How I got the best job on earth

I spent all of August online, looking for vacant places in organizations. Companies that would pay me to do something enjoyable.  Right around the autumnal equinox I drove up here, to NW MT, and did a neat trip and interviewed for a job.  The trip amounted to a necessary and sufficient evocation of the fates, I knocked the interview questions out of the park (I can say that now without tempting the fates), and left with a very good feeling.  It was the first and only job interview of my immediate post-MSW career.  I was offered and accepted the job a week later, and here I sit today, in a house four blocks from downtown Kalispell.

All of this, my choices and motivations and the things I find relevant and important, is dependant on that ways I define enjoyment.  And any good definition must be plural.  I am a hedonist insofar as I am skeptical of any accounting of the world in which enjoyment is not placed front and center.  I am a nihilist insofar as I cannot see enjoyment (or anything else) as having intrinsic and immutable value.  I am an optimist insofar as I see the human race as being very capable of, collectively and individually, arriving at good definitions for enjoyment.  And I believe that defining and understanding enjoyment is much more complex and difficult than most are able to admit.
My tie collection, most very recently acquired.  I wore the blue and yellow to the job interview back in September, and the red to an important meeting today.

I drive around quite a bit for my new job, with a frequency and over distances that make a car irreplaceable.  A drastic change from bikecentric Missoula.  As a result I’ve listened to more pop radio in the last month than any similar period ever before.  (I define pop radio somewhat tautologically as any music appearing on a radio station, other than classical.)  So much of it is obsessed with definitions of enjoyment so narrow, cliched, and self-referential that I fear for us, culturally.  My professional work and research in addictions treatment and counseling this summer confirmed a conviction I’ve always had, that the overwhelming bulk of alcohol-based enjoyment is psychosomatic.  The hard organic aspects of drunkenness are only a shadowy corner of those aspects held up in pop music (most egregiously the abomination which contemporary hip hop has grown up to be).  If we are, as a culture, venerating effects which are only a casual outgrowth of alcohol consumption, it begs the question: what do we so desperately need that we are so afraid of embracing without the shadow of artifice?

The answer is of course, enjoyment.

It is possible that many people find intoxication to the point of mild memory impairment liberating and thus enjoyable.  It is more probable that the idea of this experience as FUN has become so influential that drunkenness (in various culturally sanctioned venues) has become a major default venue for expropriation.  If we, culturally, don’t know how to find enjoyment, faking it to others and ourselves through drunkenness is a reliable, easy and intelligible recourse.

All of which is less to say anything about alcohol consumption than it is meant to say something about enjoyment.  I think our idea of it and expectations for it are warped.  Perhaps with dire consequences.

This idea came to me today as I was driving back to the office in the early afternoon.  After dropping in on work, checking messages, calling people, doing some paperwork, and getting coffee with a new client that dropped by, I headed off to do a school visit with a kid who has at least two major psychiatric diagnoses and a rare and serious medical condition.  These three interact in ways which are, under the best of circumstances (his behavior and our clinical detachment), interesting.  Because of these three conditions, it is unlikely he will ever be able to live on his own without inadvertently neglecting something vital and killing himself.  I then drove to another nearby town to staff and intake for a day treatment facility.  It’s not an especially good program, but for the kid in question it is the only one available, and thus the stakes were high.  I arrived back at the office, early for once, just in time to staff a med management meeting with a kid and his mom.  A month ago this kid seemed a likely candidate for expulsion from public school and subsequently one more step towards life long institutionalization.  Via some med tweaking, interventions at school, and other things which elude comprehension this seems to have reversed itself, the family is interested in outpatient therapy, and the kid actually talked with us today.  By that point it was mid afternoon and I was quite as tired from 6.5 hours of work as I was Saturday from 6.5 hours of skiing at my limit.

This is the reason I’ve always found it hard to train well during the week.

It’s also not a coincidence, not at all, that two such different days which became so stressful are both days which I would classify as highly enjoyable.  I can begin to articulate just how and why these days are enjoyable, and have done so in these pages repeatedly.  What’s more important this evening is to answer the title question: I found the best job of earth by defining enjoyment for myself, and then doing all I could to tilt luck in my favor so that I would find a job that would suit said definition.  Chance still played a large role, I applied for a different position and was offered this one just as it came open, but I also knew a good and happy thing when it came along.

