Thursday, October 9, 2014

Third Week of Unemployment

Location: Minneapolis, MN 55408, USA
This is the week of serious job-getting. I'm not in dire straits, we have some savings to fulfill our obligations and we keep low expenses, but... what else am I doing with my days? with my life?

The first week of unemployment was relief. I was sad to leave a job I enjoyed with coworkers I considered friends, but I was stressed. Because there is no way to measure the positive work an editor does, only the negative (items missed), it is impossible to say whether a copyeditor is effective at his job, except for this: "We haven't had to talk to him about anything for a while." That means things are probably okay. But then there's no benchmark for acceptable performance: anything, to any degree, less than perfection is considered failure. And while the admin said they knew perfection was impossible, it was also impossible to measure how close I was coming to that with a ratio of my successful labors to what slipped through the cracks. So once that dynamic was done, I was able to notice the sun and fill my lungs with air and hug my wife in a manner unlike that of a drowning man clinging to a buoy.

The second week of unemployment was when the depression set in. This was when I had to update my résumé and relive my past (glories and) failures at the office. I had to sum up my responsibilities, which necessarily led to re-experiencing certain projects, recreating pointed conversations in my memory. The hard thing to do was to summarize those interactions and my responsibilities. As well, I accrued great experience doing other job-related tasks that I don't want to do again, yet because of my experience and job title, recruiters are hitting me up with undesirable job "opportunities". Which reminds me of how our office tried to take the edge off of failure: your annual review consisted of Successes and—by contrast—Opportunities. Opportunities for growth, opportunities to meet challenges. But it's a binary grade, so it forced Opportunity to be the opposite of Success, and now it's hard to look forward to a broad horizon of opportunities.

The third week of unemployment is tedious. By now I've wasted entire days by poking around online. I wake up between 7:30−9:30 a.m., and I check my personal email and my professional email. I check Twitter and then my browser crashes. I restart Chrome, check Facebook (one coworker has been shooting me a stream of job leads through private messaging there), check Twitter, check email, browse the job search websites, and then it's 3 p.m. and I haven't showered, made coffee or eaten anything all day. I've done nothing useful and a caffeine headache's setting in, so I quickly boil up a mug (so much for reasonable sleep patterns), clean out a couple glass storage bowls of leftovers, let the water run to warm up before doing dishes, check my iPod because I listen to podcasts to take my mind off of doing dishes, discover the battery has died, plug it into my computer, get hit with alerts that there are updates to iTunes and my iPod, and swear and punch something solid because Apple products will not let me progress any further until I download their latest anti-user platform updates.

So the iPod gets charged, the sink's full of hot water, and I do most of or all the dishes. I do all the dishes about every other day, these days, which is exponentially more than when I had a job. I'm jobless, but I'm finally starting to meet my half of responsibilities as a renter and a husband. Do you see what's happening here? Opportunity is the opposite of success, and once I've lost my earning power I'm a measurably better partner. My psyche is starting to twist and social mores lose their relevance, just as the days all bleed into each other.

I was so proud of myself when I finally quit Qwest and didn't need their phone services anymore. That was an achievement. My wife and I were very proud when we successively shed Comcast and then CenturyLink, because we were lucky to find a cheaper, better alternative. But when I was hired two-and-a-half years ago, it was a personal pleasure for me to terminate my accounts on Monster, Careerbuilder, Doostang and a bunch of other job-search websites. In some cases I didn't know what my password was, so I had to go through the rigamarole of proving who I was and reclaiming those accounts, but that work just made the victory that much sweeter. I was rejecting their third-party recruitment circus, I was rebuking their email noise: I was out of a wholly unsavory loop.

And now I'm back in it. Tail between my legs, heart sunken below my stomach, I restarted accounts with Monster, Careerbuilder, SimplyHired, Doostang, MNworks and Indeed. Here I herald a new dawn of incessant email, incorrect job "opportunities," misunderstood professional terminology, useless self-improvement tips written by interns and volunteer bloggers—today alone I received three phone calls (masterwork of idiocy: I uploaded the résumé with my phone number on it) from recruiters all trying to fill the same position at Medtronic. Funny thing about that: I was contracted to create that position back in 2011, and they let me go because my adviser was upset that I couldn't master a strange color-coded paper filing system I've never seen anywhere else, but which she assured me was industry standard. And I did master it, but she went on vacation for two weeks and assumed I hadn't picked it up, so she made her recommendation to my higher-up (he didn't even like this filing system) that I be dismissed. This upset the rest of the department, who found me invaluable to their work, but the supervisor was very removed from everyone and had no personal investiture in any outcome.

Today alone I've received three phone calls from recruiters trying to fill this position. One of them was even from the U.S. The next ten minutes were spent frantically deleting the culpable résumé and reuploading a cleaner, contactless one on all these sites. Tonight the spam emails have shifted from exclusively State Farm Insurance solicitations to general data harvesting attempts and money laundering.

And at the end of the day, I'm left asking... what is it I really want to do, anyway?

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