PlazaJen: The Blog

Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: Perspectives (page 2 of 2)

A Quieter, Less-Popular Voice

I know the entire city exhaled this week when Bernard Jackson was arrested, charged with rapes from the 1980’s, and has been all-but-officially named as a suspect in the recent rash of rapes in, Waldo/Brookside. It would appear that there is strong (DNA) evidence that ties him to those cold-case rapes, and his own record speaks to his violent history as a predator. The Kansas City Police Department simply can’t comment or divulge anything about the current cases, but I hope the DNA evidence is there to tie him to those attacks as well.  I want him to be guilty.

I also believe in the system. Flawed as it is. Innocent until proven guilty. In a court of law, not the media. Or at midnight in a jail cell. It kind of squicked my stomach, how KCTV5 proudly interviewed Jackson’s cellmate who gave him the midnight beat-down that sent him to the hospital his first night in jail. My heart, my gut, my empathy for the women who were attacked and who were beaten by this man, all collectively said, “Yeah! Know how it feels, motherfucker, to be attacked yourself.” I was a volunteer rape crisis counselor for years, and it is one of the burning causes inside me that I rail against. The man who perpetrated these rapes deserves to feel unsafe, feel battered, feel like his safety has been taken away.  But at the same time I felt that tiny exhilaration, my mind, my intellect, my values cringed.  And I know to even state this puts me in the minority.  Our society is a tv-news-fed, pop-culture, twitter-riding mass of instant judgment and categorizations.  Remember, I was raised by a liberal hippie who always cautioned me to step back and think. Assess. Don’t follow the mob. Stand apart. Vigilante justice is not part of a civilized, advanced society. Everyone who’s seen CSI knows how powerful scientific evidence can be, so let’s sit back and wait (it takes longer than 20 minutes to get those results), and let’s not let down our guard completely, and let’s allow our system to work. I have the utmost respect for the detectives and crime lab folks who have devoted their lives to this case for the past several months.  The dedication – the involvement at all levels (inside word is that the FBI has been all over this as well), is to be commended. And a breath of relief for the women who have waited tens of years for this man to be brought to justice. May it be the same for the women in these current cases. And let’s ratchet down the sensationalism. It’s a disservice to the women who are still waiting to hear if Bernard Jackson is going to be charged in their cases.

Sweet Orts

I just had lunch with a sales rep I’d never met before, and had already rescheduled the lunch date once. I even contemplated rescheduling again, because I’ve got a bunch to do in a short amount of time. But I decided to just relax, go have lunch, and meet her. We had a great time, and in a really odd, roundabout way, discovered we both had lost our fathers and shared similar mom relationships, the same values, politics. It was a good reminder to me that in putting oneself out there, even if it’s not your first choice of action for the day, good things often flow back.

After that lunch, I realized Mimi Murano was running, literally, on fumes. So I got to spend extra to buy my gas in Kansas, but opted to minimize the blow by filling up at CostCo. Right after I started fueling, a minivan pulled in behind me, and I realized, as I was staring into space, tiny hands were waving from the back seat at me. I waved back. The hands moved faster. I waved again. I said something to the mom, as she headed back to the driver’s seat – about how her kids were really friendly and we were waving at each other. She laughed and said they will talk to anyone, they love to talk. I told her it was pretty cute.  She got in the van for a few minutes, and then got out and told me her three-year-old daughter was begging to be let out so she could talk to me. Of course that was an unrealistic request, but it was so utterly charming. And another reminder that when you think you’re invisible, someone else might think you look like a really great person to talk to!

Last, but not least, my husband has begun ‘pre-missing’ me. He already lamented last night how much he will miss me this weekend, as I head East to St. Louis for the Spring Fling and spend four days immersed in yarn, knitting, friends and fun.  He’ll be busy, I know – selling tomato plants, continuing to churn through yard stuffs and working on the gardens, but it’s always nice to feel needed, and appreciated, and yes, when you’re gone, missed. I, in turn, have been making meals that produce plenty of leftovers so he’ll have dinner options. Though I just KNOW he’s gonna eat one of those KFC Double Down things in my absence….

