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September 13, 2004

The life of the mind vs. the life of living

I found myself thinking, as I pushed a huge dustmop around the floor of the store, "Look at me, I went to Yale and now I'm pushing around a dustmop." But as soon as I put the thought into words, I realized I didn't actually agree with it -- I was just being snarky, and denigrating physical labor as being somehow beneath me, with all my book-larnin'.

When I paused and let myself really feel, instead of hiding behind my big fat brain, I found that I felt intensely satisfied, cleaning the floor of My Store. Despite the incredible busyness of getting the store operational, nothing I've been doing feels like busywork. Everything I'm doing is for real, it's tangible and meaningful and explicable.

I think back on all the times I've done work because it was something my dumb boss handed me, because someone at Corporate asked for the files in a different format, or wanted the spreadsheets to display in landscape -- any of a million random tasks I performed over 10 years of administrative work. I think back on the years before that, back in the selva obscura of acadame, and again, it all just seems like busywork in retrospect.

I did read books then that I was passionate about, but that's not the point of the game; nothing in academia was about pure visceral enjoyment, the bouncing-up-and-down happiness of a New Idea or a Wonderful Discovery. It was all distanced and filtered and processed into MLA-compliant papers.

So, a few days ago, sweaty, disheveled, and grimy with sawdust, I had my epiphany. I am doing a Real Thing. I'm opening a store, and doing it is making me happy, and I fervently hope that running it will make lots of folks happy, and together we will all enjoy working with our hands and sharing ideas and living our lives right now, in the moment, and we'll know why we're doing it: to satisfy ourselves.

Posted by Rose at September 13, 2004 02:05 PM


I had a similar epiphany recently. Isn't it great?

Think you'll be open by next weekend? *crosses fingers*

Posted by: Stacy at September 13, 2004 03:49 PM

And you had your epiphany without needing to have a scary John Goodman chasing you, yelling "I'll show you the life of the mind!" That's definitely a better way to have an epiphany.

(Obscure "Barton Fink" reference. Apologies.)

Posted by: Francis at September 13, 2004 05:06 PM

That's obscure? Do I have more snob cred points than I thought I did? Cool! Anyway...I stumbled upon your blog a week or so ago and I wanted to say how excited I am about your store. And that this post was lovely.

Posted by: Em at September 14, 2004 08:36 AM

I'm still trapped in the Corporate World... all my book learnin' has me working 50 -60 hours a week at something that I don't love. I spend all of my spare time knitting or quilting - and I am SO jealous of you and your wonderful sounding store! Good luck - and know that it takes loads of hard work and smarts to have your own business. I wish you all the luck, and look forward to buying one of your great tee-shirts!

Posted by: Cece at September 16, 2004 02:33 PM