Friday, September 2, 2016

Tripping the live fantastic

I was asked for some clarification on the last entry. :) (That's what I get for trying so hard to be specific without using any examples that are specific.)

So, we all know about me and 2012 and being 30 and "working on myself" and all that, blah, blah. As that year came to a close, I knew I needed a new job, so when 2013 rolled around, I pulled out my resume and I looked at it from a new angle. I had all of this work experience in a field I wasn't interested in, but I also had a whole other set of skills, so I made my resume about what I could do rather than where I had worked. Then I posted it online.

It was up for only a few days when I got a cold call from a recruiter. He'd just received a job posting. In fact, it was a job at the same company, in the same department, on the same team as I work now. But at the time, I didn't know this department or this team or this job existed. As I read the description, I got really excited because a) I knew I could do the job, and b) this was exactly the type of work I'd been hoping to find.

The recruiter actually worked in an entirely different industry and had received the job posting by mistake, but I guess he was bored or something that day because instead of ignoring the job, he thought what the hell and started going through resumes online. When he ran across mine, he was pretty sure he'd found the perfect candidate, and I agreed with him. He submitted me for the position, and I waited.

You know where this is going - I got the job!

Except I did not. I didn't even get an interview. Complete dead end. The recruiter followed up with me a few times but ultimately told me he couldn't help me since this wasn't his industry. He didn't have any suggestions for other recruiters to work with either - he just didn't know where to direct me. Apologetically, almost as if he was breaking up with me, he called me one cold January morning to say he wished me luck, but this wasn't going anywhere, so goodbye.

Though disappointed, I figured the experience hadn't been in vain, for now I knew exactly the type of job that I wanted and, furthermore, had a specific position at a specific company to aim for. Considering my beginner's luck, I felt confident it wouldn't take long before other opportunities came my way. But we all know this story. Every one of us has a story like this. Most every story I tell on this blog is like this. I didn't hear from anyone else. No other recruiter called me. No other job postings appeared like that first one.

Weeks turned into months and I sunk into a crater of despair. I interviewed for jobs I knew I didn't want. I gave my resume to people who made my skin crawl. I asked for help from people I cringed to think about owing favors to. But I did it in the name of change. I had to get a new a job.

From a list of things bothering me, dated October 2013:

Back then, my days went something like this: I woke up around 7:30 and got to the office at 8:30. I worked until 12:30, then I came home, ate lunch, and spent my afternoon doing whatever it was that I needed to do that day. Sometimes I wrote. Sometimes I applied for jobs. Sometimes I ran errands. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I cleaned. Sometimes I drew in a sketchbook or did a jigsaw puzzle or archived old blog entries or did freelance graphic design work. I never ran out of things to do, and I was never at a loss for ideas. My brain never stopped.

If it was a weeknight, around 5:30 or so I'd head out for whatever run I was going to that night. When I got home, I'd take a shower and stay up doing whatever until 10:30 or 11:00. Then I'd get up and do it all over again.


In August of that year, in one of my free afternoons, I went to a networking luncheon, and that's where I met my future boss. I recognized her name as soon as she introduced herself; another thing I'd done with my afternoons was research the company and team I wanted to work for, and when she held out her hand, in my head, I told myself to keep cool, don't blow this, because this was my future boss. I casually told her I was a writer and only slightly less casually told her I was looking for a job. She told me to send her a resume.

You know where this is going - she hired me! Except she did not. Actually, she didn't even respond. When I followed up, she told me she was sorry, but she couldn't help me. There were no full-time positions available on her team, but there might be a contractor position opening up. Except she couldn't hire me directly for that either, so I'd have to go through a recruiter.

Luckily, I'd already been in contact with a recruiter at the very recruiting company my future boss suggested - I'd been introduced through a friend who'd taken pity on me. Though the recruiter had long stopped responding to me, I hastily wrote her an email anyway saying that if a position came up I was staking my claim on it, it was mine, and just let me know.



Celebrating the new job
(photo credit: Melissa McMasters)
In January, a full year after I'd started this process, the recruiter finally got back to me. She had gotten me an interview. By the end of February, I started as a contractor doing the exact job that I'd read about in that first job posting. I was there only six weeks when one of the full-time members of the team moved away, meaning his position was now open. And you know where this is going - I got the job!

Except I did not.

I didn't even fit in. I didn't sit with the rest of my team because there wasn't room for me on their floor, so sometimes everyone forgot about me. Four months in, my hard drive crashed and I lost everything I'd done since I started. Then, because of some company-wide policy changes, I lost my desk. I liked some of the things that I was working on, but it wasn't the dream position I was hoping it would be, and I started to doubt they were even going to fill the position of the guy who left.

