Truly, I am grateful to have a job. I am grateful to have pleasant coworkers, and not constant excessive stress. I am grateful for a clean working environment, and for paychecks that arrive on time. I am grateful that self-injuries have been minimal, and that I have only lost my temper once and my composure twice. But I do wonder how much longer I can continue keeping up the working hours--I have spent more than 30 hours of my two-day holiday sleeping, I am so tired!--and as arthritis, of all things, is appearing in my hands, how much longer I can manage the physical demands of the job.
I know, given history--secular, Biblical and personal--that I must be in this job to learn something that will benefit me, or others through me, in the future, but I can't help but feel stranded in an intellectual desert of sorts, wondering what on earth was the point of all that beautiful education, those carefully-crafted papers, the hours spent puzzling over this or that literary topic when I am stuck under fluorescent lights in a role that requires a minimum GED qualification? True, there is a certain "coolness factor" to tractor-construction even among the intelligentsia, as for most academics anything involving sweat and machine oil is terra incognita, and I've had at least one friend ask in wonder exactly where I acquired the ability to use power tools, and others exclaim "wow" that I was able to handle the job.
My tool skills evidence incidental knowledge being more important at times than deliberately-acquired primary knowledge. Daddy was always remodeling or building things--from rooms in the various houses where we lived to boats--and so I became familiar with tools and their uses pretty much from birth (that he built a wooden boat from scratch in the apartment living room and fiberglassed it while I was in utero I blame for some of my mental deficiencies). Minoring in Theater Tech while I was at the state Governor's Honors Program in high school gave me the chance to construct simple platforms on my own. I may also have used a power tool or two on volunteer service projects (I certainly used plenty of hand tools, and no respiratory protection, chipping away lead paint from peeling wood structures!) at home and abroad, and then of course my making lamps and applying both my Dremel and my Makita drills to a variety of surfaces in other creative endeavors all helped. I almost forgot my ratchet set (a present from Daddy when I went off to grad school)!--using it to assemble furniture and replace my car battery and for other little tasks like that seemed fairly intuitive. I've installed hinges on doors, done trench-digging and spackling and used both electric and hand-saws, painted and tiled and cut glass and punched out metal. Partly, this is the typical American "do it yourself" culture, partly the example of Daddy and Granddaddy, who did everything from plumbing to wiring. I think a person can do a lot of things simply when no one ever tells her or him that it is odd or unexpected to do them. [For example, I remember being surprised that others were surprised that I was regularly driving from DC to GA and back by myself. Why wouldn't I? And why is it odd to be able to put on lipstick without a mirror? I mean, one's lips are where you leave them, aren't they?] Most of this is not exactly rocket science, just practice.
What is sad is that I have no energy, creative or otherwise, left to me when I get off work. How did Arnold Toynbee (I think it was Toynbee, but maybe it was Anthony Trollope--I could Google it, but I just don't care to) handle the Post Office gig and write, too? Perhaps, like banker T.S. Eliot, he had limited daylight working hours and free weekends.
Not the arthritis, nor the long shifts will be what eventually drives me to resign, but the noise. The rattling, banging, beeping, roaring and so forth continues incessant, fearsome, and obnoxious in the background, despite the best earplugs I have. The best description I can give of the clamor in the factory is if a person were to stand on a busy big-city street corner, where not only does constant horn-happy traffic whiz by, part of the intersection is being torn up by jackhammers and backhoes, while a skyscraper is being built across the street (dump trucks and cement mixers rumble in and back out, men weld rebar and nail forms together, and throw debris into a metal dumpster). Add a talentless but determined street musician competing with this bedlam (to account for the musical trolleys on the assembly line) and you have a rough approximation of what I am enduring for 10 hours a day--including the grime and occasional diesel fumes.
I need to take an antihistamine and a shower and go to bed. I am due to leave for work in 14.5 hours. And my house is still a disaster area, and I've made no jewelry for this coming Sunday's show. One month down, perhaps three to go!