Well, I’m back, and astonished to see my last post dated exactly a year ago today. I took a yearlong hiatus to earn some money and find a more secure financial footing in the world, something an avowed mystic must do if she is to keep body and soul bound as one. St.Theresa of Avila called it “peeling potatoes.”
Indeed, after deciding to heal my precarious relationship to money, I registered with my neighborhood temp agency, took the first job offered, and that’s how I came to work in the banking industry. Where else to learn about money than at the bank?
Although I was unclear about the nature of my money ills, a year at the Big Bank clarified my issue. Like a long course of radiation and chemo-therapy, the stultifying routine and dearth of beauty, sweetness and light killed-off my creative urge and left me too exhausted at night to pen blog posts.
I left my job several weeks ago and the charred stubble of my creativity is now happily sprouting new life, for I learned an awful lot this past year that I’d like to share.
The main insight of my 300 days as a temporary worker came on my first day on the job. I arrived at the massive suburban office complex on that dark fall morning only to discover that I would be working in a department called “Subordinations.” The term refers to a legal maneuver that enables borrowers to refinance a first mortgage while leaving their second mortgage in junior position on the deed. Not being familiar with banking jargon, I assumed I was there to get my ego kicked to within an inch of its life.
Bring it on, I prayed, let’s get this over with.
My friend Jane, herself a freelancer, reminded me this morning why I took a job at the wrong end of my pay scale and ostensibly beneath my skill level. As I sat nursing my cup of tea she bemoaned the dearth of decent part time jobs to tide her over the holidays. “Why should I take a job that pays $13 an hour?” she whined.
Having just quit one of those jobs, I had the answer: because it shakes you out of your routine and destroys the sense of entitlement that prevents one from understanding the value of a day’s work.
I’m not saying I liked it. I did not like accounting to someone else for every minute of the day. I resisted following instructions. I rebelled against the rules and regulations that constitute banking “compliance.” I detested the lack of privacy, the fluorescent lights, the vending machines, and being chained to my computer forty hours a week. But it was the slap in the face that I needed.
I did, in fact, come to enjoy the process of getting up every morning, moving in rhythm with the bulk of humanity. I learned to appreciate the small joys, a smile from a coworker, or the discovery of a more efficient route home during rush hour. And it felt so good just to relax and learn, even mundane things like a new computer skill or technique for cutting through HR red tape. I even learned to touch-type, a class I’d eschewed in high school because of the big plans I’d made for myself.
At the bank I made it my mission, each day, to be open to whatever happened. I pumped-up my observer muscles and sharpened my listening tools. I stretched my sense of gratitude all out of proportion and wore it like a comfortable baggy sweater. Soon I had enough cushion in my bank account to call myself a freelancer once again.
But I did not give my notice at the Big Bank until I was ready to approach my chosen career path, not with the idea that I deserve to be paid for what I do, but rather with a sense of awe that when I do what I really love, others value it too.
I realize that I could easily end-up in the temp pool again. And that realization, of the impermanence of everything, including my current employment status, keeps me grateful for the things money can buy as well as the things it can’t.
I’m so happy to be back in the blogosphere…it’s a much lovelier place to be now that I can type!