Am I Going to Have to Change to “FlashMobJen”?

WTF, riots on the Plaza?

Parents?! Hel-loooooo. It’s 11:30 on a Saturday night, do you know where your children are?

I’m utterly disgusted with the state of parenting, consequences, and the lack of personal responsibility.  I love how we’re talking about trying to move teachers to a merit-pay basis – sure! Who doesn’t want their compensation tied to a crumbling infrastructure you have no control over? There are students who don’t care about their MAP scores because – well, nobody at HOME cares about their MAP scores. They’re perfectly content to race through, guessing, writing “I Don’t Know”, and basically turning in a half-assed job. How do you motivate that attitude to care? You can’t beat them – and if mom and dad don’t think getting an education’s very important, well, they’re not going to pass along any desire to excel to the kids.

So back to these roving mobs of ‘kiddos’. It’s scary. Mobs of anyone, any age, any size, any color, with limited wisdom and little care for consequences? Scare the shit out of me.  GroupThink is one of my greatest fears in life, and I was raised to question it and shun it with every fiber of my being.  And because the attitude towards authority, elders, the merchants, the police was so flagrantly insubordinate, so disrespectful, I go straight to smackdown. I think there should be a curfew. I think if these kids break the curfew? The parents should get fined. If the parents can’t pay the fine, or want an alternative to the fine? Then they should be court-ordered to parenting classes.  This is what would happen if you were caught drunk-driving, or beating your wife, or other things we deem  wrong and in need of correcting. Why not parenting? Is the American Family oh-so-sacred? We shouldn’t tell another person how to parent their child? Well, no, I don’t think it’s my place to tell the mother with her screaming infant that it would be better for everyone in the restaurant if she took her child outside. But we do tell mothers who shake their babies not to do it. And we do make people take classes to learn how to drive a car, and hey, even a test! But none of that’s necessary if you want to bring a child into the world, and you think it’s ok to put your needs first and not stay home  on a Saturday night and make sure your kid isn’t hoofing off to some part of town to participate in a riot, or a strong-armed robbery, or breaking someone’s jaw, or ruining some girl’s prom night.  All we do in this country is sweep up. We build higher-security prisons, instead of teaching disadvantaged mothers that they can break the cycle, they can raise their child to get an education, how to help give them tools to a better life. Instead, we throw a little money at them, teaching them “the system” will always take care of them, when in fact, it won’t. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the biggest advocate for a helping society. I believe those who are fortunate should help people who are less-so. But I don’t believe in handouts, nor do I believe in something-for-nothing.

arrrrgh I could rant on and on. I just HATE the fact we don’t just turn the worst parts of town into places like the Harlem Children’s Zone. Make being a part of that desirable. Make being a good parent, make being a productive member of society, make being a good student the desirable goals in life. Instead, we’ll just throw up new prison walls, drain a strained court system even further, and add more police to the streets on a Saturday night. Maybe bring in the National Guard. Turn our streets into a new kind of war zone. Freedom, my ass.

P.S. if we bring in the Nat’l Guard, my friend Beth would like them to spend their days fixing potholes. kthxbai.

The Road

I finished Cormac McCarthy’s book “The Road” last night.

I’m still sorting out how I feel. It was incredibly …….oh so many adjectives. Moving. Depressing. Illustrative. Gorgeously written. Imaginative. Solid. Thinking book.

This quote – I read it over and over when I arrived at it in the book.

“He thought each memory recalled must do some violence to its origins. As in a party game. Say the words and pass it on. So be sparing. What you alter in the remembering has yet a reality, known or not.”
Cormac McCarthy (The Road)

It gives you an idea of the thought-provoking prose that gracefully flows from nearly every page;  my little book-reading gnomes in my brain are still sitting by the fireplace, feet up, pondering and ruminating on all the facets in this book. What I suppose I find so haunting is that the whole book, in my memory of reading it, feels so parallel to my over-arching grief process. There is sadness. There is inevitability. But through all of the darkness, there is an unbreakable strand of pure shining silvery light, the love between a parent and a child, and it isn’t the darkness that makes me cry, but the joy of still being able to see the light.

