Awake. It’s another new day.
Every time I go to bed, I have this hope that I’ll wake up and everything will make sense, that I’ll discover something that eluded my weary mind the night before. Really, though, every morning is pretty much the same.
First things first – got to check my email. Never much in there, but I’ve conditioned myself to the point that I can’t get started without finding out. Today, there actually is something of note – activity in the special box I set up for job-seeking purposes. Let’s see what this one says:
“Dear Andrew: After reviewing your application for the position of TELLER, we regret to inform you that you have not been selected for this position. Your profile will be kept on file for future review.”
Well, I guess I’d better track down some more openings. It’s not like I have much else to do here. Maybe FedEx has something available.
“Working for FedEx Express means working for the leader and innovator in the express delivery business. Over 140,000 individuals who work at FedEx Express were each hired for their unique blend of…”
Damn it, get to the point. Why does every employer feel the need to sell themselves like this? Do you really think there’s any risk of me leaving if you don’t dress it up enough? You’re the ones with all the power here.
This whole process really couldn’t be any more preposterous. I’m not sure why I bothered writing, rewriting and embellishing a CV when I just end up retyping it all into a form anyway. This is the part that my parents don’t understand. I guess when you grew up in a time where you handed your resume directly to your potential boss, it’s hard to understand someone being automatically rejected by a machine. Not that it makes much more sense to me, mind you, but I have learned to live with it.
“Why are you interested in this position?”
Because it’s available. I don’t really say that, of course, but I’d like to. I’d lose the job for sure, because even these days companies tend to interpret desperation as a sign of something wrong. But being honest would really make my day.
They’ll want to see my cover letter, no doubt. Funny, that – they don’t want resumes anymore, but they still want to see prospective employees sell themselves. Well, I suppose I can do that.
“I am a graduate of State University with extensive experience in an office environment, including data entry and file formatting. I also have a background in education, including work at the collegiate level. I can type at 72 wpm with no errors, speak basic Mandarin, and I have some background with programming languages and audio/video editing. I believe that all of this makes me capable of sorting incoming parcels and envelopes and delivering them to the appropriate individuals.”
I wanted to work at the university. That’s the whole reason I came up here. The first week, I had a line on a solid administrative job in a field that really suited me. I even received a message from the woman who ran the department. It really seemed like a sure thing. A month later, it was gone. I’ve applied to about two dozen jobs at the university, working my way slowly down the totem pole, but I haven’t made a dent.
I’ve become a bit less…discriminating in what jobs I pursue. Right now, I’m filing about eight or ten applications a week, basically putting in for every position for which I’m even remotely qualified. I guess I lost most of them – a lot of businesses don’t send out notifications, and the HR departments aren’t too keen on taking calls. It feels a little like I’m cramming messages into bottles and setting them adrift in the ocean. And once I’ve sent the missives, there’s not much to do but wait. There’s no telling when – if – they’ll get back to me. Could be tomorrow. Could be three weeks from now.
I load up some blog or another and read from the top. Anymore, the top story’s usually some asshole conservative politician rambling on about lazy poor people. He’ll probably have some ripe bit of bullshit – an apocryphal story about an empty job fair, or someone buying caviar with food stamps or something equally absurd. Or it could be another column by some self-important Boomer rambling on about Millenials (a group which apparently includes me, even though I was Gen-X just five years ago – it’s almost like these labels don’t mean anything) and how entitled they are, how they need to adjust their expectations downward. You’re right – when I was a kid, I figured I’d be employed when I was an adult, an expectation in terrible need of adjustment.
Shit, this is depressing. I’m going for a walk.
* * * * *
It’s been raining lately. That puts most people out, but I love it. If nothing else, it helps cool things down after another 100-degree day.
With all this time on my hands, I struggle to find productive ways to fill the hours. So, for lack of something specific to do, I walk. Usually, I just wander – that’s the kind of person I am. I don’t really have a destination in mind, but I’ll probably end up at the public library. Whenever I have a project, I go down there to get some work done. It’s good for a man to have a schedule. Unfortunately, my old project is finished and I don’t have a new one yet. Still, I’ve always liked the library, and this town has a really good one.
I always check out the new non-fiction section. Maybe I’ll find an interesting little historical study, or some social work that’ll probably piss me off but in a way that makes me think. Today, my eyes fall on something a little difference – a reference on teaching abroad.
Damn it. Probably didn’t need this.
It’s been two years since I came back from the PRC. It ended up being one of the hardest decisions that I’ve ever made, and I’ve never shook the feeling that I chose wrong. Yes, it’s the fact that I can’t seem to find work anywhere here, but that’s not all of it. I never really felt like I fit in, but now it feels worse. It’s a subtle thing, but it’s something I definitely feel every time I speak to someone. Whenever I’m in a shop. Whenever I’m on a date. Whenever I run into someone I knew years ago:
“Hey! When did you get back in the country?”
