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.