It’s been quite a while since I last wrote, and a very stressful month. Cliff Notes version – I’ve been searching for employment, stymied in my attempts, but finally landed a job that started today. And although I am relieved to have income in the face of such an uphill battle, I’m as depressed now as I’ve ever been.
The Sin of Procrastination
In my last post, I wrote that I finally made peace with remaining in Wisconsin. In spite of its bitter cold winters, my life is here. I had motivation to leave Wisconsin, but no compelling motivation to choose any one place over another. It’s the same conclusion I reached when I chose to remain here last year. But then I was still flush with money, in no rush to find work, and circumstances arose that made me question my decision. So I spent most of the past 12 months believing that I would leave.
Had I committed to remaining in Wisconsin sooner, I could have been looking for work all along. But instead, I was adamant that I was going to move away. I used that as an excuse to postpone the unpleasant task of looking for work. Why bother looking for a job now if I’m going to leave the state in a few months? But now that I’ve decided to stay, my whole rationale for procrastinating was for naught. Now, I’ve had to make an 11th hour rush to find employment.
The Sin of Higher Education
It’s difficult to find a job when your past work experience is “attorney”. Virtually every other non-attorney job I could apply for pays less, I am either over-qualified or wrongly-qualified for, and is seen by the people doing the hiring as a step backward. No one believes that I’m willing to do these jobs I’m applying for. They think my application is a joke, or that I’m lying about the circumstances of my retirement. At any rate, I had a great deal of difficulty getting anyone to take my application seriously, even though I’m perfectly qualified, capable, and willing to do most of the jobs I applied for.
I’m sure I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating again… The great lie of higher education is that it opens up so many doors. They never talk about all of the jobs you can’t get as your education progresses.
I hate to compare the strife an ex-attorney has in finding work with the strife an ex-con has in finding work. But I have to imagine that this is what it must be how frustrating it is for felons to find work. We have to work to make money to survive. But when no one is willing to hire you – even for entry-level positions – what does one do?
The Sin of Selling Out
Fortunately – and I am grateful for this – one employer did decide to give me a chance, and I was offered a job. It all happened pretty fast. I applied for the job – I think – on Wednesday. Got called Thursday to come in for an interview on Friday. I was hired on the spot and subjected to a drug test that same day. Then I agonized all weekend over whether I could actually pass the drug test. I was called on Monday to schedule my first day which was today.
I’m not going to say what the job is – just that it’s not a job I wanted. I applied for it out of desperation. And it’s because of that desperation that I am grateful for it. I don’t mind that it’s entry-level manual labor. I don’t mind the low pay. Though it’s less than the minimum I figured I could survive on, so I don’t have much wiggle room in my budget.
What I do mind is that this job doesn’t meet any of my desired criteria. I’m constantly working face-to-face with customers. I have to leave Remy home alone for at least 9 hours a day. And my schedule is erratic, making travel planning nearly impossible. Moreover, the job goes against so many of my values. It’s a retail job, so my duty is to hock shit that people don’t need in order to increase the profits of a big corporation.
I’ve got to listen to corporate platitudes and slogans about customer service, subject to random drug tests, subject to a dress code, and have to undergo training that is – for someone of my intelligence and experience – condescending. Don’t get me wrong – there’s a lot about this job that I don’t know and will have to learn. But that’s not what today’s training was about. Today was about meaningless customer service clichés.
O! How the Mighty Have Fallen
There are a few nice things about this job apart from the paycheck. It’s honest work. I’ll be working around things that I use in my haunt craft. That will give me time to observe tools and materials that I might not have thought of before. And because I have a job, I can now start looking for a place to live. Without a job (and with my cash reserves nearing depletion), that was going to be impossible. My lease ends at the end of this month. Had I not secured a job, I’d surely be homeless for a while. It’s not that I mind being homeless, but you try finding a job when you don’t have ready access to electricity or a shower.
But what really bothers me is the loss of freedom. I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for me. I just retired at age 36 and enjoyed a 13 month sabbatical. Most of the shit I’m complaining about are things everyone else has to put up with in their jobs. But when you taste true freedom (as I have been fortunate to do), to go back from that and into this life is… depressing as fuck.
I think back to that day I was driving down CO-340. The day when it finally sunk in that I was liberated from my previous career and – for the first time in my adult life – truly free and genuinely happy. I thought I felt like a caged animal before, moving into this apartment. But that’s nothing like how caged I feel now, subject to the demands of this job. It’s a total reversal – from ultimate freedom to economic slavery. You can accuse me of being hyperbolic, but life is too short to hock merchandise that people don’t need to make corporate shareholders stupid rich. No one – not you, not I, nor anyone else – should have to endure such absurdities just to put food on the table. There has got to be a better way for us to live our brief lives.
Back Against the Wall
When I decided to sell my house and quit my job without having a new home or new job lined up first, I was bull-headed and stubborn. I took a principled stand to – for a time – defy the usual assumptions of what my day-to-day life would be like. I was emboldened by the fact that (historically) I’ve had the courage to make big decisions when my back is up against a wall. I took away my safety nets so that I would be forced into such a position again, believing that I would flourish once again. I don’t know if I can say that this episode has resulted in such a successful decision. The last time I made a big decision under pressure, I started my own law practice which – for all its shortcomings – dramatically accelerated my retirement date. Taking this entry-level job doesn’t have that level of gravitas.
I am not content to keep this job. I’m glad to have it. I’m glad to have income. But I’m already miserable after just one day. I know that won’t get better with time. At work, I’m going to try to have a positive attitude because I know it’s the only way I’m going to get through this chapter of my life. But at the end of the day, when I come home to those sad puppy eyes, I know this can only be a temporary solution. I’m going to continue to look for work that better matches my criteria and values. But for now, at least, I won’t be under such insane pressure. I’ll be able to do a proper job search.
There are three jobs I think would be a better fit. I could fall back on my college degree and passion in biology and return to doing lab work. I could also parlay many of my skills and experiences as an attorney in journalism, as either a writer, copy editor, researcher, or journalist. Or I could work as a security guard or night watchman. Two of those job ideas don’t involve much interaction with other people. A third shift job would be better for Remy. And a career in journalism might be something that is either flexible or can be done remotely, which benefits both Remy and my desire to travel.
But I also recognize that after eight years of being my own boss, taking orders from people isn’t going to sit well. Beaker once suggested that I offer up my experience in the financial industry to provide back-end services to haunt owners. Such a business could be done remotely. And any job I do remotely automatically satisfies all three of my criteria for a good job, even if I’m not excited about the prospect of working with numbers again. But it’s a service, not hocking goods. And it would keep me working in the haunt industry.
Not Out of the Woods Yet
I still have to find a place to live. While that should be considerably easier than finding work, it’s not guaranteed until I sign a lease. And I’ve only got about 3 weeks to get this done. It boggles my mind how few places allow you to have pets of any kind, let alone large dogs (which apparently is anything over 20 lbs.). I’ve found a handful of locations, and hopefully one will work out. But that is my next most pressing concern. I’ll have to put the job hunt and business plans on hold until after I find a new place to live.