Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Let's Call This the Flashback

With all the Lost I've been watching, I've taken to imagining my life frequently being interrupted by dramatic flashbacks that reveal previously unknown aspects of my past that are somehow relevant given whatever challenging situation I currently find myself in. For instance, while faced with a really difficult choice between two products at the grocery store, I might suddenly remember that time my dad conned me into giving him one of my kidneys. Oh, wait, that wasn't me. That was a character on Lost.

Anyway, it's no joke that I am in a challenging situation at the moment. Still job-hunting, and putting lots of effort into it, but it's taking a lot longer than I would have liked. I've even found myself in the humbling position of asking friends for a little money to help until I'm on my feet again. How did I get into this position? It's not a particularly interesting story, but I'll tell it anyway.

Woooooooooooooooooooosh! (That's the Lost flashback sound effect.)

By last summer, I'd been working for the same company for nearly three years. Things at work were pretty okay, I guess. I basically liked the company and the people I worked with, and I was good at my job.

Then, sometime in July, I got hit by a pretty nasty case of depression. To be frank, being depressed isn't something particularly new or unusual for me. I think that I've struggled with depression in greater or lesser degrees for a large part of my life as a result of my gender issues. I mean, there's just no getting around the fact that not being able to be the person you feel you really are every single day kinda sucks, and some days the weight in my chest when I wake up in the mornings is heavier than it is on other days. My least favorite thing about being depressed is the way it makes me feel kind of self-absorbed. It's harder to focus out on other things when you're depressed, much like, if you have a knife in your chest, it's probably hard to think about much other than the fact that you've got a knife in your chest. And I know I'd be better at everything if I didn't feel this way. I'd be a better writer, a better employee, a better friend. But still, at least I've always managed to pull through, to do what needed to be done, to force myself to get out of bed no matter how tough it was.

But this was an unusually rough period, where getting out of bed was suddenly more difficult than it had ever been before. And I found myself running a few minutes late to work on a few occasions. I was promptly pulled aside and warned about this, and I apologized, sincerely feeling bad about what had happened, and communicated to my managers that I was struggling with depression and was seeking help for it, which I was.

Then it happened one more time, and they let me go. That was that.

That sucked, no doubt about it. But I immediately tried to see it as something that could end up being for the best. The reality was that, while I liked the company and my coworkers, I'd started to find the job a bit dull. It was rare for anything at work to really challenge or stimulate me anymore. What's more, I wasn't seeing opportunities for growth in the workplace, and I really didn't feel that the company was paying me what I should have been making considering the amount of time I'd been with them. There was certainly no doubt that my next job could be a considerable improvement.

And it was. I found a job that was more stimulating and challenging, and that paid considerably more. The job was a seasonal position with a company that's significantly busier around the holidays than it is throughout the rest of the year, but I was told from the beginning that there was a chance I would be hired on full-time after the holidays were over. I knew this wasn't something I could count on, but I busted my ass at this job, and I know I impressed the managers, because many of them started talking to me in ways that made it clear they felt I'd be sticking around.

But alas, things didn't go as expected, and when news came down that I wasn't being kept on permanently, many of those managers seemed as surprised and upset about it as I felt. Every last one of them offered to give me a glowing reference and wished me the best of luck in my job search.

My search got off to a promising start. Almost immediately, I had the interview for a technical writing position that I mentioned in an earlier blog post. Of course, that didn't end as well as I would have liked, but still, it was encouraging. However, since then, I've had a lot of phone interviews and face-to-face interviews and I really feel like I'm putting my best foot forward, but landing a job just hasn't happened yet. On Thursday I have another phone interview for a job that sounds pretty cool, but tomorrow I'll also be dropping off applications at a nearby Starbucks and other retail stores, as I'm at the point now where I absolutely positively need to start pulling in some money.

Admittedly I feel pretty desperate--I wouldn't be applying at places like Starbucks otherwise--but I still feel like in the long run all of this might end up being for the best. I'd gotten complacent in my job, but I wasn't really happy, nor was I earning what I should have been, so at this point, even if I have to earn even less for a while, I think I have the motivation to keep looking until I find a job I'm a bit more satisfied with. This is certainly the biggest failure of my adult life, and I admit I've felt some shame and embarrassment about it all, but I know that it's not really a reflection of who I am, but rather of something I was struggling with. I think I've learned a lot from this experience, and that when I do get back on my feet, I'll be better than ever.

And as bad as things get, I can always be thankful that at least my dad has never conned me into giving him one of my kidneys.


As an aside, a friend recently recommended, and I wanted to take a moment to recommend it myself, as it's quickly become a favorite of mine. Interestingly, not long before I lost my job, I'd really started to try getting a hold on my finances, and I think I was applying a lot of the common-sense stuff that J.D. talks about on Get Rich Slowly, but it's really nice to have it reinforced and expanded on by someone who's done a lot more reading about finances than I have. The website is really readable because J.D. doesn't talk down to the reader about this stuff. He comes across as just a regular guy who, like many of us, had struggled with money, and he talks about how he got things under control. There's also just enough of his own personality in the pieces to make things interesting. It's obvious that he's struggled with social anxiety and other challenges, for instance, and that in some ways tackling his money issues and tackling his personal issues have been related endeavors, and I really like that idea, that personal growth can come out of, or is necessary for, better money management.

I've made a lot of progress in terms of how I handle money, I think. I've cut out lots of unnecessary expenses, cut way down on expenses that aren't unnecessary, and I had started saving and tackling debt, as well as starting to think realistically about how I'm going to pay for this whole ridiculously expensive gender thing that I really need to deal with sooner rather than later. Of course, now that I'm not really making any money at all, things are kind of on hold, but I'm confident that I'm more ready and better equipped to deal with these issues now than I was before.


Corey Chaplan said...

Hey Caro!

I can feel where your coming from on the depression thing, it's happened to me and others alike. Don't forget that there are people that care about you, be it family or friends.

It's a good thing that you are getting a hold of your expenditures though, as being broke and in debt w/o a job only adds to the hole.

I wish I did that way before I had only .36 cents in my bank account....

Anonymous said...

You know... I found myself talking about you the other night while I was standing in the carport with my girlfriend and smoking a cigarette. My girlfriend is the leader of the Gay Straight Alliance at the college where she works. So, she was talking to me about some of the situations that came up during the meeting that night. One of the things that came up in our discussion was how difficult it is for people to struggle with the feeling that they can't be who they really are, or that the person they want to be is not someone that everyone finds socially acceptable. The reason I thought of you is because I felt I needed to make the point that who you are sexually doesn't make a damn bit of difference to me. One of the reasons I keep coming back to your website and reading your blog entries is because I believe you are incredibly intelligent and fun. I'm the kind of person that will avoid discussions with people all together if I believe they don't own a single brain cell. I just want you to know, that you could be a Smurf for all I care, and I'd still come here to read what you have to say. Maybe in your next flashback you'll remember living in Smurfville? :)