Better Boundaries

One of the things I have encountered while trying to write full time is how much it just looks to other people like you are screwing around.

Yes, there is some screwing around to be expected, but a lot of what you don’t see is mapping out your thoughts, drawing in information, and trying to get to a state of equilibrium where the outside distractions are at a minimum and your work can begin.

I was talking with a friend last night who was in the middle of helping out a friend with some divorce drama. She had work of her own to do, but being a good friend, she took the time to work things out with her friend who was struggling. After a few hours of this, the end of the evening was closing in and she still hadn’t written her paper. The friend was fine, she probably would have been fine, but for my friend, there was still a paper to be written, an impending deadline, and now a whole bucketload of frustration and exhaustion.

Yesterday was a lot like that for me too. I started off the day after a rough night with the dog wanting to go out at 7:30am. We headed out into the snow, where she took care of business, and then we ran into my dad, who always wants a conversation. I am not much of a morning person. Unlike a retired man who begins every day at 5am and always has some kind of project to fiddle with, my brain refuses to engage until around 10. The reason for this is I often work until 2am. That is when the house is quiet, no kids are throwing Star Wars trivia at me, and nobody has to use my computer for endless busywork projects their online school throws at them throughout the day. Even the dog chills out from her need to be petted, a toy thrown, or let out.

My dad likes to visit. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just I have a finite number of things I have to say in a day, and trying to fill out the early morning pre-coffee with conversation is really pulling the rope a long way in a dry well. So, my day started with guilt.

Are we going to fix the heater in your car today?

No. I hadn’t been planning on it.

Oh. Gonna write some blogs today then?

Fuck. I was. Now that I’ve been guilted about it, I think I’ll do a couple loads of laundry, and about a hundred thousand other things that aren’t writing. Maybe feel like I’m not doing enough to satisfy the production level which is expected of me by my family.

A buddy of mine once told me when I was struggling with some writer’s block and I couldn’t stay off social media, “Avoid garbage words in the morning.” he said.

The old legend of Samuel Taylor Coleridge who sat down to pen Kublai Khan and how he was interrupted by the Person from Porlock and most of the great bits of the epic poem evaporated from his head is something that happens almost daily for me. When I have to struggle to talk to people in the morning and force some semblance of conversation, which usually ends in some sort of criticism, I’m not happy. Between my recent daily emails of how I am lacking as a human being from my ex-wife and my dad’s critivisits, it’s a wonder I get anything done.

Sometimes I just don’t want to talk to anybody! Much less someone whose negativity I have to match to make a connection.

The hardest thing about the creative process, whether it is painting, poetry, art, writing, singing, songwriting, broadcasting, etc. is convincing people who don’t have to come up with shit from thin air that you are actually being productive. The same goes for writing papers, writing copy for companies, studying, etc. It’s work. It requires concentration. If roles were reversed, could they just sit down and put their thoughts into some kind of media? Those who can do it well make it look easy. It doesn’t mean that it is. It doesn’t mean that we don’t agonize over details to get them just right, so that a reader can just breeze through it and not appreciate the artistry that went into it.

Think of a cabinet. Somebody planned that, measured the wood, cut it to specifications, planed it, assembled it, stained and finished it, and all the rest. And you just stick your coffee mugs inside of it. Do you ever think for a moment the work and effort it takes to put something together like this? No! Because it is so basic and utilitarian you aren’t meant to throw yourselves at its feet and worship it for the art that it is! It doesn’t mean that passion and thought didn’t go into it. It doesn’t mean that they didn’t step back when it was done and say “I hope somebody really enjoys this.”

We all consume. We all just carry on. To the next one. And the next. And so on.

Stop it.

If you don’t make better boundries, people will come in to your life and grab everything they can carry off. If they get mad about the boundaries, then those boundaries were made exactly for that person. Boundaries filter out the people who just take and never give back. Feel about as guilty at the outrage they exude as you would someone flipping you off in traffic. It’s a meaningless gesture. If what you are doing has meaning. If you are chasing your dream or following a plan to achieve a goal, then keep moving forward. Put up those boundaries and do it without remorse.

Because when your energy is spent, they just go home with a full tank and a comfy bed, and you are the one questioning your life choices at 11:40pm. They won’t feel ANY guilt about it. They won’t be the ones without shit written, a late paper, another sleepless night, a sense of failure, and the whole thing to try to avoid again tomorrow.