Once again, I started to sink into a crater of despair.


In those days, my schedule went something like this: I'd get up at 6:15, be at work at 7:30, and leave at 4:00. By 4:15 I was home, and I'd spend the one to two hours between getting home and going out getting ready for the next day. Then I'd go out, either to a run or to the Slider Inn or both. On Slider nights, I'd stay out anywhere from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., talking, drinking, talking, and then I'd come home and crash. My days were long, but I didn't mind them because it felt like I was getting to live two lives. I had my work life and my after-work life. My creativity suffered, and I wasn't writing nearly as much, but I had both money and a life to live outside of what made me money, and that's what I focused on.


In December, just under a year after I started as a contractor, and almost exactly two years after I heard about the initial job, the full-time position on my team was finally made available to applicants. A little over a month later, it was official: I was hired on as a full-time employee.

In 2006, I wrote out a list of what my perfect job would be like, and this one hit every single line on the list and then some. Beyond having my own desk and really being part of the team, I got to work on new projects and was given considerably more responsibility. The job was so tailor-fit to me and my interests and my skills and my history that it was (and still is) a lively conversation point. "What luck!" people say to me.

And I always agree, yes, I was lucky, though I don't think anyone who has made it this far in this story would think that luck was the primary force at work here.

Mostly, I got the job because I put one foot in front of the other until I got where I was going.

From my perfect job list, dated July 2006:

Nowadays, I spend my days like this: I wake up at 6:15 and I'm at work by 7:30. At 4:00 I leave, and at 4:15 I'm home. Then I meditate, and if I'm going somewhere that night, I get as much ready for the next day as I can before I head out. I try to be home by 8:30, if possible, and then I shower, and I'm in bed at 10:00. I read for a while and then go to sleep.

I can't stay out until 2 a.m. anymore; even if I could, I wouldn't want to. It's imperative that I be sharp in order to do my job, and the older I get, the less tolerance I have for both lack of sleep and hangovers. But just as importantly, the older I get, the less I fear that I'm missing anything by being in bed at a reasonable hour.

So that means most weekdays I have anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour-and-a-half of complete downtime - time when I'm not doing something scheduled or preparing for something or catching up on something.

That is not a lot of time.

Forty-five minutes to an hour-and-a-half is not enough time to sink into a deep creative flow. It's not enough time to get bored enough to come up with a new idea or wander down a rabbit hole of internet research. It's not enough time to think, or to plan, or to do much on a whim.

Some nights I don't go anywhere, and then I have more time. And I have time on the weekends. But nothing comes without a price, and I expend a huge amount of mental and social energy navigating through my weekdays. So recovery time has to be factored in.


I wanted something very badly, and I worked at it until I got it. And now, in that very human way, there are other things that I want. In those little blips of 45 minutes to an hour-and-a-half, I've been focusing on those things.

But I've also been struggling, because, to keep beating a dead horse, that's not a lot of breathing room. I only got the job because I had the time to get the job. I paid, with my time, to make the mistakes, to lay the foundation, to make the connections, to think, and to get frustrated, because nothing happens that's big that isn't prefaced by nearly unbearable frustration.

From the book to my running career, I have built every piece of my life through this exact process.

But while I've been sick, I've had more than 45 minutes to an hour-and-a-half for myself every single day, and instinctively, I've reverted back to many of my habits that I'd forgotten about, like internet rabbit holes, and writing lengthy pieces that go nowhere with no guilt over the time spent because of fear that something had been wasted.

And in that time, I have not been thinking about the things that I was focused on before I got sick (these are purchases that I'm talking about, by the way; I'm not trying to be overly vague or make anyone paranoid).

So here is my conundrum: I flourish with freedom. I have flourished so well in the past that I have slowly built a wall around myself with all that I've created. I don't mind the wall. The wall is comforting and I'm proud of it and I'm proud of the way that I live within it.

But more and more I've been wondering what would happen if I knocked one of the sides down...just to see what I'd come up with to rebuild it.

Or do I keep building the existing sides higher?

Or do I tunnel underneath?

I don't know, and I'm okay not knowing. But I hadn't really stopped to think about it until I was forced stand still.

*I have no idea why I titled this entry the way I did.


  1. Glad for this clarification! Of the options you provided, (over, under, [sideways], down) I vote for sideways. (You get the reference, don't you, you spiritual child of the 60s?) Until then, peace out, om, and namaste

    1. Turn on, tune in, and drop out!

      I like sideways. :) My dad suggested deconstructing the walls just enough that I can see over them. Groovy, man...