Monthly Archives: March 2009

Just the tax, ma’am

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Going to college is expensive, but the idea is that the education will lead to a job which will lead to money which will tidily pay off the debt you assumed to get your education. See? This is very nice in theory but in practice it sort of falls apart, at least if you were stupid enough to pay for four years of college and two years of graduate school to get a job, deliberately, that does not pay well.

It’s not as though I looked in the Occupational Outlook Handbook and said to myself “Ah! Librarianship! Lots of education, not a lot of money! It’s PERFECT!”

Actually, I did look in the Occupational Outlook Handbook back when I was an undergrad. In those days I had no idea what sort of career to pursue. Usually I waffled between becoming a journalist and becoming an editor, but sometimes I aspired to something more exotic. For a while I considered law school, but let’s be honest here: lawyers who start crying when people are mean do not win cases. There’s just something undignified about an attorney who would break down sobbing if the jury ruled against her client.

And for a phase I considered becoming a nun—lots of privacy, lots of good deed-doing—but I dismissed the idea because I didn’t want to spend my time lying to people, which would have been the case if I’d been called upon to uphold dogma.

At any rate, the one career I knew for sure I did not want was librarianship. I knew this because I worked for four dollars-and-something in the university library, and I was bored silly. Shelving books and filing inserts can drive a woman mad. I dimly appreciated that professional librarians probably had more challenging jobs, but I still found the atmosphere to be dull and stodgy and not all that meaningful.

So, as I reshelving the Occupational Outlook Handbook one day, I took a gander at some of the different career descriptions. For a lark I looked at the entry on librarianship, and discovered that job prospects were good, because apparently a whole swath of librarians were perched on the brink of retirement.

And then a lightbulb went off and a bush started burning (why there was a bush in the library I have no idea) and a voice told me to become a librarian. Also there was an angel, and then a firefighter, but the firefighter was there because of the blazing shrub, I think.

Actually it wasn’t quite that easy, but eventually I did settle on library school, because I was feeling mighty unemployable. Thoroughly educated, yes, but unemployable, unless there was a job that required a girl to write essays about Stalinism for a living, and I had seen no mention of that in the Handbook. Bolstering my decision was the knowledge that all the librarians would be dropping like flies in a year or two.

Turns out that was a total lie—entry-level jobs are scarce as hens’ teeth—but though I entered the field for the wrong reason (“Should be easy to get a job”—ha!) I was delighted to discover that librarianship is not boring, not in a public library, at any rate. I still have doubts about academic librarianship. (Are you reading this, Mack? Care to illuminate?)

So I don’t get paid what I’m worth, but that’s typical of librarians, and on the bright side, I do get paid. The national unemployment rate is 8.1%. That rather puts things in perspective. And every spring, there’s an additional perk: I always get a nice fat tax refund. Except this year I didn’t. This year I actually had to send money to the feds and the state– and because I filed electronically, I didn’t even have the satisfaction of drawing a frowney face on the checks.

Did my taxes today, and I was looking at a fat and sassy $998, right until the point where I entered in the money I made from contract work. Between speaking fees and payment for professional articles, I earn a nice little bit on the side, which I use to splurge on perks such as groceries and gasoline. And since this money doesn’t get taxed up front, I get hit with it at tax time.

So if you’re looking for some way to spend your tax refund, I remind everyone that it is less than a month until my birthday. My wish list this year includes, but is certainly not limited to, the following reasonable requests:

  • World peace
  • A pony
  • Better yet, a unicorn
  • A stegosaurus
  • A pink dolphin
  • A medieval castle (but slightly modernized, please: I’m sure chamber pots are more authentic, but… maybe a convenient outdoor privy?)
  • A time machine
  • The entire staff from Nawab. Nawab is the Indian restaurant down the road. I’d like them to come live in my kitchen.
  • A trip to Alaska. The snow earlier this week has me pining for inclement weather.
  • A private lake. I’d like to be able to swim this summer.
  • Perfect vision. Juggling two pairs of glasses is just ridiculous.

Hurry! The clock is ticking! And if you start shopping now you won’t have to bother with expensive overnight shipping!