To mitigate the pain of receiving a stack of student papers yesterday I decided a sojourn to Toronto was in order. I wanted to be there for Easter weekend and also for a recital next week, and seeing as I didn't have any on-campus obligations for Thursday or Friday it seemed like the perfect opportunity to escape.
Sarita has generously given me free-reign to use her futon as needed, so last night I set up camp at her pad. This morning we went for a most sumptuous brunch at a diner* and afterward enjoyed a good saunter around the neighbourhood and eventually to the wholesale flower places on Avenue Rd. for an inexpensive floral pick-me-up. Along the way we, almost literally, ran into a portly fellow carrying a box of large ostrich feather-like flowers. I realised that it was my former employer (I'll call him Ozymandias), the one for whom I toiled as an E.A.** for a year and a half before I left for a continuation of my academic career. We exchanged greetings, however surprised, made short chatter and each went our own way.
The meeting, however brief, brought to mind the sum total recollections of that job: The great Liberty Village office, every wall covered with original artwork (no tacky motivational posters or water stained prints of derivative water colour paintings), and all the great co-workers. There was also the memory of everyone in the office working in perpetual fear of angry phone calls, patronising and abusive email on our respective Blackberries before or after business hours, and his curious walkabouts that always gave him fodder for confrontation. On my evening commute home I used to either fall asleep or get teary-eyed at the thought of going back the next day for more abuse. My thoughts always drifted to: "Why did I leave Starbucks? I made next to nothing, but it was at least more rewarding," and "I did a grad degree in music for this?"*** Most puzzling and angst-inducing was that outside of the office Ozymandias was a charming and charismatic gentleman who was generous to a fault.
During the worst moments of employment I resolved to put together applications and go back to school to do a Ph.D. as I originally intended. The nastiness at work only reinforced my motivation to prepare a solid portfolio. I met all the application deadlines and waited diligently hoping that playing the odds would pay dividends. As the rejection letters trickled through the mail slot I kind of resigned myself to being stuck in that E.A. job or, at the very least, leave and find a middling but satisfying service industry job. To my great joy, my acceptance letter from UWO arrived on the last day of that beautiful Spring month. I knew life would be difficult for the remaining months of employment, but I was buoyed by the knowledge that I would soon start the next phase of my life.
Today as Sarita and I strolled the sun drenched sidewalks and enjoyed the non-work time I revelled in the illicit joy of relaxing during business hours; knowing that I can complete my work at any hour of the day; knowing that I'll not be berated by my supervisor (Nancy) for not making her afternoon latté with too much/not enough foam, or for not replying to email on my Blackberry by 7am.
As displeased as I am at times with academia and being an academic, I am reminded today of how much better my life is since I left corporate Canada.
*Flo's on Yorkville Ave., West of Bay St.; **Executive Assistant (read: corporate bitch); ***With a freshly minted grad degree in music I was lucky to have any job.