Random Orts

1. The stoplights on the entrance ramps on I-435 make me crazy. CAH-RAY-ZHEEE. I think it’s because I had five years of dealing with those motherfucking things in Minneapolis, and they were definitely more hard-ass about them up there (only one car per green, not two), and in most instances, there is at least a little more room to accelerate than what I remember. Also, these seem to be turned on when traffic is at gridlock, vs. in Minneapolis, they just were ON during rush hour, no matter how busy the roads were, so you sometimes had the momentous excitement of going from 0 to 60 in half a city block to merge into traffic going 70 mph and your lane was disappearing rapidly. So yeah, I know, it could be worse. But with my new job (yay!) I have loooads of commuting options, because so many major streets run parallel to the highway, and my distance on the interstate is pretty short to begin with. But I still like to bitch about those lights. They are my Vietnam Flashback.

2. Boundaries are important. I think I’ve really learned that lesson this past year. My spidey sense is honed to intrusions on my boundaries and I react accordingly. Sometimes overwhelmingly. I feel very wary and watchful in a lot of different situations, I’m resentful when my time is taken for granted (or considered less-than), and I am spending less time trying to fix things and just walking away from broken detritus. It keeps my boundaries springy and happy.

3. I believe I am the last person in the metro area who is not sick of winter. Let’s face it, I’ve got plenty of my own insulation, brisk weather invigorates me, you can always put on a sweater, and as long as it isn’t icy? I’m cool. Literally and figuratively. Snow makes me happy – as long as the streets get plowed!
Snowy backyard

4. If people don’t appreciate me (and especially if they’re family), I find it triggers Instant Resentment! You don’t even have to add water, just shake the contents and presto, a fiery concoction of vitriol and cursewords. In some cases, also some sadness. I knit some really nice things this winter – one for my mom, one for my dad’s second wife, I sent them, and never heard a word. Boundaries. Silence is sometimes as loud as a land mine.

5. Other family members are fiercely protective and appreciative of me, and it makes me weep with confusion and gratitude. Sometimes my boundaries just melt.

6. There are some batshit-crazy people in the world and you just can’t understand them, because nothing starts from a logical argument. My poor brain keeps trying to scribble out equations with motivations and potential scenarios and conclusions, but it’s fruitless.

7. Even though I realize I am a Responsible Adult, it is breath-catchingly surprising when I’m actually called that. I took a friend to and from an oupatient procedure last week, and when I picked her up, they read the home care instructions to me, because I was “the Responsible Adult”. I was like, wow – really? Lady, I can hardly get my laundry done, it’s my biggest nemesis. But yeah, I guess I still qualify.

8. I picked up said friend’s prescription and was extremely disheartened to see that infant formula is behind a locked window in some drug stores. Sigh.

Sad Times

That’s it for tonight! Peace, love & hair grease…

Unsolicited Advice

It’s been busy. Between going back to work part-time, and having a huge cool freelance project, it feels like I’ve been juggling my time like old times for the past couple of weeks. But of course, it’s great. Friday, we had an awesome new business pitch, and we did a great job – rehearsing several times, hashing through our messaging points, constructive feedback and just a general coming-together …. let’s just say it was a nice way to do business and built camaraderie.

And through all of this, in the back of my head, I’ve been thinking about unemployment, and how it feels when you first become unemployed, and how it evolves, and things you need to do, and things other people should do when it happens to you. Because it sucks royally.  So I’ve put together a quick list of the core learning points I got from my arguably brief stint on the unemployment lines. I realize my experience is my own, and my time on the sidelines WAS short, so by no means do I fancy myself the most sage and learned person on the topic. But there were some things I was told when it happened to me, and I recently passed some of those on to a friend of mine, and if it can  help someone else, well, that’s awesome.

1. File for unemployment immediately. Do not pass go. Do not wait a couple weeks. Just get yourself into the system. If you received any severance, but you don’t know how much yet, well, just be honest and report everything you can. Your employer will report as well, but the process of starting your benefits will at least begin.

