One of my dear friends also happens to be Ms. Big Busy Very Important at one of these companies for which I sometimes work, and she gave me some hurry-up-we-need-it-now work last week. The task involved correlating English language arts standards created by one educational agency to standards created by another, and then aligning test questions to the first set of standards. Old hat. I've spent so much time keeping company with various state standards that there are some I know by heart.
Sometimes, though, it's the old hat that fits best. Once in the task, I was completely and blissfully absorbed by it. I had no concept of time passing, and the work felt almost effortless. Match, match, match, match, turn the page. Repeat. That would be flow, according to Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. I don't know how that happens, that one becomes so immersed in work that the work becomes a pleasure, but it is wonderful when it does. And yet, if you saw this big stack of test questions and the other big stack of papers with the printed state standards, it probably would look more like someone's final exam nightmare than a trip to the circus.
Also last week, I was in a class and the teacher asked what I did for a living. When I told him, he gave me that look that people often do give me when I tell them what I do and then asked, "Is it fun?"
That was a question I hadn't considered in a very long time. I had been working at a crazy pace the two weeks before, which hadn't been all that fun. Or I should say, would have been a lot more fun if I hadn't underestimated the amount of time the work would take me to do. (Because I like to live on the edge like that.) And of course, much of the last several months has been taken up with the culture shock of moving to a new state, and trying to begin putting my house in order, so I'd been working less than usual.
I thought about the teacher's question, and then told him that it was fun. And so once again, I had the opportunity to reflect on how fortunate I am, particularly these days, when not everyone gets to choose his occupation, and when even people who yearn to work are unable to find jobs.
The only other job I've ever liked so much as what I do now was making coffee drinks at an espresso bar. As dissimilar as it may seem. There is a common thread though, that of giving a client precisely what she wants and needs at that moment.