Last night at approximately three o’clock in the morning, as a small green trolley of inscrutable intention slowly cruised down the train tracks across the road [me: "So if you don't mind me asking, whatcha doin?" man standing on back: blank stare of disbelief, probably trying to assess my hallucination/non-hallucination status. me: "whatcha doin?" man: "hungaworfle" me: "what?" man: "hungaworfle."], a neighbor who owns a moped pointed out that the weirdest adjustment to make as one trades the school world for the working week is realizing that free time is actually free time.
Free time, in addition to being actually free time, is also great. During the year at school, every moment of every day could be studying time, paper time, research time, reading time, practice time, or whatever other kind of time you can imagine, and probably should be. Free time can only be generated by a student who decides to neglect some element of preparation, to put off their next essay, or to otherwise put school on the back burner. There is always something new. That part of life is simply not present in the restaurant world, which seems to be forming the backbone of my summer. What am I gonna do, practice polishing glasses? Work on my smile? Brush up on hoping fervently that I get cut before the T stops running?
But it’s a lonely feeling to wake up with no objectives. Sure, it’s summer and I’m in the city, and I can waltz around buying Hawaiian shirts at thrift stores and playing guitar in public areas until the back of my neck finishes off the song lyrics, but I’d rather know there’s something I should be doing while I do that.
It’s less about wishing I had responsibilities to ignore for the sake of sun, and more about the validation that comes with having work to do. At school, when I’m watching episode after episode of the OC or cruising in someone’s mom’s minivan, it’s always a respite, something I’m doing in between things I find important. Purpose creates the storm in which free time is the eye. In the work-for-work’s-sake world, there is not a lot of purpose.
So one of the things that I’ve learned this summer is that, whether or not a college degree makes me employable, per se, Conn life allows me to see what a job could be. In other words, I know now that working to pay the bills isn’t really something I want to do. A year from now, I’m sure I’ll have a nowhere job to pay the bills, but I won’t see free time as trivially as I do now. I’ll be so tired of meeting the seals at the aquarium over and over again that days off from work will be days for the real work. Now I just have to figure out what that will be.