Archive for November, 2007

Working For Happiness

Work has been difficult. In Athens I used to teach one level only, to university students. They were three-hour classes, the same lesson Monday and Tuesday, and another one Wednesday and Thursday. That meant that over a two-day period, I might do the same lesson four to six times, for a total of 12 to 18 hours. It could be boring at times, and voice often grew hoarse, but I had reached the point where I could do it in my sleep, and I liked knowing I could still do it well.

But now, I do four or five one-hour lessons a day, and very few of them are repeated. Out of my 25 hours a week, I do at least 18 different lessons, and they’re mostly with young children. I have so little experience at this that I have to do tons of planning and preparation and marking. For the first time since I came to Greece ten years ago, I hate my job.

Since the summer I’ve got married and our life has improved considerably, and we’re still only getting settled. But in one particular foul mood I told N. that I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up having happier memories of the year I was unemployed. “This is our first year of being married and I don’t have time to enjoy it,” I told her.

And the writing has ground to a halt. I write so little now that clichés like “ground to a halt” creep into my writing. I think about the ultimatum I made and I wonder if I should just take out that old dream and put it out of its misery.

Yesterday I learned that my boss has calculated my monthly salary at four weeks. October was closer to five weeks, though, and I got paid 20 hours less than I was expecting. This actually works in my favour over the whole year, especially at Christmas and Easter, when I only work two weeks a month, but I was quite angry and started thinking about finding work elsewhere. I decided I would do only the bare minimum of work from now on, and even cut corners. If I’m still teaching next year, I’ll take fewer hours, so I can concentrate on private lessons.

I ran a couple of errands in the centre yesterday while I waited for N. to finish work. I like the centre and had really begun to miss it. I had a coffee in the square next to St. Minas church. Then N. and I went shopping and on our way home we bought a couple of lavender plants to put in the garden. Later I went outside to wash the car before it got dark. I stopped for a moment. I looked at the light coming through the leaves of the almond and apricot trees and could smell the spearmint growing to my right. On the ground to my left was a crawling plant that is full of flower buds — buds I was surprised to learn this summer could be picked and pickled as capers. Beyond were some olive orchards and the distant mountains.

And then, without warning, I felt, despite everything, that I was happy. This moment, made up of so many seemingly insignificant things, had been enough to save everything. I thought of telling N. when I went inside and I imagined her laughing with a touch of cynicism and saying, “Well, you’re easy to please!”

And I thought, Am I? I’d love to have enough money so that I’d never have to work another day, but who wouldn’t be happy with that? That would be easy. But the stretch of road that had brought me to stand in the garden at that particular moment had been a difficult one. Happiness, even a moment of it, can be hard work sometimes.

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