What am I doing here

I was at an interview recently where I was asked a very simple question,

“Tell me about yourself.”…  And I didn’t know how to answer.  I couldn’t wrap my head around what he wanted to hear from me.  Was I suppose to tell him about how I came to live in this city in which I was living?  Was I suppose to tell him about all the professional experiences that would lead to my success at this company?  Was I suppose to tell him the emotional baggage a guy like me tends to carry in order to get done what needs to get done?

…  I wasn’t saying anything at all…  I just stared at him for the longest time arguing in my head as to what I was supposed to tell him and what I wanted to tell him…

And then I just said what I needed to say instead.

“I’m a factory jockey by trade…  I’ve worked them for over twenty years but I never felt comfortable doing it.  I suppose no one really does.  Co-workers used to think I should’ve gone to college because I was reading books all the time– Classics and rhetoric mostly.  The conversation around the cafeteria table on breaks were usually a barrage of whining about life…  IF ONLY I COULD AFFORD COLLEGE, everyone would say and I would nod and drink my coffee.  Until finally I spoke up and told them that the only reason we didn’t quit our jobs and go to college was because we were lazy and it was easier to whine than to do.”

by this time I had stood in this man’s little office and began to pace.  I could see by the look in his eyes that he was taken aback, maybe a little afraid that I was cracking altogether so I smiled at him, but that might have made things worse so I looked down at the beaten brown carpet and continued…

“So I quit…  I was a single dad with a four-year-old daughter at home who didn’t know it yet but was heavily dependent on me paying the bills and buying groceries–but I quit all the same.  Terrified and riding high on adrenaline I spent the next month on unemployment and and focusing on getting my GED.”

I hate telling people that I didn’t graduate from high school.  It wasn’t because of my intelligence but rather my lack of interest in doing anything with my life than the bare minimum.

“That problem was quickly remedied.  For what I had put off for over a decade, I had breezed through in one month.  and by that fall I had enrolled in community college…  And I had no idea what I was doing.”

Now the man behind the desk was trying to interrupt me but by then I was in no mood for stopping so I held my hand  up in the air as if I was stopping traffic and nodded at him reassuringly, letting him know that by now I knew how insane I must have looked but was letting him know that I intended in finishing my answer and would leave peacefully.

“I figured I would teach because the only reason I wanted to go to college was to study History and English and Psychology and Literature and Sociology and Rhetoric and…  and… and…

I took every loan they offered and every grant they gave because that was the only way to keep a roof over our head and food on our tables.  When that wasn’t enough I crawled to the county for assistance and signed up for MFIP and MA and a slew of other acronyms that would help me stay in school.  I used the system to it’s fullest with the Machiavellian anti-hero sentiment that most middle classed people would scrutinized…  A ward of the state, sucking off the states tit.

I picked up odd jobs and worked at the local Walmart while going to school full time.  I started tutoring on the side and took MUCH MORE than the average load.  I took classes that interested me more than the classes that filled a criteria and two years later I received nearly 200 credits for an Associates degree that only required 120 credits.  My GPA was 3.5 and my daughter was proud of me.  But I wasn’t done…  I needed a Bachelors so I worked for three months at what I did the best, more factory work.  I busted ass at 3m in their temp position and enrolled in the nearest state college to receive my teaching degree (really, what else do you do with the education I was getting?)

By that next fall I was in class again, moving my daughter and myself away from the support I was receiving from my loving family and into a city that neither of us were used to.  I motored straight for a Bachelors in Social Science and Education…”

Throughout all of this I was amazed with how I wasn’t ushered out the door by security, or how I was able to just keep talking and talking while this man behind the desk sat quietly and watched.  It was enough incentive to keep going.

“I repeated the same thing… received support from the county and medical from the state.  Worked silly little jobs and kept tutoring in order to pay the bills.”  (I never mentioned where the mother of my child was or why I never received child support, I figured one drama at a time please)

“During the second to the last semester in which I would receive my degree things started to fall apart.  An internship was needed to gain my degree but I still didn’t feel like I knew enough to actually teach in school.  My GPA was still above a 3.4, I passed all my classes but I felt like I was a fraud in the career I had chosen.  I spent hours talking to my advisers and professors in which all agreed I was doing fine but I couldn’t see it.  Than anxiety would set in and problems with my daughter at school began so even though I was uncomfortable being a confident responsible adult in an educational environment, I was still in a public school setting three or four times a week playing a concerned parent to a daughter who was showing some problematic behaviors in class… Behaviors that reminded me a lot of myself when I was younger.  I started to lose faith in my decision and paid less attention in my classes.  Often I would have to leave and pick my daughter up from school and would rely on those excuses in order not to do my own work.  At the end it was obvious that I was no longer interested in teaching…  or maybe I was just to scared to do it.

