Confessions of a Semi-Unemployed Whachamacallit

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I never thought I would regard the years I had a job I dreaded going to every morning as the good old days, but it’s starting to feel like that. I left that company, after years of dreaming about it in 2007 and have been in various degrees of employment ever since.

At the time it felt liberating. I was working late hours and commuting far too many miles for what I was making at what appeared to be ultimately a dead end job. However, when I think about it now, I don’t recall the bleary-eyed mornings ingesting a bottomless cup of coffee just to function at a normal level. I don’t think about the endless loop of phone calls with customers complaining that their orders hadn’t arrived yet or why our prices were so high. I don’t even think about splitting time between customer service and helping out in the warehouse because we were short-handed in both departments. No, no, no, I think of that paycheck that would come down every other Thursday.

The company accountant would personally hand me a stub to show that money had been deposited into my account and I took it for granted. Sure I’ve made some money since then, I’ve even had a steady job in the interim but it was never like that. I knew exactly what I was getting and it relieved any tensions I had about bills and expenses and the occasional emergency. Insurance was covered. Dental? Covered. These were good times and I just didn’t accept it.

But how could I have known, at the ripe old age of 25 that a soul sucking 8-5 position would be something I’d desperately covet just a few short years later.

Freelance work is a cruel mistress. Regardless of the field getting paid can often be an exercise in frustration. Sweating out whether a written check will be covered or if the ATM will still spit out a pile of bills when you ask it to will start to strip away layers of stomach lining if it becomes a regular part of your life.

The important thing is to try to keep yourself busy. Positive thinking has never been one of my strong suites but the alternative is wallowing in self-pity and misery. It’s tempting to sit on the couch all day watching television and hoping for something to happen but, if you’re like me, your head won’t let you because you know if I do this there will be no tv to watch. Things will start going away. A routine is vital.

But the routine can become depressing. The need for a routine is depressing. Checking the want ads, trying to decipher if you’re qualified for a position or if it’s something you can handle. Can you handle driving 25 miles to a job you may hate every morning? Can you readjust to working amongst an office full of people? How are you going to fit in with those people?

The more job ads I look at the more it seems like more responsibilities fall under titles you would think unrelated to those responsibilities more than ever before. Bookkeeping, administrative assistant, customer service, secretary, data entry clerk wanted for part-time position. Please email salary demands and copy of resume with references.

You send your resume and you wait. Well, you don’t wait you keep searching, hoping for something so perfect for your situation that they’d be crazy not recognize what an ideal fit you would be for their company. In the last week I’ve had to contain myself from practically begging in my cover letter to explain how wonderful their job sounds compared to some of the other nonsense I’ve applied to. “Please give me a call back, I’m good, I’m really good, you’ll see if you just give me a chance,” I want to say but I keep it professional. No point in grovelling.

The sad truth that bubbles up in my head every time I see my Inbox empty is that maybe I’m not good at anything. Maybe the best I can do is a general labor job for a pithy salary and if I get that I should consider myself lucky to have it. Maybe I’ve just overestimated my skills, my worth as a worker. Lots of people are out of work and we’re all fending for the same scraps. It’s bad out there.

But you have to keep trying. I don’t have any kids that need food and clothes. I don’t have any loans to repay. I just have an empty wallet and the grizzled remains of a savings account that once used to calm me. But I’m lucky, it could be worse. So I’ll keep scanning the newspapers and the endless purple-links, hoping that sooner rather than later I see that Inbox loaded with responses that aren’t from a recruiter asking me if I’d mind switching my career and start training to do phone sales.

Shaun McGann lives in New Jersey and writes fiction, some of which can be read at bleak07.blogspot.com He also has a terrible addiction to American history and politics, which he often feels the need to comment on in late night typed out rants.