2. If you are receiving severance, get it in one lump sum. You may be getting paid for four weeks’ of time? But if you receive it all at once a week after you leave, you report the amount you were paid, and you’ll discover your eligibility kicks in sooner.

3. Get thee on the LinkedIn. Connect to everyone you’ve ever worked with. Change your status so people know you’re looking for work. There are different camps out there on this? But I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to hear from my client, concerned about my welfare and offering to help me network any way they could. Your soul will need these things. Network, network, network.

4.Get out of the house. I heard stories about some former colleagues who withdrew, just retreated and played video games all day. First off, I haven’t heard of anyone finding a job that way, and second, being isolated gives you WAY too much time in your head to get discouraged. The good/bad side of this vast amount of unemployment is that a lot of folks are in the same boat. Meet at a Panera (free refills!) and just talk. I made some new friends (or finally met my virtual ones) – pensive girl, a new knitting pal – and re-connected with SO many people. I had the time, after all! And it was heartening. To not feel alone.

5. If you know someone (or worked with someone) who’s been let go – reach out. Give them a call, drop them an email, just say “hi”. I had a couple people I shared a lot of time with in my job completely ignore me after I was gone – and even if I didn’t consider us great friends, per se, it would have been nice to at least have heard a “Hey, sorry to hear about this.” I get that there’s survivor’s guilt or you think your own job will be in jeopardy – but at the end of the day, we’re all people, we’re all human beings, and it’s nice to hear that you’re missed. It definitely changed my opinions of the ones who never said a word.  (Of course, there are going to be folks you don’t miss for a moment! So there’s a silver thread in that bit of truth…)

6. Accept that there will be bad days. Don’t beat yourself up for them, it’s part of the experience, unfortunately. We are one of the most ‘working-est’ societies in the world, and if you have a career you enjoy, losing it will feel like part of your identity is gone. You will question your skills, your last environment, try to figure out what could have happened differently, but the important thing is to pick yourself up, and keep moving forward. Even if that means standing in place for a little bit.

7. Get a recommendation from your existing employer as soon as you can. I did not do this. If they tell you it’s got nothing to do with your performance (as they told me), then by all means, get a letter so you have that as a reference.

8. Speaking of recommendations, ask for as many as you can on LinkedIn – because these will give you positive input and help you through those days of gloom and paralysis.

9. Consider career coaching (LandaJobNow.com is a great resource here in KC, specific to advertising/marketing folks) to help you with your resume and identify new avenues. I have a longtime friend at LandaJob who gave me some invaluable advice on my resume. As in, suddenly I not only looked great on paper? I felt great. In real life. Unemployment can leave you feeling like your accomplishments have been devalued – but they haven’t. You’re vital and have something to offer the right place!

10. If you can freelance, do it. Just keep an eye on how much you’ll make vs. how much you’re getting in unemployment. If you make more than you’d get on unemployment, you won’t get UI benefits for that week. (You don’t get to have both.) If you make less than UI benefits, the state will calculate the difference and you’ll get a portion of your normal benefit. Your benefits are supposed to cover you (marginally, granted) while you spend all your weekday time looking for a job. If you cut into that, it affects how much you get.

11. Don’t listen to people who marginalize you for being unemployed. Frankly, with 10% unemployment rates, those people should shut their pie holes and be grateful they’re not in that pool. But I’ve  heard stories of people being sneered at, asked why they don’t just go get any job, how do they like living off the government, living on the dole. Well? It ain’t welfare, folks. It’s not a huge amount of money, but in my situation, I couldn’t just go and get any old job at minimum wage, because that would have brought in LESS than unemployment, and I wouldn’t have had any time to look for a job in my field, let alone interview. Employers pay unemployment insurance, and this is all part and parcel of being a business owner in the US.