So I downshifted and received a Bachelors in History.  Money was scarce and the process of putting a roof over my head was getting difficult.  The county and the state, who had put faith in my ability, had to settle with a B.A. and was not very interested in helping me any further.  I left school without attending any graduation for either of the degrees I had earned and felt like I had achieved nothing…

That’s what brought me here.  And I realize why that question is so hard now because I don’t know where HERE is anymore…  I’m lost and mostly I’m terrified.

Terrified that I can’t keep this momentum up and provide for my daughter, who is now diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder and may never be able to cope with life in a way that’s meaningful or satisfying to the rest of us.  Terrified that I have made a series of decisions in which I will be lead further and further into debt and disappointment.  Terrified that I will never get to use any of the training received at college because I can’t seem to break this strange wall of indecision and self loathing.

That’s where I am–  That’s what brought me here.”

The man behind the desk simply nodded and sighed.

“Thank you for coming… We’ll be in touch.”

Don’t bother reading this…

Because it’s insane to think that our constant ranting about the daily irritations in your life would be interesting enough for someone else to enjoy reading. And yet blogs and tweets have now become the incessant national past time. Phones may as well be surgically attached, making it easier to photo bomb while driving or tweet complaints that you mis-bagged the four bags of groceries you’re carrying into your house. You can get instant gratification for the look of a dress or an outfit before ever stepping out in public.

In which case, what’s the point of leaving your house in the first place.

We reach out to total strangers across oceans to justify that we’re are reaching out to the world while simultaneously ignoring our neighbors and the thousands of possible friends at the local coffee shop, grocery store or street corner.

We’ve accomplished the task of isolating ourselves in this egotistical bubble of technology disguised as a global community… But for the most part we’ve only managed to sterilize our personality to the most mundane acts, package it and present it with little to no flavor. The ultimate safety net for our lives…

Of which I am equally guilty.

Jack of Trades, full time slacker, indecisive… kinda a mess

In consideration of my family I’m afflicted with the worst of addictions.  Unfortunately, it’s progressively worse in this era, one in which children by the age of seven need to know what they are going to be for the remainder of their lives.  Worse even still, in an era where children of seven are completely capable of making that decision and following through.  

I’m hesitant to suggest that a misfit like myself is misplaced here.  It’s not that I’m lazy– well, not entirely at least.  It’s only that I have a problem settling into a career.  I want one though– I want a specialty and a passion that pushes me onward.  I’d like to get paid for doing something that inspires me, buy a house and a car, raise a family and worry about insurance and fickly little things in life.   

But I can’t commit…  Can’t decide what to do.  I have a degree in History, and was only short a bachelors in social science by a single internship.  You see, I didn’t want to teach… I hated High School.

I imagine if I had a choice I would like to do social-historical research.  I’m fairly well versed in Midwestern history.  Beyond that, I’m partial with being a stay at home dad.  

That’s sounds like a worthy cause.

Success Ratio

Has it ever occurred to you that all the advice “successful” people give to those willing to read it is fundamentally flawed?  They are simply words of encouragement and instruction trapped in a microcosm that only served one individual at one specific moment.  In essence, it’s no different than taking advice from a Rabbi today to stay out of Germany via circa 1940.  

Certainly, there are nuggets of good advice in general… you want to be a successful thespian?  You should live in a large city… preferably in California.  

But generally speaking those giving advice have only one working theory and within all of existence they were the only working model to use as an example.  

I sometimes wonder if humanity would be in better shape if we all took a little more advice from those who have not “succeeded” in life (that oddly reminds me of Charles Bukowski).  I’ve always appreciated the speech given by Mike Rowe as he stated that all the good advice he was given was really the worst advice he had ever received.  

But then…  Mike is doing pretty good isn’t he.

From my perspective it’s fairly easy to be a class warrior.  It’s Applied Science in Sociology, those born of poverty tend to remain in poverty while those born of benefit tend to remain in benefit.  

But that can be a Slippery Slope– or just plain whining…  Can’t help it, my perspective is the only one I’ve ever experienced.

Temp Agencies

This is a long story…  Where do you start in a long story when you’re too lazy to start at the beginning?

