Alternate Working Life Fantasies

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Three occupational paths: pizza delivery frog, ninja archaeologist, and firetruck.

In today’s alternate working life fantasy, I am a standup comedian podcaster. I wake up at 9, write comedy bits over coffee for two or three hours. In the afternoon I interview big names in entertainment and comedy in the book-lined studio in the basement of my home. Every few months I do a comedy tour. In this fantasy there are no students, I am in charge of my own working destiny, and that work entails being funny and talking to other people.

By the time the fantasy ends (usually as I’m stepping off the tram at my actual job) I am so hypothetically proficient at the work that I wonder how I didn’t go into this line of work. It would have been perfect for me. The gift of gab, the friendliness, the questions, the comedic self-loathing. I have it all!

This isn’t my only alternative working life fantasy, not by a longshot. There’s the bookstore owner one. A quiet, cozy bookstore which somehow brings in huge amounts of money while I lounge in a summer bed reading novel after novel. There’s the folklorist one, in which I am paid by a university to teach about mythology and fairytales. I wear a lot of cardigans in that one. The Saturday Night Live one, the professional Sudoku player one, the wino who has it all figured out one.

I even have a dentist one. My dad is a dentist, a thing whose ramifications I understood quickly as a lad. At least three times a week someone asked me if I too was also going to be a dentist, four times a week someone who knew that my dad was a dentist asked to see my teeth, and five times a week my father would abruptly interrupt any conversation or television show simply to tell any of his spawn in the room not to be a dentist.

Spoiler alert: I did not become a dentist. But that doesn’t mean I don’t include it in my alternative work fantasies. I’m a small town dentist working in the small town practice in my reasonably-sized country home. With a hot tub. The whole part about dealing with teeth doesn’t appeal to me as much as the sitcomic hobnobbing I do with patients between appointments.

While I normally don’t sit around fantasizing about different work realities, recently these have ruled my unoccupied mind. This is almost certainly because I’m currently applying for a PhD. While many would embark upon that with excitement and confidence, I have taken the opportunity to second-guess every occupational and professional decision I have ever made in my whole entire life.

I have no idea if other people do this, but I have to guess that they do. There’s no doubt a guy sitting in a cubicle wondering what may have been had he followed his love of cubist painting rather than the reasonable and rational path of accounting, the one his parents pushed him to do. I allowed myself to be swayed out of fields by what seemed like rational logic. When I told an aunt I wanted to be an archaeologist, she said, “Most everything has been found.” This seemed reasonably discouraging to a fourteen year old, but my forty-year-old self once wondered: “How the hell would she know?”

Many of you probably have similar experiences and might even harbor some resentment about it all. Are parents really to blame for trying to encourage their kids in a direction they see as safe or reasonable? Maybe not. I am sure when I told my mom was relieved when I ended up in the teaching field. Most certainly she was thrilled when I walked away from my first career choices of frog ninja and pizza delivery toad. And when I told her that I really wanted to be a fire engine, she probably thought “Man, does that come with a 401K? Kids gonna be living in my basement for five decades.”

But even with that caring attitude, I’m sure there are others out there who were told that they could do anything if they wanted to. And in the past years, I have realized that I could have been successful in fields that seem unlikely and difficult if I had put my mind to it. I try to say that to my students now.    

When it comes down to it, I am one of the fortunate ones that loves his field and his working life in general. It complements my side hustle and I look forward to doing it. That’s a lot to say about a job.

This morning it occurred to me that I do an awful lot in my real life what I fantasize about doing in my alternate work realities. I wear cardigans, a university pays me to teach students about language and writing, I spend a lot of time surrounded by and writing books, cat sleeping in her day bed at my feet or on the chair next to me. Worse paths could have been taken.

And probably in one of those other realities, in my dentist life or my folklorist life or my standup life, I imagine this life as an applied linguist and writer, living in a small European city in a charming and quaint flat. I have great friends and play hooky from school once a week for afternoon beers and about to apply for a PhD. No teeth cleaning. So it’s not that bad after all.

But it won’t stop me from daydreaming. Today’s is the practical and totally up-my-alley occupation of ninja archaeologist.    

  1. #1 by greg galeone on April 15, 2019 - 10:26 pm

    What I took away from this was that you actually followed my advice on at least one thing-not going into Dentistry.

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