I’ve worked eight of the last nine days, and I am exhausted. Satisfied, because it’s important work, but exhausted. When work dominates every waking moment for a long stretch, it’s hard to stay connected with family let alone the world. I miss my afternoon glass of wine with my wife, catching up with kids and the little elf. I barely even register the news. It’s all been a frantic blur.
I also miss this blog. I like writing the thing, even though I sometimes look back and think maybe I was in the wrong mood to write that day but didn’t see it. It’s easy to be negative, cynical, sarcastic, flippant, even cruel when you’re this exhausted. So excuse me if/when it happens — or don’t — I’m too tired to be careful or to care.
I’m off now for three days, so that’s good. I can recharge the batteries. It takes years, but you eventually learn that the world continues to spin without you. So does my job. I spent the past week heading the multi-agency unit responsible for coordinating arrivals and repats to New South Wales. Like all important work, there can be no mistakes. I definitely did not want to be the guy in charge when the next outbreak occurs.
By the time it happened, I was glad to handover to the next team. It’s not guaranteed, but there’s always a possibility of another outbreak. Even with a system as experienced and professional as ours, there are always rogue elements at play. Air crew who want to paety. People who fake exemptions. Hotel staff getting toey. And a mutating virus. We’ll see a strain named after Oz one day, I’m sure. While we haven’t seen a new case in NSW for about 50 days, I was holding my breath the whole time. But now that my tour is over, I can breathe and reflect.
Job satisfaction. What is it? For me, often it’s about hammering square pegs into round holes, just to get the job done. There are no easy days. By comparison, one of many post-modernist moments in ‘The Matrix‘ occurred when Cypher (Joe Pantoliano) named his price for betraying humanity: “I don’t want to remember nothing. Nothing. You understand? And I want to be rich. You know, someone important, like an actor.” Oh the irony. But also, an acknowledgment: there are jobs, and then there are jobs. Some occupations are utterly meaningless.
If I’d held a meaningless but highly profitable job these past 25 years, what kind of asshole would I be now? At least I can redeem all my assholery IRL by giving back to the community. What exactly can people in irrelevant jobs — wannabe actors, models, influencers, etc — do to pay it forward, let alone pay it back? What ‘social credit’ (for wont of a better term) should people in pointless jobs receive?
Answer: if they’re good enough, they enter our cultural consciousness. Even this is ironic. You remember the actor who regurgitated the brilliant words, not the invisible and largely unacknowledged writer. “There is no spoon” wasn’t written by the kid who plays ‘Spoon Boy’ in The Matrix, it was written by … somebody. Just try finding the authro’s name anywhere. Maybe the Wachowski brothers, or maybe Sophia Stewart. But we remember Spoon Boy. The world is full of nobodies yearning for their Spoon Boy moment. They move from the family ranch in Buttfuck Idaho to NYC, or bus tables in Hollywood hoping some mogul strides through the door and notices them.
Then it’s all-systems go: the Hollywood dream: A couple of massages in a sleazy motel and suddenly you’re starring opposite Morgan Freeman. Next minute, you’re on the red carpet with your new boobs taped together, stamping your feet because somebody offered you Perrier instead of Kona Nigari. Next you’re so thin that you can’t bear the child your publicist has pencilled in next, so you rent one from Namibia. Successive spouses cheat on you because you cheat on them. A haze of drugs, parties, nip-slips and oops sex-tape scandals. Plastic-surgery goes from secret hobby to public fetish, and now there’s a freak blinking in the mirror. You know it’s finally over not when the phone stops ringing, but when you’re immortalised in meme.
Because what is a meme if not somebody shouting “Me! Me!”
Poor Spoon Boy. And all those cats. And this guy:
But maybe that’s the price you pay for swallowing the blue pill.
The other way is so much harder, but at least it’s red-pill-real. You won’t glide through life in a limousine, you’ll have to walk. It’s exhausting doing important work, especially when there’s no acknowledgment (unless you make a mistake). But at least you earned every mile. There’s some satisfacton in knowing that when it’s finally time to stop, you’ll know not only where you are, and how you got there, but also exactly who you are.