Life is not always lived at a furious pace. The conductor turns the page, and the moderate pace of an andante begins. You may be addicted to your frenetic pace and be compelled to moderate, or you may welcome the change. When the conductor started andante, I was in both places. Furious, all I was working on had now stopped. But I was also relieved that I now had time for the coffee and nosh with a friend.
What brought this to mind was the dumpster sitting in my driveway. Household cleanouts with dumpsters have a way of focusing your attention on essentials. Over the past four years, we’ve gradually dealt with a shrinking household and changing household needs. The latest dumpster was for the backyard and the basement. In the basement, I had piled boxes containing field notes and information on all my professional activities. There it was, my entire career as an anthropologist, from my first fieldwork to the endless reams of memoranda that constituted the final years of government work.
I spent a day or two segregating items. I saved the field material; old habits don’t die. Then I spent a bit of time combing through the drek that had been my last job. At last, I danced them to the dumpster and merrily threw them in. The recycle bin was already overflowing, and I took a perverse pleasure in consigning the final remnants of that life to a landfill.
I had not always felt that way. I had started several cultural and educational organizations from scratch. I had always had the sense that I was achieving things that might make a difference. Then the final government job came along. Within two years, I was in full administration mode, losing ground to the oncoming sweep of the Reinvention of Government. Afterward, my wife extracted the one promise from me she had ever asked for – no more government jobs. I agreed eagerly. That began of the andante.
I didn’t stop, but my pace moderated. I started small businesses. I went to lunch with friends still inside the pepper mill and nodded in sympathy.
At some point in the years following, the boxes were buried, interred, if you will. I suppose I thought that someone might ask me questions about something we did in 1992, but they never did. Looking through the boxes, I realized that they never would.
If someone calls up asking about my fieldwork in 1975, I can pull the files to refresh my memory. If someone calls about 1992, I’m going to run my fingers through my hair and say, ” sheesh, who remembers that far back. You must be kidding!”

3 Replies to “Furious”

  1. I can absolutely relate to that. The Reinvention of Government. Sheesh, indeed. I worked in government for nearly 30 years and saw the same old policies recycled/re-badged over and over but nothing achieved. My husband is still trapped. I want to engage in self flagellation every time he mentions the latest “change”. Hence, I save my self flagellation for my blog. Haha. Glad you are out of it, Lou.

    1. Hi Tracy. I hope your husband gets free of the grinder. The biggest trouble with the government is its lack of appreciation of the truly talented people who want to serve and make a difference.
      I now head up a three-person company. The board is an additional three people who don’t want to run a corporation. If I want to argue with someone I set up a coffee meeting with myself. I like it. I don’t have the benefits I had, but my stress levels are very low.

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