8/30/2016

The Grind

Every day is near the same. My dreams keep me in slumber as I visit cities I'll never get to visit in real life because they might not even exist. I'm assigned to accomplish tasks that can never be solved, but I cannot wake quickly because I am driven to do the impossible. Then the liquid of reality pours in and I float up to consciousness.

I move quickly to my computer to begin to do the impossible. Stories must be written. Complexities must be simplified. Corrections must be made. Direction must be given. First, though, I need caffeine ameliorated by the tannins in my cheap black tea with a spot of milk. I like to sit in my front room going through the first set of information about the world.

First question: How badly did I screw up the night before? Did I get something wrong in a story? Did I make anyone angry? Did anyone react to what I wrote the day before, or what my colleagues wrote the day before? I seem to need to do this at home rather than at my office.

Eventually, though, gravity pulls me towards my desk at work, the same place on the downtown mall that I have sat for over six years now, on the second floor of a parking garage with glass on my right and glass behind me. In years past I might have taken the bus to get there, but route changes have severed my personal connections to the transit system. I lament this almost every time I get in my car to drive the mile and a half.

I take the same route every day. I'm stopped at the same traffic lights on an almost routine basis. I get caught at every single one. By the time I get to the garage, I've managed to listen to ten minutes of either soothing jazz or something somber from public radio. And then I drive up the concrete and try to park in roughly the same spot, close to the mallside elevator. If I park anywhere else, I will forget where I was.

I get out of my car, and then walk down the stairs unless I'm lucky and the elevator shows up right in front of me. If I'm carrying more then two bags, I'll stop and hit the button. When I walk down the stairs, I always remark about how many flights I've taken in that staircase over the last six years. The routine adds up to many miles.

I get to my desk and make a silly comment upon arriving to work. I'm usually in well after 9:00 am because I'm almost always going to be at work well past 5:00 pm. My work day doesn't end until well into the evening.

On some days City Space is filled with people who are attending a workshop, a training, a symposium, a retirement, a party. There's always a happening, and I'm always on the margins watching. I sit at my desk and watch people go by as I settle into the work in front of me.

I always do the work in front of me. Sometimes I do more than what's due that day, but I try my best to never break a deadline or to ask for more time. If I am assigned to something, I always aim to deliver on what I have promised I can do. Any less and I would feel a failure. I do what I say I can do and sometimes this pushes me to new heights of productivity.

I write about the public realm in my community as well as the wishes private property owners have for their land. I see all of the forces pulling upon the community in which I have now lived for 14 years. Everything that comes across my eyes is weighed against the format in which I present my stories. I am that rare person who has had the ability to do the same thing for nine years and with each passing day I feel I grow stronger not only in my ability to get the job done, but also to push past my boundaries.

When I get home, eventually, it is almost always to an empty home. In the summer, I have to turn the air conditioning on to wipe away the stuffiness and heat. In the winter, I have learned to live in the relative cold of my house. But either way, I'm always alone. The days of romance are over for me, or at least, the prolonged stasis of independent living increasingly seems permanent.

This is my life. It is a good one. I believe the work I do is valuable and it is backed up by the funding that my organization receives. I am happier than I have been in my entire life. Every second seems to fit into a cohesive whole. There is not much room for creativity outside my work life in part because I have two other jobs I must do in order to make ends meet. Previous life choices have added up, and the bills have come due.

Certainly I am leaving much out of this narrative. I am certain I will repeat this narrative as well, and add to it as it inevitably changes.

There is no negative connotation associated by titling this post "The Grind" as I believe that I am well-suited by the routine that has been carved out over time. Gone are the musings of a depressed man who felt sorry for himself. In its place are writings from a person who realizes that a life of work and duty is a noble cause.

Yet, I am also the sort of person who questions my own usage of the word "noble" to describe my life. This is just my life. As a child I wanted to know why society worked the way it does. From my position now I do not claim to have any of the answers, but I can describe to you the mechanisms that I see.

I write this in the evening. Soon I will try to sleep and the dreams will come. I will go on another trip and I will be in more exciting scenarios than my current life of public meetings allow. I will fly. I will see people I've not seen in years. I will speak with former lovers and apologize. I will try to make amends. I will be human. And then I will wake  up and it all begins anew.


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