September 13, 2011
Purpose, rules and ritual….

I feel like it’s important to write a bit about what it was like to be unemployed, versus underemployed, to explain the origins of my thought patterns and also for those who may be experiencing what I experienced during that time.

    I’ve pretty much always been a planner. When I was in highschool, my first step after receiving my schedule was to plan my path to each class with a highlighter to insure that I would make it to each class within the 10 minutes allotted between each period. It wasn’t until senior year that I had a shocking realization of how strange it was that I never deviated from those plans, never entered certain hallways because there was no point, never knew what certain corridors might look like at a different time of the day. But even with that realization, I had trouble convincing my brain that it was worth it to take the long way round just for the purpose of trying to combat my robotic circuitry. (In grad school, I became very fascinated with the Situationist concept of the derive for those same reasons, and I’m happy to say that since moving to the city, when time allows, I incorporate such wandering into my life.) I continued with such systematic planning, making small adjustments for passions and laziness, until I moved to New York. Where, as I’ve made clear, my plans - both primary and contingency - collapsed.
    After all of the fun and excitement of being new to New York and catching up with old friends began to settle and fade, the reality of my situation set in. 1. New York, though a great place, has a special way of seducing one into spending massive amounts of money in a single day and making it seem worth it until you see your bank account the next day. 2. A MA and job experience do not guarantee a job. 3. Number 2 is especially true if you go into an interview expecting potential employers to respect/disregard the fact that you are just looking for a way to make money until returning to grad school. Thus, I began to realize that a part of me had to develop a new sense of purpose if I was going to survive outside of the ivory tower. But even raving in interviews about how much I love filing (which I actually do) did not get me passed the first interview. And as I started to lose hope in a full-time job, and discovered that getting a service job in the city required “2 years New York experience,” my planning kicked in, and I began formulating a new, simpler since of purpose… or more like purposes.. small tasks that helped to structure my many hours spent alone at home that made me feel less lost.

    Question #1: What is the purpose of getting out of bed in the morning (to be honest, afternoon), without a job or any obligations outside of the fact that I should probably still be applying for jobs?
    Reasoning: Though it sounds tempting, staying in bed all day tends to lead to a non-restful sleep, feelings of worthlessness, and bed sores. So, it is likely best to get out of bed. But if there is no real reason to get out of bed, one must be created. For me, making the problem with staying in bed my reasoning helped me to come up with solution. Staying in bed will make you feel worthless, so at some point in your day, you should make an effort to stay awake. Therefore, the purpose of getting out of bed is to drink coffee (and smoke cigarettes because I’m a smoker). This became a ritual, and to this day, I have significant trouble deviating from the two cups of coffee and two cigarettes rule. On my days off, if still gives me a reason to get out of bed, and on days that I have work, the obligation keeps me on schedule to get out of the house on time.

    Question #2: What is the purpose of being awake once you are?
    Reasoning: With little feeing of purpose, and a television, I turned to cable. But there’s not much on TV at 2pm. So, I joined the ranks of the retired old and became addicted to CNN. After all, if you’re going to spend all of your hours watching TV, at least by watching the news you stay informed. Just do your best to ignore the fact that the 24-hour news cycle basically repeats every 15 minutes, and that most of it is made of up commercials. I got so into it that I even got a twitter account so that I could send comments to Rick Sanchez. And yes, once I had my comment read on the news! It was about the girl who beat herself up and scratched a “B” into her own cheek and claimed that it had been a black man just before Obama was elected. I told Rick that the police should have realized that something was up because the “B” on her cheek was backwards. Honestly, I still feel quite proud about having my words read on the news. But after a few hours of the same news cycle, one grows weary. Then, I could turn to crap TV or Netfliz instant. But, oh how I cherished “I love the 80s/90s/One hit wonders” and so on and so forth marathons. Those provided some of the most blissful distractions from the uselessness of my life.

    Question #3: What to do when you are absolutely tired of sitting on your ass watching meaningless garbage?
    Reasoning: Move! Oh, but I’m poor, and why go walk around a neighboorhood of projects and abandoned buildings? Ah, but at that time in my life, I was blessed with a smoking room. Yes, a room set aside just for sitting, smoking and listening to music. So, once it got late enough to justify it because at that time other people were getting off work, I started my own personal happy hour. Having finished my job of being up-to-date on the days news, I retreated to the smoking room to replace all anxiety and listlessness with woozy sadness and the occasional moments of bliss that whatever whiskey or beer i had or vodka that I could siphon from my roommate’s stash. And when i’ve had enough to drink? One, go to sleep to begin the cycle anew or return to the TV. In those days, my primary evening obligation was to watch the Daily Show/Colbert Report hour on the day that it aired, and on nights in which it was a re-run, I felt lost and betrayed.

Gees… I started writing this post on Aug 23, and it has taken me this long to come back to it. I think in part because it still feels so awfully tedious and depressing to look back on that time. I just keep trying to tell myself that maybe it won’t be so tedious for someone else to read, but maybe it was, and if so, I’m sorry. I decided it was important to reflect on because I lived my life that way for so long that even now, I have trouble breaking out of those patterns on my days off. I don’t have cable now, but I watch endless hours of TV on my laptop, and I relish the days that I realize that I’ve forgotten a show long enough to allow me to create a marathon. The funny thing is that even in those days, I was never fully able to incorporate applying to jobs into my daily duties. It wasn’t that CNN seemed more important, but I think that it came down to the same reason I decided to get out of bed. “I should put off applying to jobs because in the end it makes me feel worthless.”

*I was recently speaking to one of my favorite bartenders about how I at times feel like I have a drinking problem because when I’m bored, it’s the only/easiest thing I can think to do; so, I do it. He told me that it sounded more like I had a boredom problem than a drinking problem…. I’m not sure when boredom became my way of life. Perhaps when I was unemployed, but at present, I am working on developing new ways to spend my time. Thanks blog!

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