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UNEMPLOYEDHow Desperation Led me to the Worst Job Ever
By LAURA DOLAN-HAYES
Balboa PressCopyright © 2011 Laura Dolan-Hayes
All right reserved.
Everything that surrounds you right now in your life, including the things you're complaining about, you've attracted. Now I know at first blush that's going to be something that you hate to hear. You're going to immediately say, "I didn't attract the car accident. I didn't attract this particular client who gives me a hard time. I didn't particularly attract the debt." And I'm here to be a little bit in your face and to say yes, you did attract it. This is one of the hardest concepts to get, but once you've accepted it, it's life transforming. The Secret
I crack open one eye as the early morning light filters through the mini blinds in a prism of color that makes me squint in pain. As I adjust to the light, my eyes open and I look around to try to figure out what day of the week it is. Funny how that isn't automatic anymore. I scan the familiar landscape of my bedroom and see the celery-green walls and the white billowy curtains that are supposed to give the feeling of Jamaica on a warm summer evening. Instead of feeling Jamaica, my eyes scan to the top of the curtain rod and I see all of the accumulated dust. Funny, I didn't know dust bunnies had wings. Still lying down, I can see the top of my dresser with all of The Spouse's clutter, like loose change, bank receipts, pens, and oddly, a candle on one side and my jewelry box on the other. Above the dresser is a floral swag of purple and yellow flowers that's hanging awkwardly by a thread. You see, my cat, Eli Manning, likes to stand on my jewelry box and bat at the swag with his paw. No matter how many times I fix it, Eli Manning will yank it down, so now it's permanently crooked because, frankly, I gave up. I turn over on my side and look at the alarm clock. It's 6:12 a.m.
I sit up and put my feet on the green Oriental rug. I can see the floor by the dresser. The Spouse's shoes sitting there tell me beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's a weekday. The Spouse puts his shoes in the closet on Friday in favor of wearing sneakers all weekend, so it's definitely one of those rotten weekdays. The sight of those shoes makes my shoulders slump and I groan. I know I'm going to be alone all day, and it's depressing. I swing my legs back onto the bed and under the covers. There's no reason to get up at 6:12 a.m.
The truth of the matter is, I'm unemployed.
The Spouse is reaching for his alarm clock as it blasts the news at a decibel level even my mother-in-law would be able to hear. The clock says 6:47 a.m., but it's really 6:35. "Why don't you reset the time so it's accurate?" I ask him, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes.
"Because I like to do the math to figure out what time it is; it helps to wake me up."
"But if you wake up at 6:35 every morning and every morning it says 6:47, is there really a whole lot of calculating to do?" I ask, not really expecting an answer. The Spouse gets out of bed and heads to the bathroom across the hall.
Still not needing to get out of bed yet because my date with Regis & Kelly is hours away, I just curl up and close my eyes for a while. As I lay there, I'm really not thinking, but I find myself anticipating the next things that will happen. Right on cue, my dogs, Lily and Riley, and my cat, Eli Manning, get up from their respective places at the foot of the bed and snuggle themselves all around me. Both of my dogs are fairly large, about seventy pounds. Lily's a light brown and white smooth collie, and Riley's a calico-colored, long-haired border collie/golden lab mix. Eli Manning is a large black Burmese/Angora cat with a white chin, Which explains why I named him after the New York Giants Quarterback. Anyway, with my beasts all cuddled up with me, I can hear The Spouse turn on the radio in the bathroom, which means one thing: He's finished "reading" for now and has moved on to the more productive part of his morning ritual, although he would beg to differ which one was the more productive. While The Spouse showers, I hear the water splashing at predictable times and then all of a sudden I think, "Here comes the nose blow," and right on cue, there's the elephant-like blow. Luckily his farts aren't as predictable. Off goes the radio, the door opens, and The Spouse comes back into the bedroom.
Oh God. Now he's going to towel off his back.
Rubs his head with a towel.
I know his routine too well! Argh!
I jump out of bed at the horror of knowing exactly what's going to happen next. I grab my fluffy blue robe with the torn pocket, put on my slippers, and take a look at myself in the mirror. I recognize the stuff on the top of my head as hair, but it's going to take a major reorganization effort to make it look like hair.
On the trip downstairs, the dogs and Eli Manning go barreling past me. This is our morning ritual where the two dogs and Eli Manning, who thinks he's a dog, go running down the stairs past me in the style of the running of the bulls in Pamplona. They bark at each other, and jump on each other, and basically carry on like three nuts, and, yes, Eli Manning would bark if he could. I look at them and it occurs to me they are as happy as they can be to have this day. Me? Not so much.
