Thursday, April 30, 2009

Are we there yet?

Blogger note: I’ve been dealing with a nasty stomach bug…so this is probably the last post this week. Just getting well seems to be hard work. I’ve decided to name my malady: Whine Flu! I’m sure that’s how it seems to those around me!

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There’s a quote which says “A mathematician is like a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there.” Though I wouldn’t qualify as a math whiz, I definitely understand that feeling of an endless quest without any sense of direction toward the intended target. Only, I call it job searching.

I do remember this from one of my math classes: the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Point A => Point B. So in our analogy, Point A would be when I lost my job and found myself needing a new job, which would be Point B. Simple math, not rocket science. But living in the interlude between the Point A and Point B can seem like anything but short.

Everyone with children on a trip knows the phrase “Are we there yet?” It’s been a while since we departed, and the actual arrival point is some vague place in the future that has yet to be seen. So the questions arise: How much longer? When will we get there?

If we’re honest, we’ve all asked (or are asking) these same, very logical questions during our job search journey. But unfortunately, on this journey, we probably don’t have the answer because we have no clue about the “arrival time” at our destination. (i.e., when we actually get a job) And for those with even the slightest control issues (Me? Control issues?), that is not a comfortable place to be.

Parents know that during this “not there yet” gap time, it’s important to keep the kids occupied. We used games, crayons, puzzles and books with our children. Today, there’s also MP3 players and portable DVDs. It’s necessary to keep their minds active, otherwise the endless, repeated questions will make the “getting there” nearly unbearable and strain the sanity of the driver.

My last job did not end well, so when I began at Point A, I was not in a good place—emotionally, mentally or physically. The first few weeks I was pretty moody. (Okay, depressed!) Basically, I did my very best impersonation of Jabba the Hutt–doing little more than sitting in my recliner, watching movies and eating. (Hey, I had two weeks of vacation as part of my last paycheck, so I was using it!)

But that (hopefully) can’t last forever. Decisions needed to be made about my future. So, I developed a clear job search plan (including websites to search, a spreadsheet to record my submissions, etc.) and set aside precise times in the mornings and afternoons for my search.

The first couple of months of unemployment, in addition to my regimented job search routine, I still found myself with too much time on my hand. Mama’s voice echoed in my head: “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.” I cleaned cabinets and closets, completely re-organized our garage (a HONEY-DO that gone not done for more than a year) and even catalogued my DVD collection. I also worked on my second novel, getting lots of much-delayed research done and was able to do a substantial amount of writing. (My fiction fan base will be thrilled!)

I was also diligent about keeping up my skills, and learning new, useful ones in the process. I studied the emerging phenomenon of social media, setting up my Twitter account, my Facebook page and this blog. When the right job did come, I wanted to be current…in spite of often feeling like an anachronism.

Unfortunately, as the journey dragged on, I needed more and more to fill my time. This was especially true because not long after my last position ended, the entire country seemed to fall apart in sympathy of my situation. The economy tanked. Hundreds of companies began laying off thousands of people. Businesses closed. Many of my peers unwillingly followed my trend-setting lead into the land of unemployment. And while there are times when lots of companionship can be nice, in this case, not so much. (They were now my competition!) I had more time on my hand because there were less jobs out there.

Are we there yet? gave way to Where is there?

Point B, in violation of the immutable rules of mathematics, moved farther away.

I’m gonna need a lot more coloring books!

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