Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Why I'm like Philip J Fry

Anyone who has ever watched animated sitcoms, or even had them running in the background, may remember our hero's position at the start of the Futurama series. Fry was a disillusioned pizza delivery boy in NYC who accidentally tumbled into a cryogenics tub and got himself frozen for about 1000 years. He wakes up in the thirtieth century, ecstatic to think that his past is now ten centuries behind him. He believes he won't have to return to his life of drudgery, and that the world is his oyster.

However, he soon discovers that in the 30th century, citizens are analysed with career chips for suitable job allocations. It's mandated by law and protesters are labelled 'job deserters' and treated as outlaws. To his frustration, Fry's verdict turns out to be... you guessed it... delivery boy. He ends up working at Planet Express for his descendant, Professor Hubert Farnsworth. It's an inter-planetary delivery company, but when all is said and done, still the same gig. It seems that even by jumping ten centuries, Fry couldn't escape his destiny.

This month, I'm acknowledging my first anniversary as a part time domestic cleaner with VIP. It's something I did way back in my old days as a teenage Uni student (same suburb too). Back then, I used to be on call to clean rooms at a local touristy guest house. I regarded it as a bit of independence and pocket money for a short period of time, because it definitely wasn't my long term goal.

I thought my English degree was meant to be my cryogenics tank. I assumed my future would involve a career in writing, in some capacity. I've actually had a good chance to indulge in my love of the written word, writing several novels while homeschooling my three kids. They've also received some kind feedback from publishers, editors and readers alike. But I was never earning anything like a regular wage. Getting the occasional financial boost from selling books was nice, but it was unpredictable, and sales is not my strong point anyway.

We all know times change, and as the kids grew older, it became clear that we couldn't really make ends meet without an extra regular income of some sort. An opportunity came my way to join the ranks of a local VIP franchiser, so now I'm going out for a few hours on two or three days each week, cleaning homes for regular clients. The money is most welcome and I'm grateful to be able to earn it. But every so often, I can't help thinking, 'This is a lot like the old days.' And like poor old Fry, I sometimes wonder if cleaning was my true destiny all along, and it's caught up with me.

But really when it's all boiled down, it's not so bad. There are a few reasons I hadn't really figured out when I was nineteen or twenty.

These days it may be even more satisfying to leave behind a gleaming sink and spot free carpet than it ever used to be. Back in those days, I hadn't really experienced first hand what a powerful boost to the morale a clean house can be. I was still living with my parents, where my mum was in charge of that area of life, and any efforts to get me involved came across like nagging. It takes being in charge of a house of your own to realise that cleanliness adds so hugely to comfort and satisfaction. One of my clients says that the day I come is her favourite day of the week. It gives me a buzz to hear that.

This sort of work isn't a bad break for the brain. I've spent years writing, thinking hard, editing, scrubbing stuff out, and generally playing around with words on pages. With cleaning, I can switch off that sort of rumination for a while and just focus on things like crumbs, cobwebs, toothpaste globs and skid marks. It's helped highlight the difference between physical and mental fatigue for me.

It relieves a lot of pressure when your passion doesn't have to be your meal ticket. A career doing what you love sounds like the ideal life. Yet when you put yourself in the position where it has to pay your bills, and the money doesn't seem to be stretching that far, that's a stressful way to reduce your passion!

In her book 'Big Magic' Elizabeth Gilbert talks about that very thing, so I'll borrow a few of her wise lines. 'I never wanted to burden my writing with the responsibility of paying for my life... I've watched many other people murder their creativity by demanding that their art pay the bills... It's cruel to your creativity, to demand a regular paycheck from it... financial demands can put so much pressure on the delicacies and vagaries of imagination... so many times I've longed to say to stressed-out, financially strapped artists, "Just take the pressure off yourself dude, and get a job"... you can always make art on the side of your bread and butter job.'

That's all so true. The house cleaning helps pay the basic bills so that I can enjoy the time I have reading, blogging and writing. Those things are my favourites, of course, but if I had to rely on them to earn money, whoa. We'd be in trouble.

So delivery boy, cleaner, what does it really matter, if you're taking care to be a good one, and you can fit your more enjoyable interests into your spare time? It's been quite a productive year, with some fun things that have happened on the job. I've met some lovely pets, enjoyed some fantastic views from windows that aren't my own, and made some nice friends in my clients. And sometimes I even hum on the job. Hey, if lots of cleaning happened to be my destiny, I might as well :)

If you'd like some encouragement for your own cleaning, here's a list of books to help our frame of mind.. I wrote this one before I even thought about getting a job with VIP.

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