A benefit of getting older, I think.

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10 thoughts on “How I got the best job on earth

  1. I try to read your posts, Dave. Really, I do. I feel that you have something important to say and lawd knows that I have lots to learn. But the abundance of 5 dollar words is more distracting than, as you might say, edifying. I rarely get through them and if I do, I often (I think) miss the point that you were driving toward, so lost am I in my virtual thesaurus.

    Perhaps I need to travel in more scholarly circles.

    Since that seems unlikely, could you dumb things down for some of us?

  2. I’m sure your job is great and all, but do you get to cut people open and peer in their insides??? And get paid for it???

    I guess it is all in how you define enjoyment:)

    This post made me smile. I enjoy reading your blog.

  3. I am a long time reader. Either you are getting smarter or I am getting dumber (probably both). I agree with Mike. Sometimes I have to say something out loud to try and pronounce your words!

    As a teacher I can totally relate to your post. Thanks for the insight.

    1. Travis and Mike, I appreciate you both saying as much. I’m not going to dumb anything down. I have been guilty, for a long time, of being too dense and generally in love with word play for my own good. I write this for people, and if ya’ll can’t understand, I’m engaging in a futile exercise.

      As for me getting smarter, I do think I’m finally close to rebounding fully from grad school induced mental lethargy. It’s nice to have a balance of an intellectually challenging job and enough free time and mental energy left over to read, think and write about what I want.

  4. Dave is enigmatic to me….such a “thinker”..perhaps a bit over at times but thoughtfulness cannot be too bad of a condition can it? And yet he spends much of his time seeking out amazingly tranquil and remote places that defy analysis for their universal and timeless scope. I like Dave!

    🙂

    Ahhh.. duality…right and wrong…good and bad…smart and dumb..light and dark…on and on. The primal disease of the mind by Zen *thought*. Ha ha!

    I liked the part of this post about our cultural alcohol(ic) condition. It’s purely economic Dave. Consumption IS the economy. The brainiacs from our highest learning institutions are given the keys to the castle of the human spirit. They arrive on Park avenue excited to exploit it for a nice salary and seeming security. The perpetuate the “foreign installation” which began for each of us in the crib. IMO.

    The sick children are messengers Dave..do not kill them. Save them and perhaps we will be saved too?

    Keep on! Think out loud..I for one enjoy it.

    Buzz

  5. I agree that our understanding of enjoyment and happiness has been warped. I also agree that it is central to human experience . I would go further and say that it is central by design and commend an idea called “Christian hedonism.” Christian hedonists make the case that God offers happiness and joy of the greatest quantity and of the highest quality. But it is based on ideas that are decidedly distinct from the prosperity gospel.

    http://www.desiringgod.org/about/our-distinctives/our-beliefs/what-is-christian-hedonism

    I really enjoy running around outside but my enjoyment of them is exponential increased when I think about what Psalm 97 indicates the mountains and oceans are revealing about God.

    http://www.esvonline.org/search/psalm+97/

  6. “We are never living, but hoping to live; and whilst we are always preparing to be happy, it is certain, we never shall be so, if we aspire to no other happiness than what can be enjoyed in this life.”

    Pascal

    Saw the above today and was reminded of this post.

  7. Dave– You write about alcohol “enjoyment” as if people were mostly alone when they “enjoyed” drunkeness. Much more than memory impairment, it is impairment of social reticence that I notice people enjoying when I and they drink socially, which is the only way I drink. It is not an invention of Madison Avenue that people enjoy their stodgy friends more when they are buzzed, thought MA has certainly warped and exaggerated it.

    I love experiencing the outdoors, but find it hard to get out alone, or totally “enjoy” the back country alone. Perhaps I haven’t had enough chance to get used to it, to become competent; or perhaps, I too fondly remember all the trip-planning we used to do when drunk (and young, and social, and carefree). And the trips were so, too.

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