It wasn't always like this. There used to be a time when I was excited to start my day. I mean, I ran our chiropractic office with The Spouse for thirteen years. That was a great job. I got to watch as people went from pain to health. It's really a wonderful business to be in. But then I wanted bigger challenges and decided to do what I never did before, and I went to college. I attended a small community college where I had one English professor tell me that if I didn't become a writer, I will have chosen the wrong profession. I thought, Yeah right, write about what? So I went on to the big-time university where I got my BA in Information Technology & Informatics. I knew when I was in the program that I didn't want to work in the field, and so far I've kept my word. I didn't want to be stuck working at a help desk or, God forbid, actually have to fix a computer. I liked the theory behind the major, but not the practicality. I guess I'm really good at identifying what I don't want, but I'm piss-poor at discovering what I do want. Knowing I wasn't going to use my bachelor's degree, I decided to just stick around and get a master's degree.
I did have a really cool job right after I finished my master's degree. The people I worked with thought I was queen of the world. I got to rub elbows with important academic types and wear beautiful clothes to work every day. The work was rewarding and challenging, and I was lavished with praise all of the time. I was happier than I had ever been in a job until two little words reared their ugly heads. Budget cuts. We saw it coming, but I hoped against hope that I would be spared.
It's been rough going from having a great job where I'm engaged and appreciated to where I am now ... unemployed for the last ten months.
Once in the kitchen, the dogs lunge for the back door as if they haven't had a nature break in days. Lily runs out first, but Riley takes two steps back inside the house when he sees a very plump, clearly violent bunny in the neighbor's yard. Yes, I hang my head in shame that my dog (and a pretty big one at that) is afraid of bunny rabbits. Lily, on the other hand, gives the rabbit a run for its money, and then Riley finally has the courage to go outside. Ooh, Riley, you gotta have your girlfriend protect you from those scary bunnies, I think to myself, knowing that this scene plays out morning after morning.
After the dogs come back inside, I begin my routine for the day. Routine, ha, no kidding! I open the window blinds in the space that is our living room and dining room. This is a nice cozy place where, on the dining room end, there's a large window that overlooks the wraparound porch on the front of our house. The walls have big loopy floral wallpaper with green paint under the chair rail. The living room/ dining room space is filled with antique furniture mixed with modern convenience furniture, like my reclining couch. It's a warm and inviting place to be where we spend time as a family watching my beloved New York Giants and our favorite television shows. This is the place I go when my day is done. This is my place of comfort. But I won't see this place until four o'clock when Oprah and I kick back for a while, because I'm going to that other place. I'm going to the kitchen.
I walk into the kitchen from the living room and I can see, as is always the case at this time of day, the clock on the microwave is set to fifty-five seconds, but it isn't running. The Spouse is now in the downstairs reading room prepping for a long morning at work. As I begin to straighten things up and put dishes into the dishwasher, The Spouse comes out of the reading room and hits the "start" button on the microwave to heat his coffee. Okay, so here comes the peck on the lips good-bye and his well wish for my day.
"Have a great day," The Spouse says cheerfully.
My response to his well wish, by some miracle comes out, "Thanks, you too," even though my brain said, "Eat shit and die." The fact of the matter is, I'm jealous. The Spouse gets to spend his day with nice people whom he's making feel better. I get to hang out with Judge Judy, Rachael Ray, and Oprah.
Yes, I watch Oprah. I wouldn't miss her, no way. Knowing I get to watch Oprah is the carrot that keeps me pressing on with the job search. Oprah saves my brain from the threat of intellectual atrophy Monday through Friday. Actually I recently watched a show she had on the book The Secret. The premise of the book is that you get what you think most about. That was sort of cool, but I really don't get it.
As the Spouse walks out the front door with coffee in hand, I reach down to start the dishwasher. I push the "normal wash" button and nothing happens. I push "heavy wash" and again, nothing. Then I push all of the buttons, because that seems like the rational thing to do. Nope, nothing's working. I guess you can say that about my life too. Oh, well, I'll call Bill, The Best Appliance Guy Ever, after I take a shower.
I head back upstairs with the reverse running of the bulls to shower and to maybe feel like a human. Like every other morning, The Girl is already in the shower when I get up there, so like every day I make my bed, pick out some clothes, and sit and wait on the end of the bed for the bathroom to clear. Two minutes later she is out of the bathroom and it's my turn. I go into the bathroom and spend exactly twelve minutes doing my daily cleaning rituals. Twelve minutes. Never eleven, never thirteen. Twelve minutes. Then I go to the bedroom and spend exactly four minutes getting dressed.
