Part of my job involves reading travel guides. You know, the big fat Lonely Planet ones, and the TimeOut guides that have the colorful pictures. And more than that, the ten-or-so books on my desk are about Cuba: a place I never thought I'd visit. In my regular life, I would have no time to even peruse guidebooks on Cuba, because it's not even a place I could travel if I had the money. As it stands, I don't even have the patience to read guidebooks on India, knowing I cannot actually plan a trip with any certainty, because I have no means to get myself to India anyway.
So that in these last five weeks I have been planning a two-week trip to Cuba--right down to writing the application to the Office of Foreign Assets for the license for travel--is beyond anything I could have imagined in a job. It felt entirely exhilarating to write the application letter to the feds, knowing that something I was producing was going to effect something much larger: this trip would not occur if we were denied a license. I was representing the entire university. I am excited to report that we just received notice yesterday that we have indeed been granted a license to travel to Cuba, good for one year for anyone, either faculty or student, who wishes to go to the Cuban island for academic purpose. The fact that I am being paid to perform this job strengthens my belief in their being "real" jobs that are both enjoyable and rewarding, and that employ many of the skills I have and use already.
This is my first semester in grad school. Besides showing up at an entirely foreign campus in downtown Atlanta, I had also moved into an apartment on my own several weeks earlier, and was naturally leaving my job at the campus bookstore at Kennesaw State (where I received my undergraduate degree) because it was simply too far to commute for a student position.
So naturally, I needed another job, and I was hoping that would come in the form of a graduate assistantship through the history and heritage preservation department of my school. By mid-July, I still hadn't gotten a definitive answer, and had begun applying to other full time jobs in the area, because grad school with no job was not an option. When I did finally hear from the director of my department, I was so excited just to be employed I was hardly concerned what I would be doing. Research or making copies, I didn't care.
Now though, I feel I have definitely lucked out; I am working with the director, and I am not making copies or filing paperwork (or organizing paperwork, or shredding paperwork, etc.) but am handling all the groundwork for next the Heritage Preservation Program's Maymester abroad. There is a lot of work involved, but I have yet to mind one task. To me, looking through old slides of Cuba, writing up brochure text, and manning a booth at the study abroad fair is not "work."