12. COBRA benefits. Right now there is legislation that allows you to maintain your health insurance benefits for the first 9 months at a greatly reduced rate. This is crucial and awesome. I believe you only have to pay a third of the regular COBRA rate. And this counts for DENTAL as well. My former employer didn’t even know that and we had a huge flurry of emails hammering it out because I received a notice from Delta Dental referencing the lower COBRA rate that I should have received. I had even done the math on whether or not to maintain the dental insurance, but seriously, just get it, as one cavity and your out-of-pocket goes way up and beyond the insurance costs, even at the open rate.

13. Common sense stuff – create a new budget right away. We shaved our monthly expenses down rapidly, and in the process, discovered just how much money we saved by simply not eating out. Not that we were dining out on the town with bottles of wine and four-course meals, but when you’re working all day, you’re tired, you come home and don’t feel like cooking – well, those $20-$40 takeout meals add up right quick. We dropped our subscription to the Star (which I confess I still miss, though I feel a little better about not amassing all that paper for recycling), went down to one movie instead of three from Netflix, I extended the time between haircuts, and scaled back on shopping and food choices. CostCo and Aldi’s were my new best friends, along with the sale flyer (online now!) from Price Chopper. I suddenly paused at the prices at coffeehouses, trading in my large lattes for a regular coffee, room for cream.

14. But don’t eliminate everything, if you can afford a little slush in your budget. One of the kind things my husband said to me very early on was that he understood and appreciated how hard I was looking for a job, but that in all of this, I should take a little time for myself, try to have a little fun. Another friend encouraged me to do the same thing. I went to a movie (matinees are cheaper!), and spent money on coffees and even went out to lunch with friends. (Oh, how many lunches I owe people, too. What a sweet, sweet gift it was, to be treated. At first I felt very blustery and insecure, absolutely nobody could pay my way, but I saw that it wasn’t the money I was rejecting, but kindness and generosity. So I accepted it, and look forward to repaying the gestures in fun and unexpected ways in the year ahead.)

If I think of anything additional, I’ll follow-up with a part 2. If one person reads this and finds some comfort and assistance, then it was worth it! Always start your day with breathing, and for that matter, end it on the same task. Hang in there.

Accolades

When you’re a baby, a toddler (if you have good parents) much of your progress and milestones are rewarded with gushing praise. Clapping, their smiling faces beam at you as you drunkenly lurch from one foot to the next, taking those first few steps. Praise is showered as you  grasp a pencil in your hand, that what is so unfamiliar, and you carefully sweep the lead across the dotted line above and below, printing your name, the alphabet, your first sentences. The roller coaster of notes soar in their voices, hitting high and dramatic, as you read your first book, play a sport, learn something new.  On and on it goes, as you proceed into the world, learning, failing, trying again, with your own personal coaches who teach you, praise you, tell you that they’re proud of you.

And then it all sort of fades away. We grow up, and our success becomes measured in other ways. Are you married yet? How good is your job? Are you the favorite in your office? Do you receive a raise? Some places establish goals and financial rewards follow. Performance reviews are scheduled – the dreaded sit down, where nothing should be a surprise and yet so often is – they become opportunities to couch constructive criticism while highlighting the positive. Nobody usually applauds.

We learn to give it to ourselves, the positive self-talk, the pep talks, the inner cheerleader, the one who combats the inner demons, who so readily cling to any shred of negativity, as though that will become the true motivation for change. But when it is given, freely, and unasked for, when you’re 41, it is akin to finding the golden ticket resting atop a Willy Wonka chocolate bar.

When I got my job offer, my husband stood up, walked over to me, put his hands on my shoulders and looked straight into my eyes and said, “I’m proud of you.”

A week later, a really good friend of mine said the same thing on the phone. I feel like I’ve left those two wonderful pieces of praise on the table, looking at them from across the room, marveling at how they made me feel, somewhat afraid to even pick them up and tarnish them with my own fingerprints. I’ve had more time to think about them, and perhaps it’s all churned to the surface because someone congratulated me on my job and immediately followed that up by telling me I was lucky.

I’ll confess, I bristled a bit.

