My old boss, Mike Hooban, used to say this to me all the time. It always pissed me off. Mike was from a working-class Boston Irish Catholic family. He had built his own high-tech company starting in the basement of his house, on the sly, while he was still working for Arthur Andersen. He trained his kids to answer the phone in such a way as to sound like professional office staff. Mike would pop his head into my office and say, “A change of work is as good as a rest!” And then he would ask me to help move furniture or get his bike through the main office door. In a lot of ways, Mike was a pain in the ass. But he loved poetry and long jokes, and he hired a former high school English teacher as his desktop publisher because he liked people who had graduated from William and Mary (three of the ten other employees were also W&M alums). So I moved to “big-city” Arlington from my po-dunk hometown and started a new career.
Now here I am, sixteen years later. I was 24 when I met Mike. Now I’m 40. I don’t keep in touch with him, but his Yeats quotations and Irish-Catholic maxims have stayed with me. I just completed a Master’s degree in Creative Writing and have no idea what to do next. So what am I doing? I’m learning to use a sewing machine. I’m learning to use a dremel tool and jigsaw and electric rotary sander. The jury’s still out, but I may even be learning to solder copper pipes this summer. I’ve started an exercise and nutrition program at the local gym, to try to change the shape of my belly and body (and heart and mind). I’m learning to plan meals and save recipes and make shopping lists, so I’ll always have fresh food available, instead of junk or fast food. I’m learning to — gasp! — use a food processor.
That part about not having any idea what to do next is not completely true. I have an idea. I want to teach. Children. In a Montessori school. I want to be an elementary school teacher, which is what I thought I wanted to be when I started undergrad a gazillion (22) years ago. Since then, I’ve taught high school; worked as the aforementioned desktop publisher; gotten a publications certificate from GWU; edited HTML for the Association of the US Army (another story); done freelance writing, editing, and graphic design; and written software user manuals for the Army (again, another story). I’ve also worked as a dog walker, a waitress, and a Kabbalistic Healer. Oh, yeah, and then that writing degree. So now, in a way, the idea of going down another completely new path seems a little less daunting. Like the Indigo Girls say, “The new road is an old friend.” But I feel like I may never stop. I may never actually retire. There are too many things I want to DO.
In our workouts at the gym, the trainer sets up the room with four stations, each with four different exercises. We have four people to a group, so we take turns doing each exercise at each station. That means we all do sixteen different exercises, twice through, in a given half-hour session. But we only have to do each one for about thirty seconds. Even in the throes of sweaty, air-gulping despair, I can do push-ups for thirty seconds. Then we can move on to the next thing, and damn, if it doesn’t actually feel like a break. Mike Hooban was right, after all. Which is a good thing. Because the main reason I’m doing this exercise program is to keep up with Jack, who’s two and only getting faster. And last time I checked, there’s no vacation plan for parents. For the next, oh, eighteen years or so, I’m going to have to live by Mike Hooban’s mantra and hope to god it’s true.
A change of work is as good as a rest. So now I’m going to go get the laundry.