I go back downstairs, dry my hair, do some chores, and say goodbye to The Girl, who grabs her two slices of bread, an apple, banana, and one piece of cheese, which she takes to work every single day. Cue The Boy. At exactly 8:10 The Boy bounds down the stairs and rushes out the door with a "see ya later" falling out of his mouth. School starts at 8:15. After a few more chores, it's time to watch Regis & Kelly. After the show is over, I look at the doorway leading into the kitchen and think, ugh, this is just painful. The short walk from my wonderful, comfortable living room to the kitchen feels like I'm going on a perp walk. Head down, feet shuffling, shoulders slumped over. I know where I'm going isn't pleasant and nothing good ever comes of sitting there. Just like jail. I'm heading into the kitchen.
I walk into the kitchen and see my laptop on the mint-green kitchen counter, seemingly mocking me. It isn't even turned on yet and it's mocking me. I bring the laptop, which was once my friend before the scourge of unemployment, to the kitchen table and plug it in.
"It's just you and me, baby," I growl. "Now if we were ever friends, find me a damn job," I mutter at the machine. Eli Manning takes his rightful place snuggled up against the back of my warm laptop, where he will spend the rest of the day.
As the computer goes through what feels like its never-ending boot process, I look around at my kitchen. There is no doubt that this room, the place I spend a good deal of my day, is reflecting the state of my psyche. I mean the whole kitchen needs to be gutted and redone. I have green painted kitchen cabinets with white crackle paint over them to give that "weathered" look. "Weathered" now looks like it's been through a monsoon, with the paint flecking off, revealing the brown cabinet beneath, which just irritates the hell out of me. The walls that are painted white all need to be repainted white because white just isn't quite white anymore. There's a hole in the linoleum that started when I wore a most uncomfortable pair of high heels that sliced through the floor like a knife through warm butter. God, I hated those shoes, but back in the day when I was working, I had to look nice even if I was extremely uncomfortable. I called them my sittin' down shoes 'cause I really couldn't walk in them. Anyway the shoe made a little hole in the floor that has grown and grown over time. Now it's a small crater. Ankles are at risk. So clearly this room is a disaster, and this is where I sit for hours every day searching for a job.
Oh, I totally forgot: I need to give Bill a call. I dial the number of The Best Appliance Guy Ever and I'm met with a familiar message on his voice mail. "Hello, thank you for calling S&S. I know this ain't no social call and one of your appliances must be broke, and I feel (chuckle) real bad about that. Leave your name, phone number, and a brief message."
After the beep I say, "Hey, Bill, it's me. This time the dishwasher's on the fritz ... give me a call back. Thanks, bye."
While I wait for Bill, I need to get back to submitting resumes to companies that don't hire me. Actually I'm not even getting interviewed. No callbacks. Nothing. I'm sitting in this kitchen staring at the flecking crackle paint that is making me more and more angry, and this is the happy environment where I search for jobs. Great. I look at the computer screen with the desktop picture of Eli Manning sitting in a Crock-Pot bowl, and I fire up a Web browser. I look at all of my favorite job sites like Monster.com, CareerBuilders.com, Indeed.com, nj.com, The Ladders, and many others. I even look at yourenevergoingtofindajob. com, yourealoser.com, and nobodywantsyouyoutalentlessidiot.com.
As I ponder the vast nothingness of jobs out there, I realize that all of my life I've lived with a fair amount of uncertainty as to who I am and what I want to be when I grow up. Before I graduated from high school, my parents made it very clear that I wasn't college material. I took it to mean that I wasn't smart enough to go to college. Hell, I didn't blaze any academic trails in high school. But the real fact of the matter is that I wasn't the least bit interested in school and studying, and my parents knew it.
Now I find myself in my mid-forties still not having a clue what I want to do for a career. Actually that's a bald-faced lie. Truth be told, I would like to be a writer. I just don't know how. I mean, I know how to write, but I don't know how to get being a writer as a career. Isn't saying I want to be a writer sort of like saying that I want to be an Actor? You know that whole starving artist kind of deal? I don't have a single story in my head and wouldn't know how to tell one. Now that's funny! A writer with no stories!
A few years ago, I worked with The Spouse doing medical administration, but let me tell you, that's something I never want to do again. Like I said, the patients were great and I really loved working with them. But there's a very dark side of the profession: Insurance companies. Day in and day out, calling insurance companies to get the money they owe us, just to be told they never got the claim. It's funny because my bills always manage to arrive in the mail, but the insurance companies never get our claims. I estimate that I spent about four years of my life on the phone and on hold. Finally, after a particularly contentious conversation with a claims adjuster who ended the call with, "Thank you for calling Blue Cross/Blue Shield," I wanted to jump through the phone line and wring her neck. I knew I was done. I couldn't take one more call. It was over.
Excerpted from UNEMPLOYED by LAURA DOLAN-HAYES Copyright © 2011 by Laura Dolan-Hayes. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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