Truth is, I envy people who are overseas. Teachers, students, journalists, workers – doesn’t matter. I can’t read their stories because they remind me of everything I gave up. No one really understands this, though. They all want to talk to me about China. God, it hurts so much. I’m so pathetic.
It’s like this whole country is rejecting me, like I’m not wanted here. Like I’m an intruder.
You know what? I could use a drink right about now.
* * * * *
Nighttime is when this place really comes alive. There’s live music damn near every night, bars catering to any crowd you want, and a robust tradition of independent film and performing arts. It was with this in mind that I chose an apartment just off the downtown area. It’s close enough to walk, far enough that I don’t have to deal with the weekend aftermath. When I moved here, I had big ideas about shedding the old misanthropy and spending my nights on the town.
It didn’t quite work out that way. Guess I don’t have my finger on the pulse of local culture any more now than I did seven years ago. It’s a sports town, but the predominant sport around here is drinking – a fun little game that I’ve been picking up lately. I was never big on the whole “go out, get drunk, try to get laid” routine, but I figured it was the best way to meet people around here.
The glamour has worn off the bar-hopping game, but it’s a weekend, and I really shouldn’t hang around here. The alternative is to sit here, play video games and drink alone, and this is a lot less sad. So around 10:00 – the beginning of the evening rush – I head out for the party district. By the time I arrive, the most popular places are already packed, and the minor venues are filling fast. The most popular place is a faux-Parrothead bar which has to be among the cheesiest places I’ve ever been in my life. By the time I’m on the scene, the place is already packed and there’s a crowd outside. People are more than willing to wait outside for half an hour or more and pay a cover just to get in. Doesn’t matter if it’s raining. Doesn’t matter if it’s snowing.
Fortunately, that’s not where I buy my poison. My bar is located over a coffee house, an odd combination that’s actually fairly common around here. Makes sense if you think about it – you can chill out and drink coffee all day, then switch to the hard stuff when night falls. No gimmicky specials, no advertising that they sell PBR to draw the hipster crowd, and it’s generally a slightly more sedate group than you see around here – my kind of place.
“Whiskey sour, double.”
I take my drink over to a little corner table that overlooks the street. I’ve heard that this bar used to be an apartment back in the day – guess that would make this the living room. All I really know is it’s always open and it gives me a chance to monitor the activity both inside and out. I always had this image in my head – some group of intellectuals sits down at the booth across from me, having a serious discussion about serious matters. I’d hop in with my opinion – perhaps not altogether well-spoken, but presented with enough passion to make us fast friends.
The most intellectual thing I ever heard sitting in that spot was one guy’s theory that the United States government would work better if it were run like Reddit. Yeah.
Truth be told, I’m growing to dislike this place. Oh, the aesthetic is nice, the prices are reasonable and the bartenders are always capable. But I always had it in my head that this bar attracted a different breed of patron. Good Lord, was I wrong. Drinking doesn’t help, either – if anything, the intoxication gives me a certain clarity of vision on the whole thing. Did I really ever want to be more like these people? Why? What appeal did I ever find in this lifestyle?
I can’t stay here. I’ve spent years cultivating the ability to keep my mouth shut, but it one of these assholes keeps rambling on about something he doesn’t understand, I’m going to lose it. I have to get home now.
It’s not like I really belong here. Clearly, I don’t.
* * * * *
I’m up late most nights. Usually it’s not because I’m drunk, but it happens sometimes. Most of the time, it’s nothing more than my own ornery nature. Overnight hours are productive hours, for good or ill.
I throw myself in front of the computer. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed that I go to certain sites automatically, without any conscious input. It’s another of those things I’ve conditioned myself to do. Tonight, my subconscious has directed me back to my inbox, where there’s some activity in my special work box. That was quick. Let’s see what it is:
“Dear Andrew: After reviewing your application for the position of MAIL ROOM CLERK, we regret to inform you that you have not been selected for this position. Your profile will be kept on file for future review.”
That really was quick.
Even on a weekend, I can’t go to bed until I’ve accomplished something, even if it’s something small. It’s thoughts like this that send me over to Craigslist. I’d always pictured that site as a sort of last ditch for the truly, hopelessly desperate. Funny how that hasn’t changed, and yet I’m there. Actually, some of the links are purple, so apparently I have been here. How long have I been at this that I forgot that? I click on education, out of simple instinct.
- Hiring ESL teachers abroad
I tell myself that I’m not going to cry, but it’s not that easy.
Actually, it’s funny. This time, it’s different. It makes sense. Everything I’ve seen in these past few months is starting to crystallize. I’ve been denying who I really am. I’ve hoped all along that if I just endured, if I stuck it out, everything would change. I’d fall into a groove, and it would make perfect sense again. But that’s not me. I’ve never been the kind of person to stay somewhere I wasn’t wanted. Maybe I was born for this. Maybe I was born to wander.
Suddenly, there’s only one course of action that makes sense to me.
“I’m writing in regards to your overseas positions. I am an ESL teacher with TEFL certification and experience working abroad…”