Greener Grass?

Which is better, school or work? Perhaps the question should be which is worse. Fittingly enough, after yesterday's post on the social class system, I found myself watching Welcome to the Dollhouse. I had long made the mistake of judging the movie by its cover, and found myself repulsed anytime someone, usually my girlfriend, recommended we see it. Eight years later I've discovered it wasn't anything like what I was expecting, and found it stirred a lot of emotions. The movie so realistically paints the way an outcast is treated by her family, teachers, and classmates, that it hurts. This movie made me sad and it made me angry. It's EXACTLY how I remember junior high, and it made me all the the more happy to have eventually grown up and gotten out in the “real” world. There's a line near the end of the film where her older brother tells her high school is better because people don't call you names to your face. So are kids cruel as the old cliché goes, or are they just honest? People of all ages say and do horrible things to this poor little outcast, and there's no escape.

Earlier today I found myself missing my school years. I didn't know it at the time, but I had less work to do back then. Something I've missed for the past nine years I've been working is having Summers off. Middle school and high school had harsh physical abuse and verbal abuse. In composing yesterday's post I thought of various names I had been called. As far back as elementary school kids were telling me I was “the abortion that came through” and worse. By high school it was only verbal abuse, and nothing harsher than “band troll” or “squeaker”, and the latter faded once my voice finally changed. By college the jokes were more good-natured ribbing between friends. College is a place I could have stayed indefinitely.

Oddly enough, since my workload increased at my job, so too have the number of meetings I'm required to attend. As bad as my workload was before, it was manageable with one meeting every three weeks. I was able to stay at my desk and focus. Meetings tend to drain me, especially afternoon ones. I got back to my desk after 4PM today after a meeting that lasted over two hours, and found I had to talk to a friend about comics, and unwind. When I did sit to get to work I was in a zombie state. I managed to overcome my usual post-meeting feeling of “what do I do first” and simply tackle one thing at a time, trying not to think about the other things until I got there. At one point in the evening, my old cubicle neighbor was passing by and saw I was still working. “What are we doing wrong that everyone else gets to go home at five?” she asked, a valid question. Part of it is focus. I have friends that can continue working and join in jokes and conversation around them. I lack that focus and I'm easily distracted. Yesterday I worked until 7PM because I had spent an hour talking to my friends in the afternoon. This was a problem I had beaten years ago. Teachers consistently had to move my desk so I wouldn't talk and could get my work done. Ultimately, it was truly solved when my parents sent me to a different high school from my friends. I thought I had banished my inner attention deficit demon years ago, but its reared it's ugly head at the worst possible time. Oddly enough I'm happy in those moments of my old self, and it's only when I sit back down at my desk and realize how much I've neglected that I regret it. I've been so tired, lately, so very tired. Is this all there is? Work hard in school, take tests, do three hours of homework a night so you can graduate, never have Summers off again, and sit at a desk for ten hours a day?

I haven't been punched in the stomach in nearly twenty years. No one has tried to shove poison berries down my throat, and while the security guard in my middle school used to tell me, “What do you expect? You were askin' for it.” when bullies broke my toys, the guard at my office smiles and says good morning every day. After school, I could go home and get away from my enemies, but I had a ton of homework. After work, I can go home and not have work to do, and watch DVDs and relax. In high school my day ended before 3PM, not counting after-school activities. On a good day at work I'm done by six, hit the gym for an hour or so, and I'm home by eight. Tonight I got done at 7:30, had no time for gym, drove home in freezing slush despite it being the end of March, and still didn't finish everything I planned to finish, or needed to given the fact that I'm taking Friday off.

Which is better, school or work? Perhaps the question should be which is worse. I honestly don't have an answer, and suspect it might be a case of the grass seeming greener on the other side. When I shovel snow, I long for warmer days. When I'm mowing the lawn, I look forward to the cold weather and the grass not growing. I'd like to think retirement is best, but with retirement comes boredom. Some days my dad will stand at the window, occasionally commenting to my mom that a neighbor got a new car, or that “those darn kids are riding on our sidewalk again!” Other days he'll sit in a chair and stare. He's happiest when we have a musical engagement to attend, or when his friends ask him to fix a car because that way he “won't get rusty sitting around doing nothing.” Besides liking art, I picked a field that wasn't as physical so I could keep working past 65. I also had this ideal dream of being a cartoonist stay-at-home dad like Ted Knight on Too Close For Comfort. Life rarely works out the way we want it to, or think it will. Good times don't last. Neither do bad ones, thankfully. Ultimately, all we can do is make the best of the cards we were dealt and learn to roll with the punches, and just keep moving.


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