Is it luck? Does my accomplishment, do my three months of unemployment, so small compared to others, become diminished by luck? Is something deemed ‘lucky’ diminishing the work that accompanied the result? I prefer to think of it as good fortune, I suppose. I recognize what it’s like out there, I was just out there. I know people are losing their homes, and in far worse circumstances than we ever were. And I guess I do think some of those situations are very unlucky. Every situation is different. Every person has a different set of skills,circumstances, background and aptitude. And for the most part, in my business anyway, it comes down to who you know. And I networked myself like a hard core motherfuckin’ salesperson, as if my life depended on it, because in a lot of ways, it did. And it paid off. But in the background of all that networking, I was sending out resumes right and left, searching for jobs, having black dark days, imagining moving, leaving my home, friends, possibly working and living somewhere else while James stayed here, just to make ends meet. I know of some fellow ad brethren who are sitting at home and playing WoW all day. Giving up. Waiting for the job fairy or the bank to knock on the door.  I can count on one hand the number of days where I felt “ok”and didn’t feel like the earth was crushing down on my shoulders and that, somehow, in all of this, I had failed.

Last summer, in Bryant Park, a woman told me I had beautiful eyes. I felt like shit at the time, I was hot and sweaty, my boss had galloped off ahead of me, and like a million other moments in my life, I felt on the outside looking in. It brings tears to my eyes now, because it was such a kind thing to say. To a stranger. In one of the biggest cities in the world. Another friend of mine, upon meeting up at a coffee house told me how pretty I looked. I felt startled. Nice, but startled. I joke about preening and I’ll kiss the backs of my hands, like I’m a diva, but my diva days have been few and far between this year. I’ll be glad to close the chapter and ring in 2010, with a new job, and far more wisdom than I expected I’d gather this year. The bruises will fade, but the memories will take more time.

I lived my formative years with two huge cheerleaders (who also knew how to handily employ the stick, lest you think it was a cakewalk of rose petals and confetti), and then I went out into the world, unsure of how to give that to myself. Sometimes I still don’t know how. What I do know is that when praise is given – by someone you love, respect or are passing on the street, it feels good. Everyone should do it more often, because genuine appreciation and acknowledgment is soul-nourishing.

And luck has nothing to do with that.

Fired Up

It’s a challenge, when you’re unemployed and actually relied on your income for your life essentials, to wake up every day and explode with joy and optimism. The news doesn’t help – hitting you with mixed messages – GDP UP! Retailers are worried about holiday sales! The recession is over! Unemployment in Missouri remains flat! Meanwhile you network and apply for jobs and try to figure out how to crack through the HR Linebacker who arbitrarily (or not) determines whether (or not) you get to interview.

And then you meet people who give you The Look, when they hear you’re out of work. I think the only thing that keeps me from punching The Look off their faces is that I do understand it comes from a place of sympathy, but fu-uck. It rolls pity, despair and pessimism into a tortilla pinwheel of bitterness, and makes you want to cover all the mirrors in the house and wait for shivah to be over. (no, I’m not Jewish, but I could be.) Really? You, who are employed, are going to look at me like I’m Eight Belles and waiting for my overdose of barbiturates and think that’s gonna help? OK, obviously you do, so this is my Public Service Announcement to all of you: IT DOESN’T.

Ask me what I did, what I want to do now. Do you know anyone in your circle who needs those skills? That’s the best response. Give me your email. Send my resume on to them. (And for those who have done this for me, Bless You. You are heroes and on my Jen Got A New Job Party List. Yes. I’m optimistic enough that I have, already, considered the party I will have to celebrate once I’m re-gainfully employed.)

