Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Is this unemployment?

Groups of friends meet every week – during the day because they’re not working – and they call themselves “retired.” I’m not working, but I call myself unemployed. And even that’s not accurate because I have contract “gigs,” but mostly it means I don’t go to the same place on a regular basis, get a regular paycheck from there, and have a boss. But if you’re a certain age, people assume you’re retired.

But I think I’ll eventually get A Job so by my definition, that means I’m unemployed.

I don’t do unemployment so well. Which is odd because I unemploy myself regularly. About every five years or so, after pouring myself into the venture of the moment, I start feeling restless. I’ve taken whatever I’ve done to new heights (yeah, I think so), but when it turns into “oh, it’s April, in April we do this” and “time to gear up for October,” I start fading.

In San Francisco, running the street and subway operation of the Muni was a 24/7 job before we even had the expression 24/7. When that wore thin, I had this big dream of working internationally and was hired to run the Melbourne transit system. So I quit my S.F. job. But the visa process was so long, I was unemployed for longer than I would have liked. Ultimately, I abandoned Plan A and came to Alaska to People Mover.

In San Francisco, when you don’t have a job, you feel like you have to say to people
I felt like one day I’d look in the mirror and there’d be no reflection. Even though I took classes and got a certificate in Graphic Design, even though I was heavy into major political matters, I felt valueless.

So I wasn’t going to let a job define me again.

This is how my employment cycle works: I have a great 5-7 years. I try new things, make things happen. There are glory years of accomplishment and satisfaction, meaningful work and workplace camaraderie. Then I fade and quit. Then something else emerges.

Yeah, emerges. I look around, something captures my interest, I explore it. Eventually, I’ll talk to someone, tell them how I can fix something or make something happen for them or their organization, and a job emerges that I fill. This is a very happy process that has taken me from buses to theater companies to newspapers to leadership to early childhood.

But something went awry this time. As I looked around, I’d find a potential interest and … nah. What about this? Nah, same old, same old. Ho-hum. Ugh, no way. My whole self winced at the thought of most jobs in my field. I don’t want to sit at a computer. I want to use my hands! I taught workshops for contractors: maybe I’d like to be a tile guy. I thought I’d like to be a check-out person at the library, talking to people about their books. Maybe I would prune trees and fix all the poorly pruned trees I see around town.
I didn’t want to do what I’m very good at; I wanted to try something I’d never done before.

There are several ways to interpret this:
  1. Oh, you’re so eager to explore and try new things. How exciting!

  2. If you don’t figure out what you want to do soon, you will be part of the “long-term unemployed” and you’re 60 now and you’ve read all those articles about how no one wants to hire old people.

  3. You sound really depressed. Nothing interests you. What’s wrong with your whole life?
You get two guesses.

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