Kevin (erf_) wrote,

  • Music:

return to planet poverty: a case study in tertium quid

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And said "fuck it," since I could,
And chainsawed through the undergrowth.

I turned down the QA job at I was absolutely, positively sure I was going to accept until ten minutes before I was scheduled to call them with my decision, when an email arrived in my inbox from Sunrise Center, a Chinese-English online dictionary company, telling me they had received my NDA and would pair me up with a programmer immediately. This left me quite confused--I had applied for a telecommuting contract job with them several weeks ago, but I had thought an interview was still in the pipes, and here they were implying that I had already been hired. I gave them a call and they confirmed that I was already working for them. Minutes later, I was thanking for their time.

My parents and my cousin would think I made an unfathomably stupid decision. Worse, they might consider it cowardice. From a career perspective it looks like I turned down a big step up for a small hop forward, like I chose the easy way out because I was afraid of a few bus stops and a little train ride. And I wouldn't blame them for thinking that way. If my priorities were the same as theirs, it would indeed be a stupid decision. But they're not.

What would I get for working at A nice salary point on my resume. $17 fish dinners at Fisherman's Wharf, taxi rides whenever I didn't feel like taking the bus, maybe a stack of comic books and some new computer games. What would I give up? Fourteen hours a day, five days a week (six of them on waiting for transport). A second education reading Henry James and Ambrose Bierce at the library. Sleep. Peace of mind. Writing. People-watching. The community service work I have lined up at Full Life Church. My first time shooting a gun (with my pastor friend Steve Weaver and his family). Making peace with my cousin (who I am not getting along with, currently). Being on call as a servant of God in a city that needs Him even more than I do.

Still doesn't sound like a fair trade? How about this: If I'm the kind of person who will choose money over life at twenty-one, then I'm the kind of person who will choose money over life at thirty-one. At forty-one. At fifty-one.

How familiar does this sound: "Gee, I'd love to write a book someday, but I never have the time?"

I gravitated towards the job at because I am used to taking the tougher choice. I am used to rhetoric beginning with "it's easy to take the easy way out" and have been trained to seek and accept challenges. And this is a good way to live, in general, if what you crave is a challenge and what you care about is success.

But the three-hour commute is a challenge that would be taxing and meaningless. And as nice as the money would be, and though I'm going to be poor again without it, I don't need it just yet. I can manage on $60 a week. I don't have a wife and kids to support. I can do without comic books and video games--I mean, I would like to have them, but all the comic books and video games in the world aren't worth a month of reading novels and writing fiction and writing code and serving God. I don't have to choose the harder path just for the sake of choosing the harder path. For maybe the last time in my life for a long, long time, I can choose happiness. And I do.

So this job with Sunrise Center--the training won't be as good, the company is a little suspicious, and I'm not getting paid until the work is done (if at all). But it's more relevant programming work than QA, and the work-from-home means no commute. I can code in libraries and coffeeshops, people-watching as I go, and write at night. I can do that community service job on weekends, helping out the teachers at Sunday school. And best of all, even if I get scammed and am never paid and never credited, I am working on something I care about. Chinese-English dictionaries and thesaurii suck. If I can do anything to make them better, even if it's something as oblique as checking for bugs in the search engine code on the online edition, I'm doing something to make the world a better place. And that is worth far more than $20 an hour.

Could I want anything more? I guess I could ask for a Nintendo Wii, a girlfriend, peace between Lebanon and Israel, and an indestructible pony that gallops at 5000 miles per hour and never eats or shits. But I'd more than settle for this.

At Cedar Campus, Kiel and I used to have this weird handshake thing, based on the lyrics of a very Pentacostal gospel song:

Kiel: God is good?
Me: All the time. *low-five*
Kiel: All the time?
Me: God is good. *high-five*

If Kiel were here, I'd do that with him right now.
Tags: christianity, computers, joy

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