JWo caught the movie “Fired!” one day and told me I needed to see it. So I set the DVR, and once it was recorded? I let it sit. Because I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it – there’s a certain camaraderie out there among us all, and there are a lot of us, just from advertising alone. I’ve even made some new cool friends and reconnected with old ones because of the shared boat. But sometimes it can also feel a bit like salt in the wound, when someone gets to leave the boat, you wonder how/when/why/where your stop will come, and do I really want to watch famous comedians and people bitch about how they lost their jobs and have since gone on to fabulous Hollywood lifestyles? I’m not even trying to have a Hollywood lifestyle. My blog is as famous as it gets, and unlike some, I don’t pull down half a million or more doing it. So, I let it sit. And then, one afternoon, I watched it, and immediately wished I’d seen it sooner.  It really is good. And the biggest surprise, was that I found myself moved to angry, agreeing tears with none other than Ben freakin’ Stein, someone I consider to be waaaaaay over there (gestures Stage Right) from me on the political scale. So moved, in fact, that I transcribed what he said, because I couldn’t find it anywhere already, and by god, it’s passionate and I couldn’t agree with him more:
“The real problem is an ethical problem. It comes about when the workers are laid off, their pensions are terminated, their health insurance is terminated, and then the management reorganizes the company in bankruptcy  and walks away with hundreds of millions of dollars while the ordinary rank and file has been laid off, fired, their hopes and ambitions and aspirations destroyed and that is happening all over America and its sickening.”

“There’s something extremely unappealing, about saying we’re trying to stay competitive, therefore, you’re fired but I get a hundred million dollars.”

“It is disgusting, it makes me want to vomit that we have people in Iraq and Afghanistan laying down their lives for a just, lawful, compassionate America, and here at home the looters are running wild. That just makes me sick, and I think there should be a stop to it … it disappoints me very much that Mr. Bush, whom I like very much, is not taking major steps to reform the bankruptcy process so that people cannot put a company into bankruptcy, destroy the lives of the employees and then walk off with hundreds of million of dollars in stock, that is a very very bad situation.”

— Ben Stein, in Fired!

So, off I go, to check in at the unemployment office, where I will go through a ridiculous government-created mouse maze to prove that I am a real human being who is unemployed, because writing out my name with a two-inch pencil and turning it in to one person, who then sends me to another line to put my SSN into a keypad, and I’m directed to a bank of computers, where I’ll punch in my PIN, on the same website I can access from home, and wait 60 seconds for the computer to process my information, all of this will allow me to keep receiving my unemployment checks, which will tide us over until my boat stop arrives.

This time, though, I’m taking some hand sanitizer with me. And that, my friends, shows us that in every situation, no matter how mundane, demoralizing, or trivial, there are lessons to be learned.

It’s Easier to Hate Your Job When You Have One.

It’s funny …. when I hear people mutter or see them type “I hate my job,” now my reaction is to think, “Well, hey, I’ll take it, then!”

I know, there are horrible places to work. There are horrible bosses, horrible underlings, horrible clients, horrible projects, horrible factors, horrible red tape, horrible expectations, all sorts of horrible, horrible aspects that anyone can pick out and choose and stare at and find the fuel to hate their job. But just remember this: there’s almost 10% unemployment out there right now, and while some people have renamed it “funemployment”, by not really worrying that much and enjoying the forced break, there are a whole lot of other folks who would love to love your job. And your bosses? They know that, too.

I think the best interview answer I’ve given thus far in my going-out-and-interviewing process, is that I don’t want my first day at the next job to feel like the same old job. I don’t want to do the same thing again. I want challenges. I want some mystery. I want to feel my mind driven by curiosity and a creative spark, that there’s more to learn, do, think, feel, be. Having this time off has given me the perspective to learn that, and I’m grateful for it. But I also realized that I’ve never NOT worked for this long, in a really long time. In college, I had three-four jobs at a time, in addition to classes. Before that, I worked for my parents, and I worked every summer. Finding a job is full-time work in of itself, certainly, and it’s the ultimate in sales pitches. You have to deal with being ignored, being rejected, not even being considered, etc. I’ve maximized my network and all the connections within, and it still is an upward climb. I’ve also learned that the rewards must all come from within, because you cannot put your happiness into the hope each contact you make, each email you write, that each interview you go on may bring an end to this, since there are no guarantees, there is no glut of jobs and employers are taking their time to find their perfect candidate. Each week it begins anew, and you have to remain optimistic, because the alternative will drain your soul.

So when the fluttering fingers of doubt and fear and insecurity clutch at my throat, I look at my life and I admire the trees in their splendid fall colors and count the ways I’m renewed and growing from this “time off”. Because guess what? I can’t wait to love my next job.

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