To balance the low of my grandfather passing away, February also brought a couple notable highs. The most important thing is that my kid got accepted to her first choice college. She’ll be attending Hunter College, regarded as one of, if not the best public college in New York City. We also learned that she is at the top of her graduating class. Now, because her high school leans a bit on the hippie-dippy “we don’t like labels, man” side, they don’t officially designate a valedictorian, but if they did, it would be her.
It really is amazing how well a naturally smart kid can do in a school that is genuinely invested in helping its students succeed, while having parents who give a damn. That’s not to say that I’ve been a super overbearing tiger mom (though I have jokingly told her “You get below C, I put you below sea”), just that I’ve always encouraged her to take her schoolwork seriously, and to get as much out of her education as she can, as has her father. It was a different experience for me—I was smart, not Doogie Howser, MD smart, but pretty smart, and a classic product of 80s public education, where burned out, Edna Krabappel-esque teachers didn’t give a shit about you unless you were either a genius or practically illiterate. I could count on half a hand the number of teachers who took a genuine interest in me. My sixth grade teacher, knowing full well I was struggling in math, just failed me every marking period rather than offering extra resources, either because they didn’t exist or because she couldn’t be bothered. I ended up having to go to summer school, which is always good for a kid’s ego, and hey, guess what, I still suck at math. After that, I figured that school was bullshit, and that I wasn’t going to do much more than the bare minimum it required to pass. So I didn’t, and neither of my parents noticed. School had not been much of a priority for either of them, and either they didn’t care or didn’t know how to encourage me to do the best I could. Completely different experience for my kid, and lo and behold…
In other positive developments, as of this past Friday I quit my horrible job. Don’t panic, I have a new one, I start it next week. I’ve rarely talked about it, because second to sports I find talking about work the most boring subject imaginable, and think “So what do you do?” should be eliminated as party conversation, but I hated my job. Hated hated hated it, with the fire of 10 million suns. I’ve had some lousy jobs. I refilled the buffet at a Ponderosa. I’ve flipped burgers at McDonald’s. I was a collection agent for a college loan company. These were all a box of delicious candy compared to this job. More than 25 years as a working stiff and never before did I have a job that gave me panic attacks, or caused me to sob with frustration. The weird thing is, it was just a stupid office job, I wasn’t out there curing cancer or rounding up sex offenders or anything important like that. It was just an office job, but one in which I was endlessly overworked, underpaid and with virtually no benefits, in a company run by someone who was both mean and stupid, and blissfully unaware that he was stupid, which made it even worse. Even when I started working from home last year, I dreaded starting the work day. It was constantly on my mind, even when I was able to take time off I couldn’t fully enjoy myself because in the back of my mind there’d be a counter ticking off the minutes until I had to go back.
I’ve actually been writing out a Cracked-like essay about things people don’t tell you about having a lousy job, so I’ll save the rest of what I have to say for that. Suffice to say there’s been a wonderful sense of lightness since I left. Other than volunteering to train one of the two people they had to hire to replace me, I’m done with them, and it feels incredible, I can enjoy my Sunday nights without the shadow of “Oh God, I gotta go back tomorrow” looming over my head. And of course, with that lightness comes a vast improvement in my mood, and with that comes the sudden desire to “MAKE AND WRITE ALL THE THINGS, ” to the point where I don’t actually know where to begin. I don’t mind it, though. If this fills in the spaces stress, anger, and frustration over my old job had once occupied, I’ll happily take it.