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Dear Josh: Ballad of the Multitasker

by / 0 Comments / 29 View / August 31, 2015

How do you balance and leverage your family, personal and professional life? When does one outclass the other?
-Dustin, Lampasas

That’s the conundrum that we face as adults now, isn’t it? Your family life is probably what’s most important to you and something you feel you should never compromise, but your professional life is what allows you to actually sustain your household, and a compromise there could put your family in jeopardy. Meanwhile, your personal life, your desire to socialize with your friends while investing in your personal hobbies, is vital to maintain so you keep your sanity in check.

As someone who now holds three paying jobs (and a few other side endeavors, LIKE CONTRIBUTING TO A BOOK or writing this very column), I have to schedule things in advance. If I want to call my friends on the phone, let alone hang out with them, I have to check which hours of which days I’m off and double check if they’re available those times. I have to analyze my schedules to make sure none of my employers have made a mistake and scheduled me at a conflicting time. I have to make the most of my lunch breaks to schedule appointments for the few hours of the week that I’m available and the clinic or hospital or barber or bank happens to be open. I no longer see my free time in a matter of weekends or individual days, but as chunks of hours where I have no obligations. I’m living on the edge of the past, stepping onto the edge of the immediate future at all times. It’s tiring, but it’s kind of exhilarating.

Because life is what it is, emergencies and conflicts do happen and I have to make sacrifices. I can’t imagine what it’s like to throw your family on top of this, but ideally my family would be a non-negotiable for which every other pressing need could go to hell should they face a crisis. In the end, I willingly put myself into this and I can willingly remove myself from it. Dropping any or all of my jobs and hobbies and friends is always an option if my hand is forced by a personal crisis, and I’m willing to do that because I’m a mortal and I accept the transience of things.

Maximizing these facets of your life requires having the right jobs which present the right opportunities that would benefit the right friends within the right sphere of influence. I’m working at a newspaper, a bar and a retail store, and people I meet at or hear about from these jobs are finally beginning to converge. (For example, our very own Lindsay Starr Platt and my new boss Ken just so happen to share half of their Facebook friends, yet they are unaware of each other’s existence. They’re both pretty tapped into the Central Texas “scene” so I’m not entirely surprised, but neither of them hang with bad crowds.) I’m not sure what my overall goal with this phenomenon is outside of curing my boredom, but I’m jumping at it with abandon.

Your family is important and they’ll steer you right, but I admittedly can’t relate too closely to having a family of my own. For now I’m a wanderer, free to pursue worthy endeavors and unique experiences in a cavalier way, and I’m incredibly lucky for that. I still think your family make you envious, though.

How do you deal with racism in your daily life?
-Robert, Newmarket

Well, that’s an interesting one. First off, I’d like to say that based on the unique little city I live in, Killeen, Texas, I don’t typically encounter overt racism every day. In fact, it’s surprisingly rare. Killeen’s racial makeup is well balanced between whites, blacks, Asians and Hispanics due to the influx of military personnel from all over the country, and I think the “Texasness” and the “armyness” of the people around here supercedes racial loyalties a bit. Needless to say, if you grow up here, you’re going to have friends and acquaintances from many different backgrounds and you’re going to adapt to that. There’s quite a few biracial people who live here as a result as well, myself included.

So day to day, I don’t encounter it externally. The thing is, racism is just as much an internal construct as it is the treatment you receive from other people. Even more so. When I was growing up, around the time I was seven or so, I thought my skin would eventually turn white. It made sense; my heroes on TV were white, they were American, lived in America, did American things and believed in American values. I was the same way, yet people who looked like me were scarcely represented in my media. Thus, I internalized the whiteness, which was more real to me than the culture and upbringing of my very own parents. It was a bit harder since I was biracial, so my own genetic background was disparate.

My parents did do a good job educating me along the way. I’m certainly suspicious that people treat me differently because of how I look and if someone shows me the slightest hint of prejudice, I have to assume they see me as either an enemy or someone to look down on. I refuse to be played by someone who wants to make me an easy mark. Part of the reason I became as articulate as I am is to take advantage of those prejudices. There is NOTHING I loathe more than being underestimated and I absolutely invite anyone who wishes to make me their enemy to try their best to outsmart me and outwit me. That antagonistic outlook of mine is also another byproduct of my own racially motivated insecurities, but it is what it is.

So I deal with racism with just a bit of bemusement, a bit of anger, and a bit of sadness.