I have a confession: I don’t actually make potato salad.
I package potato salad; I clean potato salad up off the floor; I make potato-like products (Cheesy Hashbrowns, Chester Potatoes, Loaded Baked Potato Casserole). But I don’t make potato salad.
Miguel and Bruce (and occasionally Dean) make the potato salad in the back (the back back, as to be distinguished from the back by the pump and the back in the warehouse and the back by the boxes).
I started lying about making potato salad because it’s easier to explain. Not easier for people to understand. Easier to explain.
Quite honestly, I don’t want to extend a conversation about what I do because the conversation is usually extensive enough without my help, and it usually goes something like this:
People: You make potato salad? Laughs.
Me: Laughs. Yup.
People: What did you study in school?
Me: Writing and international development studies.
(Faces turn from WHAT IS THAT EVEN? to NO WONDER YOU CAN’T FIND A JOB.)
And then people give one of the following responses:
- My second cousin’s neighbor’s daughter works for (company name). You should try there.
- Oh, well, something will come along.
I say thanks and take the suggestions and encouragement weakly by the hand and move on. I don’t blame people for their responses. If the roles were reversed, I’d say the exact same things. And I do appreciate the suggestions and encouragement. But a person can only handle so much rejection and disappointment before feeling like a stained glass window without the sunlight. Just a bunch of broken glass molded together with ugly iron.
So I spend a lot of time after these conversations wondering how I came to work a job in potato salad manufacturing. And after reading Griffin’s post on Sheer, Stupid Inertia and feeling convicted for still working that job long past summer, and after my hypothetical thirty-three-year-old and fifty-three-year-old selves were used as an example in Elaine’s The Value of Stupid Inertia, I feel like I, too, should a get say on potato salad inertia.
(And, in case you were wondering: Yes, that photo up there is definitely a photo of a potato on a road. Well, on a field, but it looks a little like a road if you use imagination.)
Anyway, both Griffin and Elaine argue important things about inertia and thoughtfulness and action, so anything I write on the subject will be either redundant or untrue.
I can, however, speak to the motion. The actual movement of being caught in inertia. In waking up every morning knowing that I’m working one of the world’s mundane jobs. In sitting outside of 3255 Production Ct. Unit B’s parking lot and leaning my head against the steering wheel and telling myself: Just be kind today. No matter how you feel about where you are, no matter how you feel about what you’re doing, just be kind.
Whether we live in privilege or poverty, sometimes we get stuck in paths we never wanted. Paths that, had we been given complete control, we never would’ve chosen for ourselves. And I believe that a hard fact about life is that sometimes, no matter how much thought we put toward the subject, we will never find a way out. No outside force will whack us and send us flying in another direction. Or we can’t or won’t risk it, if it does.
And sometimes, these paths seem very devoid of hope. Very meaningless. As if it doesn’t matter.
I could pull out an Ecclesiastes reference here, but I won’t. I’ll reference John Green instead because sometimes young adult literature is gentler than scripture.
In Paper Towns, Margo Roth Spiegelman appears at Quentin Jacobsen’s window and recruits him to wreck havoc in Orlando. During this adventure, Margo tells Q:
“It’s a paper town…all those paper people living in their paper houses, burning the future to stay warm…all the things paper-thin and paper-frail. And all the people, too. I’ve lived here for eighteen years and I have never once in my life come across anyone who cares about anything that matters.”
What Q doesn’t know while listening to Margo’s monologue is that she’s leaving. The next day, Margo is missing from her paper town, and Q follows clues to find her. Sometime during his investigation, on his last day of high school, in the moment that he looks around the building and at his classmates and begins to feel sick with nostalgia, he realizes:
“It must have been like this for Margo, too. With all the planning she’d done, she must have known she was leaving, and even she couldn’t have been totally immune to the feeling. She’d had good days here. And on the last day, the bad days become so difficult to recall, because one way or another, she had made a life here, just as I had. The town was paper, but the memories were not.”
Even if we are victims of inertia, in perpetual motion on a path we may never have hoped for, a path that may, at times, seem meaningless, we still experience everything that path offers. We still live it.
And life is infinite.