily, ineptly) do it. Maybe I’ll sneak out at night with nail scissors. If it were up to me I’d just let the damned thing grow.
You might enjoy this story, explained by my friend Anil, about how a silly online contest and a casual comment about pubic hair turned into a Vermont school project owl pellet wish list fulfillment. And yes, I had something to do with it. I’d write more but I’ve got to go out and rake now that the iceberg is gone before the leaves start to fall. The window is so tiny.
Follow-up: everyone gets thanked on Donors Choose. Here was my thank you.
I cannot even begin to express the thanks that I have, as well as my students, in hearing that our project was funded. Although we are surrounded by some of the most beautiful woodlands, it is not so easy to find food chains and food webs in action at this time of the year. Your funding will keep the love of science alive in both the girls and the boys and hopefully will continue to grow the awareness that is needed to keep our Green Mountains healthy, as well as our many other biomes on this Earth. Thank you for your donations!