The Beginning

This Friday will mark week four of my unemployment. It will also be week four of active job searching and zero hours of paid work. This is significant in that it means I am officially contributing to the figure of national unemployment. I am the 9.1%.

I've never really lost a job before this. I got laid off from a temp job once, but that's not really the same; it was temporary in the first place, so I was expecting it to end. Interestingly, I've been fairly numb through this point. Maybe it's the fact that throughout the course of my professional life (the past decade), exploring the job market has been a cruel, cutthroat, harsh journey with no finite destination, so the idea that I'm fundamentally a commodity to be purchased or liquidated by my employer isn't foreign to me. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I fully expected the day to come when I was suddenly jobless, because it's just the way of the world anymore.

I say I've been numb to it, because overall that's been my average state of being when examining the situation. Sure, I've gone through the requisite stages of anger, frustration, terror, sadness, denial, malaise, but the overwhelming majority of my time has been spent prioritizing and compartmentalizing my life. I schedule each day into blocks of productivity. Wake up at quarter to seven, take my girlfriend's son to school. Two hours job hunting. Four hours painting my living room. One hour tending to household repairs neglected over the past seven years. Visit career counselor. One more hour job hunting. Read news. Read book. Repeat in no particular order daily, speckling in other duties as assigned. Not really too different from having a job.

Staying busy this way has kept me from slipping into my standard mode of obsessive and ultimately destructive analysis. Typically, when confronted with an unacceptable life situation, I review the situation time and time again in my thoughts, examining it from every angle, looking for a solution. Universally, the result is that I waste months or even years probing the situation, but not moving forward in any productive sort of solution. Eventually, a convenient escape will present itself and I'll pursue it whether or not it's an improvement.

That's exactly what led me to my current situation. My previous job had gotten stale in certain ways that were no longer acceptable to me. Professional advancement within the organization kept coming at the expense of my career goals. The system was pigeonholing me in a direction I was loathe to go, on top of a daily commute in excess of four hours total. I gradually became blind to the upsides of my position and overwhelmed by the drawbacks. For the year and a half prior to leaving, I spent 100% more time looking for a way out than I did on improving the job. Then one day in May, I found another job much closer to home, but doing the exact same kind of work I no longer wanted to do. And then in September, I got fired.

Was I ineffective and sloppy in my work? Did I choose a position I wasn't well suited to? Or was the position misrepresented to me during the interview process? For that matter, were my new employers incapable of communicating expectations or giving even the slightest ounce of direction? Perhaps in my new position I was working for a group of terminally disorganized people. To some degree, the response to each of these is, "yes." The one real, honest gripe I have is that there wasn't a single conversation about fixing whatever the issues may have been. Instead, I was given four and a half months with no feedback whatsoever and then I was let go.

Actually, it's completely inaccurate to say I only had one real, honest gripe. I was hired as a project manager. The most complicated project I was assigned during my four months was a power point presentation. Which I did without the slightest bit of verve, style or detail, but with plenty of kwality (yes, with a k). Because I have a bad attitude that if you assign me piddlyshits, I will return piddlyshits to you. I'm working on that attitude, for the record.

Interestingly enough, my unemployment and the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon have been virtually concurrent, and I've been following along. What I find most interesting is the way that people who are against these protestors are completely occupied by them. On Facebook, on Twitter, even Google+, every third item is some incredibly inflamed rant against them. Occupy Wall Street seems to have been far more successful as "Occupy Conservative Armchair Pundits." And of course, that's one of the goals of a social movement: get other people to talk about you. In that regard, bravo Occupy Wall Street. Now try to stop spitting on people and dropping deuces on police cars...it's not helping. Rise above, then rise against. That's how you get people like me to support you. I'll come right out and say it, too, that I'm pretty much in agreement with everything the Occupiers are angry about.

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