We don’t get an unlimited number of tomorrows.

I read the news today…oh boy.

So, the Big Secret was finally revealed to us this afternoon at work.  Still no details as to who would be affected, suffice to say, it will be…everyone. Brace yourself. Layoffs are coming.

Basically, they will be laying all of us off.  All 16 of us admins (who work in the College of Ed.) and making us apply for just about 4-6 positions.  The gist of the four main positions are pretty much anything except what I do, except for fixing the website every once in a while.

So I’m venting.

So, facing the upcoming months will suck.  Mostly because of our lovely family law system, I can expect to not have a job for an indefinite period of time, but it will take several weeks, if not months to adjust child support. Maybe I’ll go to jail?

Also, we still do not have a timeline on when this will happen.  It will be as early as a few weeks from now, or as late as May 15.

So I’ve got that going for me.  Which is nice.

In spite of the plans and thoughts I have on the matter, as far as how to move ahead and seize opportunity instead of letting this university drag me to the bottom of the abyss with it like it has been trying to do for pretty much the last several years…those will come later.  I am optimistic.

That being said, I will disclose what we know about the University.  It is failing.  Each year, for the last 8 years, they have been overspending to the tune of about $8-10 MILLION dollars. That was back when they had $80million in reserve.

And right now, we have about 100 days of money left if everything were to just stop.  Considering projected tuition and funds for each year, we have maybe 3 years of operation before university financial reserves reach zero.  Since they said the same thing two years ago, I think that might be a generous estimate.

Upper administrators’ salaries have increased, and really other than going to meetings a lot, not many people here even know what they really do.  They go to lunches and conferences…a lot. They make six figure incomes, get bonuses, and this will not affect them.  They are also the people who put us in this mess as they rode the proverbial bomb down, yelling like Slim Pickens.

Anyway, this seems to be the trend. After 18 years here, I have learned how the sausage is made and I’m ready to try the employment version of Vegan now thankyouverymuch.

Higher Education is the second biggest ponzi scheme in our country.

The first being Social Security. Selling vitamins is third.

The vast majority of people who go through the Academy do so with degrees such as English, History, Psychology, Business, Philisophy, Liberal Arts, Art History, etc. etc. The only way these are really viable for most graduates is if they continue with their education to Post-Graduate degrees. Then they can teach other suckers who have come to the workforce, because everyone (mainly educators…i.e. High School Guidance Counselors) told high school students for GENERATIONS that the best way to make money in the USA is by going to college and getting a degree.

If you went into the military, trades, or other vocations, you were considered lower class and immediately voted least likely to succeed. You were called a loser. Some jaggoff who never left their home town. There is a stigma. Unlike the noble creature, the Guidance Counselor, who went to college and has either an MA or a ED.D.

I went to college to learn how to become a writer. College did not prepare me for that, other than the sheer number of papers being an English major and History minor required me to write. And out of 120 credit hours of an English degree, over half of those were Core Curriculum classes I needed to graduate regardless of my major. I took maybe 30 credit hours of literature classes. A math class, some history classes, and some art classes.

College didn’t make me a writer. Writing made me a writer. College gave me a delusion of grandeur that I was a competent writer. I wasn’t.

But, consider this too, that is typical. Unless you are going to a trade school, getting a teaching license, or other professional degree like doctor, lawyer, nurse, veterinarian, etc. you probably won’t be receiving any practical training anyway, other than preparation for the next higher level of education. Otherwise, you have a neat piece of paper to hang on your wall, plenty of stories about getting shitfaced at parties, and massive amounts of student loan debt. But no actual job in your chosen field.

Those frat parties I made fun of are your best ticket to getting a job after college. Why? Because when you hold someone’s head when they are puking their guts all over a bucket, and their dad runs a giant company that is hiring, you might just get a job offer.

Otherwise, don’t hold your breath. You’ve been duped by the Higher Education System. You can work your way through it to become a full prof and work three days a week, nine months out of the year. Or you can apply your talents to being a lamprey who attaches itself to sharks navigating these dark waters of Academia. Eating the scraps from the money left over after administrative feeding frenzies.

The best way through this life is knowing that being rich has nothing to do with money.