After graduating with a bachelors in history, I ended up sliding backward into the familiar territory of factory work.  I would have loved to have found a job that used my degree but circumstances have stranded me in an area where a career in my field is near impossible to break into (or maybe I’m so clueless as to what the next step is… Honestly, what the hell do you do with a bachelors in History?).  So here I am, back on the market for unskilled labor.  It was usually an easy gig to get, search through want ads and and ‘click-clacking ‘online for businesses and employment sites.  All of which led me to Temp Agencies…

For those of you unfamiliar to Temp Agencies allow me to explain, there are establishments put into place to exploit blue-collar workers for the least amount of pay possible, including some of the most condescending attitude possible, while catering to their clients with the least amount of proper training possible.  This isn’t an observation of one Temp Agency, it’s the observation of several with little to no variation away from the worst case scenario.

I’ve had the experience of sitting in a number of these places with the distinct feeling of being on auction… thinking, who really benefits from this practice?

There are over a dozen Temp Services in my town alone with a large number of companies that works exclusively through them.  I’ve sent resumes to over fifty such companies only to get replies telling me that they will not accept them.  But this has to be a good thing right?  Now an “unskilled worker” (I prefer Factory Jockey myself) can come to one location and apply to a variety of businesses a professional helps to place them in a mutually beneficial employed position and it becomes a win-win situation!

But wait…

Isn’t an Unemployment office supposed to do that?

Wait…

This is the age of the internet isn’t it?  Are there not a million online sites that offer applications?  You don’t even need to leave your home!

As it turns out, both unemployment offices and online sites simply refer you back to those Temp Agencies.  and that’s when the giant light bulb in my head switched on…  I’m not the client at a temp agency, I’m the product.

Strictly from my experience there were a number of positions I worked directly through the company while working Temp Workers, doing the exact same job.  In all those scenarios (about eight by my count) the Temp Workers were paid less, receiving no benefits or vacation time, and was trained significantly less on site than I was.  In fact, Temp Workers are often resented by company hired workers because they are often arbitrarily placed in their position with little to no training (which greatly reminded me of scab workers in American History).  Without a doubt this leads to a stressful working relationship for everyone involved when full-time employees are saddled with training obligations for co-workers who were not properly trained in the first place because they are somehow “less of an employee” as the rest of the crew.  In some companies the separation is so absolute that in cafeterias and break rooms the tables are segregated between the ‘Company Worker’ and the ‘Temp Worker’.

In many of these cases the people who go to Temp Agencies are misplaced workers from other jobs, spouses who are  now new single parents that were staying at home to raise their children and a hundred other types of individuals who are simply trying to gain a stable income.  They are people who are in the midst of financial stress and a varied degree of desperation an now are “placed” in a position in which they know very little about (In some cases they know nothing since it is a common policy for a Temp Agency not being able to give information about the companies they are placing for. Seriously… you have to decide,m on the spot, if you want to work for a company before you even know what the company is).  It is really no wonder why the turn over for Temp Workers are so large and because of it, they are labelled as some of the worst kind of worker you can possibly work with.  It’s much like consenting to playing a game of high stakes where the other players take the game VERY seriously, but you are the only one not told how to play and then held accountable for playing it badly and ruining the experience for everyone else.

Temp Agencies as they are operating currently are a blight in our existence.  The workers get shafted and treated like second rate citizens and companies who benefit financially from them (I assume) lose twice as much from the ignorance of  lost production.

 

If interested, I can certainly go on…  But I need more coffee.

Standardized Form… Blogging

I haven’t the foggiest as to what and how to blog… Ranting on the other hand seems to me as easy as breathing.

“What do we do in order to be as we are?”  

Ugh…  I’ve always seen blogging as an exercise of grossly misguided vanity where everyone assumes that everyone else is interested in what everyone else is doing.  but at least it’s the lesser of three evils.  The other two being facebook of which I am wrapped into to some extent or another and twitter– or twitting?  twatting?  whatever the hell you call it, which is the absolute extreme end of the spectrum of individuals that believe the narration of their entire lives are of a paramount importance. 

Where do I fall in this spectrum?   I’ve consistently kept stories, thoughts and rants within volumes of notebooks locked away in totes and boxes for the majority of my cognitive life and it has come to my attention that there is a 0% chance any of it being read.  Till recently I’ve been content with that realization but lately (and possibly due to my impending mid-life crisis) I’ve felt the need of that 1% chance that someone will read this.

In either event…  I don’t care for the egocentric lifestyle of the blogger.  I’m not trying to create a relevant relationship with my reader and I’m not narcissistic enough to believe my life is that unbelievably important in the grand scale of the universe.

But just in case I am…