I ride the metro in Madrid a lot. In fact, not a single day goes by when I don’t ride the metro. Most days I shuffle down into the damp and dimly lit rattling tube four or five times. Up and down the escalators, dodging dudes with too many bags and teenagers making out to reggaeton. I watch people look at their phones, sometimes people pan handle, lovers caress, kids drop yogurt and dads yell, even sometimes I watch the occasional person watching another person. It sounds drab and I’m making it out to be that way because today on the metro I’m writing and reflecting a little bit on what it is to me and what it all means. This is a philosophical article so get out now if you’re not in the mood.
I have had the insane privilege of growing up in an evergreen wonderland with parents who…wait for it…loved their jobs. To be realistic, they’re academics, so they’re lucky to get paid to do exactly what they love with their minds glued to a subject matter in pursuit of the greater common knowledge. Dreamy. They helped me with my homework. My sister and I worked summer jobs and by no means we’re we ever told that we deserved something special but we certainly learned that playing tough, playing fair and asking the right people for help would get you somewhere. My sister is now an academic. I’m still on the metro I’m not at my stop yet.
I got a spot so now I can sit down, next to a guy that smells like garlic and I’m reflecting on a pretty measly LSAT score and yet another Spanish company that can’t find the will to make a job contract for me. I’ve been in Spain for four years so you’re right to doubt me; perhaps I’m not trying hard enough or maybe my standards are too high or that I am simply unqualified for the jobs I want. There are plenty of Spanish people who might ask me what I’m even doing here and that if I want to complain about the job market I should just go home. I don’t know if this is complaining, per se but rather accepting defeat and maybe in a larger sense (since I’ve got the time, lord knows I ride this metro way to much) reflecting on what a job means to me. I want to feel a larger sense of purpose. I want a job that’s hard, a job that challenges me and that challenges my coworkers in the best and worst ways. I want to wake up in the morning and get to work and feel like the people I am with have faith in me and I want to trust them too. My train rolls into a stop called Velazquez and a bunch of folks wearing really nice suits get on. They’re trying to ignore the girl with the dreadlocks and the dog.
Every summer I go home and for the past few summers I’ve worked immersed in the forest of the Pacific Northwest guiding children and adults through challenging situations of survival. Lots of my coworkers have dreadlocks, they’ll blow you out of the water with how articulate they are, how many edible plants they can positively ID, how quickly they can build a fire. When I come back to Spain I work with kids and adults outside of the forest but similarly aim to guide them; they choose the questions and I try to help them get to a reasonable answer. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but we always ask ourselves why. I’m that chick that just can’t get enough Montessori in her life. Sue me. So am I hurting the people I teach? Am I actually doing them a disservice if the job markets they are destined for require, even need, them to do things that they don’t fully agree to? I’m only asking because yet another job fell through on me. This time it was a suit job, an office-9-to-5-make-friends-with-the-right-people job. I’m sitting here wondering why I even wanted it in the first place. Why I even wanted to work at a company with an HR team that really could not get their sh*t together. There are aspects of every job that we can’t always love, even if we love what we do. But I feel as though I’m scratching on the surface of a larger itch of mine, this messed up thing inside me that wants to actually sit in a desk, stop asking questions and never guide anyone to their own realizations. Not be academic. Wear a suit. Gotta get off my stop and I think this is getting rambly.
Maybe it’s Spain. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s just today and tomorrow I’ll feel a little different. The train screeches to a stopped I push my way between an accordion player and a small child with her mom. I’m not sure how to finish this article and as I walk home (but first up the endless set of metro de Madrid stairs) it dawns on me that I don’t have to finish it. Maybe it’s just the beginning of something and I’ll let you know how it ends when I get there.