Saturday, September 10, 2005

Oh, Oh Pressure!

It’s a matter of concern to me that I haven’t posted here in a week. Starting a blog was, for me, a commitment to writing regularly, to doing something substantial with the over-production of thoughts during this period of under-employment. Even if no one else had expectations of me in this forum—I may have no readers—I was determined that the public nature of the blog would exert a disciplinary force upon the structure of my daily life. I’d accepted that I wouldn’t post anything on Mondays or Tuesdays; these are the days I tutor in film and television. Those two days were to be the blog weekend. What I didn’t count on was the extent to which I would become at one with under-employment.

Initially, I panicked about the lack of job offers this semester. While five tutorials would normally be too much work while completing a research higher degree and receiving scholarship money, with no other source of income, it is lamentably little. Further, the amount of time in a week that five tutorials consumes is also quite small if there is no other employment, paid or not. A measure of calm ensued after I worked out that I could live on the tutoring and marking income, in combination with my savings, until early next year, by which time I have plans to be receiving a scholarship (At this stage I will not contemplate an alternative. No.) Still, the self-doubt precipitated by the dearth of employment opportunities left me frustrated, chafing against the injustices of the conditions of sessional teaching and a whole host of other things ranging from the disproportionate allocation of funding in tertiary institutions to the sound of another neighbour’s laugh (I’m sure someone must have once told him it was sexy; it’s not.)

The day I got my thoughts in hand, the vestiges of meditation classes attended long ago stirred in my memory. It occurred to me that my internal struggle, which was fruitless and making me unhappy, arose out of wanting to be somewhere else. I went for a walk and concentrated on the stretch of my legs and the feel of the late-winter sun. Later, at home lying in bed, I thought about the sensation of my arms and legs against flannelette sheets and decided it was a good thing. From this point on, it’s been impossible not to enjoy sleeping in and watching television. On Wednesdays I feel entitled to do nothing and have been known not to get out of bed until noon. If I begin to worry about my propensity for sloth, well, I’m gathering my resources for when I begin my PhD in January. It’s a sound argument, especially when I reflect how long I went without a holiday while doing my Master’s, Honour’s and Undergraduate degrees, never mind the strain of ‘two major illnesses’ (quote from doctor) during the last few years, which require on-going management.

So, now I have become content, I have neglected this new self-imposed blog project and it is not without a sense of irony that I recognise I am worrying about the effects of being happy. I am reminded of an interview I saw with Sarah Watt where she spoke about a short animated film she did on that very topic. I will not start the revolution this way. Has all my Buddhist thought, filtered through Western new age rhetoric, dissipated my will to action and thus rendered me complacent. Am I suffering the effects of a kind of false-consciousness? Am I a patsy of the dominant capitalist paradigm? Aargh!

Since last Saturday, I have:

  • Been to a party where I watched the Riverfire Festival fireworks display from the balcony of a West End Queenslander. I was complimented on my interpretation of a carrot salad from Jamie’s Dinners (just add capsicum) and tipped off on a lead on some RA work.
  • Seen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Great movie, but I noticed a decline in the quality of Willy Wonka's gobstoppers, which I purchased to eat during the film. Note to Nestlé, a sweet cannot be called a gobstopper if after only two minutes in the mouth a chalky, chewable centre is revealed; it’s all about the hardness, the layers, the changing colours and flavours. There is pleasure in trying to break your teeth.
  • Cancelled a lunch date since I was too tired to get out of bed. This was the first sign that underemployment was becoming a lifestyle.
  • Attended a media and cultural studies early career researchers forum to indulge in a communal panic for our collective employment prospects.
  • Solicited an employment offer to do RA work from an Associate Professor holding a half-empty schooner of VB.

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