Let me just say that working 9-5 every day is rough. Given my rather busy/grueling schedule (that still leaves time for me to procrastinate in endless ways) during the school year, I somehow expected that working 9-5 might be…easier. False. False false false. I like to take my time when I wake up in the morning, so I get up at 7 am to get dressed and eat my cereal while I catch up on my celebrity gossip. By 8 am I’m out the door and walking to the train station, where I catch the R100 and ride to 69th street. Then I get on the subway til 5th street, and by about 9:05 I am rolling into work, by which time my day may already be: a) going just fine, b) going down the toilet, or c) just a fog. At this time during the school year, I consider it productive to be awake!
There are so many little things I find exciting (every single one of which makes me that much nerdier) about feeling like a “real person.” I love having a commute and working in Philly. Interacting with people outside of the Haverford community somehow makes my experience more tangible. It reminds me that I can be a functioning individual outside of a college campus! I love that I have to take an elevator to my floor, although admittedly, I could take the stairs, but 7 flights feels like it would burn just enough to make going to the gym after work even more unappealing. I love that I have an ID to get into the building, even though nobody checks it and I just waltz right in, ID or no ID. I have keys to get into my office, and to use the bathroom on our floor, which also feels pretty fun. These little details of the working world make my experience that much more colorful.
One time, on a flight home for the weekend, the man I was sitting next to repeatedly offered me a drink because he had a coupon for an in-flight cocktail. This wasn’t at all in a creepy way, he was just friendly, so after we got to talking for awhile about our respective destinations, he asked me where I worked. I was so excited that somebody thought of me as something other than a college kid. I didn’t want to tell him that I was a student, so I replied that I was in my first year working for a publishing house. I am a notoriously bad liar, so much so that I never even try. But for some reason in this moment it felt really easy to talk about a life that was the result of my dreams and ambitions rather than reality. These details were not altogether made up, they simply hadn’t happened yet.
I thought about this interaction for weeks afterwards. What had inspired me to essentially pretend I was someone else? I realized that I wasn’t pretending to be someone else, but rather I was trying on who I thought I wanted to be and what I’ve always wanted to do. It also dawned on me that this summer isn’t much different. My keys to the office and the (unused) building ID feel like accessories to this facade that I get to live out for three months. And while I’ve romanticized many parts of being a working woman, it is also really hard. I’ve always been a night owl, but suddenly 10:30 pm rolls around and my eyelids are drooping. My friends have been commenting that they never see me…and every time I attempt to justify my geriatric behavior, I think to myself saucily, “I am a workin woman!”
I have a newfound and deep respect for people in the working world, and especially women, though I can’t figure out where the distinction came from. Perhaps it’s because I babysit sometimes, and that combined with my work schedule makes me wonder how anybody does this every day. One thing I’m glad for is that at the end of my work day, I can come back home to Haverford and drop my assumed role as a “professional” and simply feel like a college kid again, because in my fantasies, no working woman eats cereal for dinner most nights the way I do. I’m a hybrid of the two, rather than one or the other; I’m really enjoying getting to try on this other version of myself, because one day soon (much sooner than I’d care to think about) my practice will pay off… and hopefully it will be just as fun.