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  • Writer's pictureJeni Kelsch

Existential Reality

This year I did something radical, something unheard of in the “more is better” world we live in, I quit. Next year I hope to do something even more radical: quit feeling guilty about it. I had been teaching art to children in my community for over 15 years. I loved it almost every day but after 15 years, I couldn’t remember what was a good idea anymore. All my projects seemed a lot like me, tired. Teaching art had kept me happy while I could not make my own art, in the midst of raising children and managing other people’s projects and adventures. But as my last child entered middle school, I discovered something I hadn’t seen in almost 20 years, free time. By free, of course, I mean time that doesn’t make money, not so much time with nothing in it to do. Free time, it turns out, is actually time to do the things you were supposed to be doing all along but forgot. Even so, it was heady, there were so many options, I didn’t even know how to manage it at first, but soon enough a pattern emerged organically. As I looked around our unfinished house, into our unfinished yard and barn to the animals barely contained by our unfinished fences, finding time in my week for those non-paying jobs seemed like a pretty good idea. That is, until our friend Bill asked The Question. The Question that men have been asking women ever since Eve stitched together some leaves and sent Adam out to bring home the bacon. The Question of Men has always been, “What do you do all day, since you don’t work?” Now I admit the answer to that question stumped me. Not because I couldn’t think of what I do, but because I couldn’t decide how to organize it. Should I go from dirty jobs to clean jobs; shovel poop, mend broken things, clean things no one else sees- like trim and bathroom floors, and quite often, the surface of the dining room table. Or should I go outside to inside, big to small scale, domestic to foreign, I just can’t decide. The truth is, I don’t do anything, if by anything you mean things that will make money. And yet my family’s world would fall into absolute chaos if I stopped doing all the nothing I do all day. I’m sure there’s some sort of existential reality in that statement somewhere but I don’t have time to find it, the goats just escaped the barn and got their heads stuck in the fence, the dog ran away, again, an d my teenage daughter needs cheering up about something she cannot name or explain but still depresses her. It’s time to get busy, but I don’t mind, I wasn’t doing anything.

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