Ahh, the first week back at work after the Holiday Break. Is there any more depressing time for Future Generators? For almost 2 weeks, we got to pretend to be actual professionals on vacation. (We have to pretend because unlike actual professionals on vacation, we have no money to spend on hotels, lavish meals, or exciting destinations) Many of us reconnected with chronically ignored families, pets, and household chores. It was a time for us to forget, however briefly, that we have chosen to spend our days pouring wisdom and knowledge into the mostly empty and antagonistic minds of our future.
All of that is over now. It is Monday and in addition to our continuing struggle in coming to terms with our advancing age, declining health, increasing ennui, and growing bald spots, we are forced to face the shining and hope-filled faces of our students. It’s all just slightly too much to bear. My smile is more of a sickly grimace of pain and my carefully constructed cheerful demeanor feels even more fake than usual. In fact, I find myself wondering if a career in drug testing might not be more tolerable.
The Universe decided to add insult to injury today by shoving a student Future Generator in my face in the workroom. The bright young woman positively radiated excitement and enthusiasm for her internship; it was so depressing. It reminded me of myself back in the day, full of idealism and hope that environmental education would be a rewarding and important career. I was convinced that I would make a positive difference in this world doing what I loved best (talking about wild things and environmental concerns) and that if I wasn’t to be exactly revered, at least well-thought-of.
I long ago sold my soul to the company for a steady (if meager) paycheck and health benefits. It was the responsible thing to do. And in another 20-35 years when I’m just short of death I’ll be able to retire to a 1 bedroom apartment on the third floor of an assisted living complex and have a 35-year-old man who couldn’t finish medical school give me a sponge bath.
But hey, it’s not all bad. I hear that there might be day-old bagels in the workroom!