Writing Piece, Brooklyn

Two men are on a rooftop, Manhattan’s skyline as their backdrop. One man stands, while the other straddles the building’s ledge. His legs rest on cement fragments that push against his pants, leaving fleeing impressions in the hairy flesh of his thighs. He smothers his cigarette on the building’s side. The building groans.

I’ve written all I can. His voice jumps from rooftop to rooftop and cradles in the gray, half-moons of satellite dishes. They transmit his drama down into television sets for home viewership and up to the blackest space, secretly passing through the paths of jumbo jets, choreographed miracles racing in the sky.

The other man stands in silence. Wonders in silence. He thinks, I don’t need this, and regrets it so quickly, it’s as though the thought never happened. But it did. He crosses the roof, trudging along as if his legs were made of molasses, as if he were a witch melting, as if he had never accomplished walking. He’s caught in a bad dream. The message leaves his brain and in the time it takes to reach his legs, his heart has sent another message that means to turn his feet around, but his brain insists. Plow ahead, it screams. Go. Leave. The heavy door swings shut behind him.

Our man, the man on the ledge, watches the cars below him make perfect, left turns on green-light command. People walk on sidewalks, all wondering why the writer cannot write. Every so often, a curious man would pause to turn toward the sky and steal a glance of the writer who cannot write. Women with children run into old neighbors and exchange pleasantries, How are you? Oh fine, and you? Oh good good, much better than the writer, you see. No no, don’t look. How miserable, oh that poor man. Yes, yes, indeed, miserable. Woman repeat things for emphasis.

There’s a hole in the building’s mortar, about the size of a fist, but clearly, not made from a fist, the mortar’s too hard for that. The non-writing writer leans in, it’s several inches deep. It’s filled with dried leaves that weren’t good enough for the wind, discarded cigarette butts and match stems, and dirt. Of course dirt, dirt because the city’s filth grows like ivy, climbing every building. It’s reached the top of this one.

He pulls out a notebook and a pen from his jacket pocket. Because that is his only reflexive motion. He quickly writes a message (aha!), tracing the letters repeatedly. He tears it from the page and folds it four times to help protect it from the rain. Surely, the rain will come. He drops it into the fist-sized hole, but it doesn’t fall to the bottom with the rest of the discarded debris. It lays suspended in the fist-sized hole, half-way from the bottom. The fragile lines of a spider web bear the weight of the paper. It will surely cause the spider to starve. The spider cannot spin another web.

What would you wish for?

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Writing Piece, Brooklyn

The First Day & The 9-5

Today’s the first day since my motivation kick that emotionally I’ve been all over the place. It’s not a bad day, just I know when something bad is going to start. I’m hoping getting this out of my head can keep my train on its tracks. Work has been a little crazy recently. Mainly, I just wonder what it is that I want in life and how I’m going to be able to achieve it.

One of my colleagues asked me if the boss had bought me off. It was a complete joke when he said it, but I couldn’t help second guess myself. Was I being bought off? Did I not deserve the rewards that I reaped? I stay organized, meet deadlines, resolve conflicts, etc etc. But then again, I’m certain I have shortcomings too. I can be anti-social, I can be condescending. And then self-doubt leads to irritation. Who does my boss think he is buying me off? And then it’s just a terrible cycle of assumptions that leads no where. So I want to give it a rest. I deserve what I receive. I hold myself accountable and I will in every way hold every other member of my team–colleagues and bosses–accountable. I hate to say that I’m on no one’s side, but it’s more important to me that I be fair and objective than jump on either bandwagon. Unfortunately, that leaves me occasionally in an uncomfortable and lonely position.

Similarly, one of the bosses said, you all are like school girls, referring to how we talk about what’s going on in the office. And it wasn’t until much later that I realized how offended I was by that statement. At the time, I just gave him a look and said it’s not like that. Because it’s not. It’s not that I’m trying to gossip–in fact, I make it a point not to participate in the negativity round tables that do occur from time to time. I talk because I actually care, about each one of my colleagues and how they feel about their jobs and the company. I care because their decisions will ultimately affect me. I just didn’t appreciate the remark for its gendered-ness (which has its own special significance due to the circumstances in our office), or for it’s negative connotations. Yes, I was the one brought this problem to the surface. Yes, I’m the one that initiated talks between the two parties. Wasn’t this the mature thing to do? Maybe I overstepped my boundaries? Maybe that’s why he spoke out of the side of his mouth. I don’t know. Again, another issue dropped.

