Equivalent Exchange

Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something of equal value in return. That is the law of Equivalent Exchange and the first rule of Alchemy. ~Alphonse, Full Metal Alchemist

My average work week is fifty-six hours. Forty at a full time job and sixteen at a part-time job. The cost of living is high in my area but because I don’t want a roommate (flashback to the horror filled days of campus life), I made the choice to get a second job to cover the expenses. Sure it gets a little tricky sometimes on the days when I have to go straight from one job to the next and with the demise of my clunkmobile, a few weeks ago, it’s been quite the adventure.

However, due to the inability, unwillingness or just plain slacker crackheadedness of others to make it to work, my hours have increased to seventy plus and that is not including travel time on public transportation. Getting a day off has become like the quest for the Holy Grail. Unattainable and I’m left wondering if I’m the only responsible person left in the world.

If someone doesn’t make it in, I give up my day off to cover the empty slot. If we are busy, I’ll pick up more hours so that my co-workers aren’t overworked. I’ve always made a point to know how everything works at the job I’m at. Procedures, equipment, people. Because of this propensity for wanting to know what the hell I’m doing and being dependable, I’ve become the Go To Girl. The one that people can (and do!) call when there is a problem.

I realize that while my jobs may be engaging in a certain amount of privilege abuse, the bulk of the fault lies with me. I don’t say no. At some point in my life I latched onto this idea that I must sacrifice myself for others in order to be considered a good person. Perhaps my self-esteem issues are worse than I thought and this is my way of feeling validated. Perhaps those years as a Christian did more harm than good. Either way this belief has done me a great disservice.

The quote at the start of this blog post is from the anime series Full Metal Alchemist. The basic philosophy behind it is, in order to gain something you much give up something of equal value; you must exchange one thing for another. The problem in my life is I’ve always exchanged the right thing for the wrong ones.

Long ago, I said yes to a promotion which made it impossible to continue with college. I exchanged my college degree for a penny ante job that burned me out. For the last two months, I’ve been exchanging my writing for extra hours at work. When I come home, I am tired. All I want to do is sleep. My brain is so overworked that I am lucky to say my name right let alone put a story together. A successful writing career this does not make.

So now I must renegotiate my exchanges. The extra money is nice but is not worth the cost of my future as a writer. The moral of the story is make sure what you get is worth what you are giving up. Reduce it down to a dollar figure if you have to. Doing $X will bring me this amount of $ now but will cost me $Y in the future. This is a hard lesson I’ve had to learn but I’m glad I learned it now rather than too late.