“If you must have motivation, think of your paycheck on Friday.” Noel Coward said that.
I’m lucky I suppose. It was never my paycheck that inspired me to go to work; most of the time I found great satisfaction in what I was doing (although of course the paycheck had to be there when all was said and done), always in a creative arena or offering small supports for lives in trouble. Now in the new-normal of today, I continue with great good luck to work at North Fourth Art Center, a place/organization combining my two interests, art and social work. In the past that meant the KiMo Theater, Global DanceFest and the Day Arts School for individuals with developmental/intellectual disabilities. Interesting, exhilarating, worthwhile. But that was then…the challenge for front-line workers in the arts and social justice arenas to make any difference at all has increased exponentially with the disruptions of covid spread, climate change, and cult-building. Makes me want to wear a t-shirt urging ‘Creative do-gooders of the world…Unite!’
Today I just want to say a good thing and a bad thing…it has been a pleasure to return to our familiar warm and colorful Center with a few creative colleagues to see what we can make of this unpredictable new-normal. We have a substantial federal grant, bright and connected young people, a host of workable ideas, and multiple years of experience. What could go wrong? (Well. Actually there could be multiple years and layers of pandemic-time and drought and fires and floods and our very own home-grown rampaging terrorists and an increase in Republicans and Jeff Bezos could kidnap the best among us for his Mars colony where he intends to wait out the apocalypse.) Anyway I’ll be retired by then.
In a year or two or three, I’ll have all the time in the world for writing, reading, blogging, ranting, poem-making, class-taking…I could even reinvent letter-writing. I can volunteer as a reader or visitor for old-elderly (I’m young-elderly). I can drive refugees to appointments. I can dish out soup at a homeless shelter. I’ve been doing all of the above now and then over the years, but work (as in paid work) has often interfered. But I worry about not working. How will I know who I am? I honestly don’t think I’m a good enough human being to be a Jimmy Carter-brand retiree.
Or will I play out a me-first scenario. I made a vow a few years ago to order all of the books I wanted while still employed. I have been true to that vow. But there are impediments to consider in this plan too. For example: what if my eyes weaken when I have time to finally read each and everyone of those books? If I were the kind of person that prayed to a magic being I would request that my eyesight remain excellent until the minute I die (in lieu of supernatural intervention I’m using a good brand of eye drops and crossing my fingers). Then there’s streaming but I’ve pretty much watched everything on Acorn and there’s only so much one can stomach on Netflix and its tens of rivals, all with hundreds of mostly uninteresting shows. Not all bad though…with endless scanning the choices and time on my hands I’ll find the gems out there in the netherworlds of Amazon, Hulu and on and on. And there’s always the Great British Bake-Off to be watched over and over and over when all else fails.
Maybe I’ll find the perfect balance; I’ll write and read and stream and do the occasional good deed and cook an egg or dust a shelf occasionally, and my time will be filled. Right? The golden years all burnished and valuable.
Until then I guess I’ll get up and go to work.
Yonder See the Morning Yonder see the morning blink: The sun is up, and up must I, To wash and dress and eat and drink And look at things and talk and think And work, and God knows why. Oh often have I washed and dressed And what's to show for all my pain? Let me lie abed and rest: Ten thousand times I've done my best And all's to do again. A.E. Housman