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Reblogged:Your Conscription as a 'Wrong Job'

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I'll get this bit out of the way first: Our government helped turn a probably manageable new disease into an epidemic -- and is now fighting this epidemic by very blunt means of debatable propriety and efficacy. I am open to persuasion that lockdowns might be advisable in some circumstances, but I agree with Alex Epstein when he says, "The increasingly prevalent COVID-19 policy of indefinite universal isolation is immoral and un-American." I am fully in favor of voluntary social distancing, but I vehemently oppose universal indefinite house arrest (aka "lockdowns") under most circumstances.

I was working on my dream when this all started, and I can see one or more of any number of catastrophes happening to me now, any one of which by itself, would be enough to make what I was doing much harder, if not impossible. Perhaps I would have chosen to self-isolate with my children under other circumstances, but that is beside the point, now. Our government's irrational and unjust policies turned a manageable emergency into a liberty- and life- threatening crisis ... which they are attempting to solve by making even more decisions on behalf of a people whose individual decisions built the world's greatest nation. So let me get this off my chest: I am livid about being conscripted into an unpaid army of child care workers.

That is as politely as I can put a gross understatement.

I love my children, but the fact remains that this arrangement is not of my choosing. And I am worse than unpaid: My plans are being wrecked and my children are not being educated as well as they could be. This is horrible, and yet I know full well that -- at least for the time being -- I am among the more fortunate. And whatever happens, I owe it to my children, my wife, and myself to grow in whatever way I can find during this time.

With that out of the way, I have decided to borrow a page from Barbara Sher's excellent I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was (reviewed by Jean Moroney of Thinking Directions here). I will treat my time at home as what Sher calls a wrong job in one of the chapters of the book. The review summarizes the exercise as follows:

he encourages some people who are stalled in indecision to take the wrong job -- and do it outstandingly. Because you can learn a tremendous amount about the right job, by doing the wrong job well.
Image by Sebastian Herrmann, via Unsplash, license.
Week One has confirmed that this is definitely a wrong job for me for any number of reasons. Here are just three: (1) When I left academia, I sometimes had to fend off suggestions to teach children. I am good with children and I am good at explaining things, but I find constantly having to supervise people very ... taxing ... to put it mildly. (2) The job involves using crummy distance learning software. (Naturally, it's a pastiche of Windows- and Mac- centric GUI software with several points of failure. I have already discovered that for one application, I'm better off using my own Linux machines. (e.g., I'm told to use Chrome -- but at the last second, I get an error message complaining that I'm not on Safari. How the hell are most programmers and sys admins even employed?) (3) I have to collaborate with people whose communication style and attitude towards time are diametrically the opposite of mine. The first thing I'll have to do today is reschedule two one-on-ones for my daughter because I received all my scheduling information for this week Friday and after business hours -- except for the one email I got Saturday.

So, what have I learned so far? (1) I have already identified the major challenge facing me here: Each of my kids has different things they do more or less independently. I think I will find a way to juggle by alternating which kid I have on autopilot and which kid I'm having to hand-hold. I dislike supervising people, but I see that I am better at this than I thought, and that I will learn more. (2) I'm pretty good at thinking of workarounds for crummy software, if not ways to avoid it altogether. Software slumming for awhile may help me learn a few more tricks. (3) I remembered that I used to operate off of a paper planner and have decided to run this part of my time off of one. The farthest in advance I am required to plan for this is a week, and it's a lot easier to make last-minute changes with pencil and paper. If fact, laying everything out is what helped me see the conflict in the first place. (Yeah. I know. Them not having a centralized calendar in this Age of Computers is dumb on a par with filling out a computerized form -- and then having to enter some of the same information for the same company again anyway.) (4) Aside from all of that, I've added teaching the kids how to ride bikes as my version of PE. And I am looking for other things I can do to enjoy the extra time I am getting with my kids and develop common interests with them. We'll soon have a small vegetable garden going, for example.

At this stage, I'm learning the ropes and finding that skills and expertise I already have are coming in handy. But I am also already setting goals. The work load looks manageable enough that I should be able to finish things up at a reasonable time each day, and be able to so some work on my writing. The quality of all this depends greatly on figuring out how to get as much control over my day as possible. This is a challenge with children at their ages.

I noticed feeling more upbeat as I wrote the last paragraph, as I always do when reviewing each day and looking for three wins. This is why I journaled this here. I wanted to capture this for myself and offer it as a way of coping for others.

We have all been robbed of part of our lives by the government's aggravation of this already-challenging pandemic. It is up to us to take back as much as we can, both to endure now and, let's hope, to prosper again in better times.

-- CAV

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