On another note, that is still work-oriented but not my-work oriented. What’s the deal with the 9-5? I just don’t understand how with the vast types of technology that is in existence, why I still need to be tethered to a desk from 9-5? Or in my case 9-6. I really think this is the by product of an out dated model of work when people worked for companies/employers just to make a living. I’m part of that new generation where 20-somethings because online millionaires, where people are more determined to do what they love than what brings in a paycheck, when high schoolers are freelance entrepreneurs. Employers used to pay workers purely based on their outputs–on the amount they produced within eight hours. And that was fine when the primary industries of America were production based–agricultural, industrial, financial. But America is at a time where it desperately needs innovation and growth. We can’t compete solely with production–not when the populations of India and China soar, nor when their wages plummet. And yet, rather than pay people for the value of their work–people are chained to the old standards of production.

We’re all so plugged in nowadays that I don’t understand why people can’t just work 24-7. I know at first that might sound horrible, but really, for workaholics, what’s the real difference anyway? You’re still going to work 12-hour days, but now you get to do it at your leisure. Sometimes, I have an overwhelming desire to take a cat nap in the afternoon. Why can’t I take a 30-45 minute nap? (This also assumes I’m working from home or from wherever I want to be and not just an office.) Won’t I be more refreshed rather than forcing myself to continue at a pace that makes me ill and disoriented? Everyone in a company is an adult. The bottom line should always be get your work done, on time and at a high quality. Why do I need to be some place from 9-5? What’s the harm in letting your employees work on their own terms? Won’t you get more dedicated, more efficient employees? (This attitude is definitely a by product of college and university time, where students can simply miss all the classes but ace the papers and exams. They find their own ways to learn the materials that best suits their needs.) Why are we wasting everyone’s time taking attendance? I don’t need a babysitter. No good employee ever should.

My ideas are fairly free-flowing right now, bare with me and try to keep up. My question is–if I can do “all my work” or at the very least, if I am a capable employee who can schedule my projects and deadlines and meet every one of them, why do I need to be in a chair from 9-6? If I can do all my work in 20 hours, why do I need to be there for 40? Of course, the corporate response would be, okay work 20 hours, but you’ll only be paid for 20 hours. And this is the most insulting of responses. Because the quality and value of my work has not deteriorated, why would it be okay to pay as if it had? What are you really paying me for – the value of my work or the hours that you “own me”? What is the benefit of owning a person who does nothing? What is it that our clients are really paying for? Unfortunately, I saw this all the time at my government job. Hours and hours spent pretending to work, finding insignificant tasks to keep them busy but bring no meaning to the larger whole. It’s completely inefficient.(Oh gosh, and the factory job, that was truly the most inefficient I’ve ever seen a company. Reorganizing a single file cabinet does not take eight hours and I will not waste my time pretending to do so.)

I also find chaining a person like myself down only frustrates them. How am I supposed to spend those other hours trying to propel the company ahead if I’m frustrated? But lets look at the other side. Say my employer pays me for my work and I complete it in 20 hours. As someone who is passionate about the work they do, I am going to leave the office. But I haven’t left the “field” behind. I spend my free time working on new projects, finding new areas of inspiration, learning new skill sets, etc. Surely, the things I learn during my “not-work” hours would find meaning in my work hours. Wouldn’t these new skills make me a more valuable asset to a company? Wouldn’t my motivation and continued passion make me a more valuable asset to a company? Not to mention, as I better myself–take on freelance projects, give lectures, make contacts–wouldn’t it bolster the identity of the company that employs me? As I become more of a professional, more of a name within my industry, that could only lead to my company becoming more professional and more of a name in the industry. I know the company would be concerned–what if I get too big for my britches and try to leave? What the company doesn’t understand is that they have provided me with something far more valuable than any other job could offer and that is freedom. Why would I leave that?

Ultimately, this only works if the employee can maintain a quality of work and is held accountable by its work. I know my work ethic and I know I am that type of employee. And the employer has to trust that the employee has the only the best intentions for the company. If both sides can converge to a place of trust, it’s a win-win situation; especially, if compared to the situation of sitting at my desk with no “work” to be done, my passion depleting with every passing hour. I know this may sound ideal or unrealistic, as if flexibility and freedom are antithetical to capitalism (perhaps, they are?), but I won’t stop searching until I find a place like this. This is what I want in life. And I believe it’s possible for everyone to find what they want in life–it may not be easy, but it is possible.

The First Day & The 9-5