Essays

Unemployment Journal

Day 1

So I got fired today. I’ve never been fired before, let alone not allowed back on the premesis. I fucked up. I realized it about a month back, but that doesn’t erase the fact that I did what I did. I just have to fuck up and move on. Accept what I’ve done, and try to make the best of it. The hardest part is having to tell people. I could take the job-loss, it’s the shame that comes with being fired that’s tough. If only beer and cigarettes didn’t actually numb the pain, I would be more constructive in my extreme depression. I guess I’ll have to buy a papaer tomorrow and look for jobs again. I thought I was done with that. Shit. I suppose the fall from my apartmen balcony is six stories. That would probably kill me. Could it be worse then this. I’m one step away from standing on the street, asking for change for my non-existent car, which broke down on my way to visit my non-existent family in non-existent Lansing. No wait, that exists. Big Bill Broonzy and Muddy Waters suddenly make sense. Wrote a song about it, want to hear it? Here it goes:

I got fired today
Baby, I got fired
I done screwed up bad
Baby, I got fired

Who the hell is baby? Who am I kidding, I can’t write blues. What can I complain about? It’s my own fucking fault. It’s not like the only way I can get work is on Parchment Farm picking cotton. I’ve never even been to Arkansas. Unless the lyrics were something about a dumpy stupid white boy wanting to be a suburban ninja.

It’s too bad I can’t call do-over, like when the wiffle ball got stuck in the Getman’s tree. There is no reset button on life. You do what you do, whether you have reasons or not, and you have to live with it. I didn’t kill anyone or get addicted to illegal drugs. So that’s good.

Maybe I can join some radical militant group. The Nazi’s didn’t do background checks did they? Goose-stepping through the streets, asking the guy next to me “So how did you get into this?” “I hate Jews and support only the superiority of German idealism,” he says passionately. I respond “Oh, right on. I got in because I stole a couple CDs and this was the only job I could find.”

I keep thinking “This can’t really be happening. This doesn’t happen to me. I’m not that kind of person.” Well evidently, I am. I keep thinking I’m going to wake up soon and say “Whew. I knew that couldn’t happen to me. Now I’ll continue my ignorant hypocritical life.” Maybe when I wake up tomorrow, all this will have resolved itself. Here’s hoping.

Day 2

Well, today started off with me finding a potential job mowing lawns. Amazing how quick that happened. This journal might be shorter then I thought. He asked me, “Do you mind working outdoors?” and I said “Umm… no!” I don’t know if I’ve ever worked outdoors. How wonderful would that be? I hope it rains.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of compassion shown to me by my frineds, family, and co-workers. I got four emails and three phone calls from former co-workers, all saying they were concerned about me, and were there for me if I needed anything. I also got several emails from church friends saying similar sentiments, along with prayer. My parents are also officially the most gracious parents ever. Maybe that’s why I’ve always been able to extend grace and forgiveness to others so easily. It’s not so bad to be like your parents after all. God may have taken my legs out from under me, but he made it a real soft landing.

So I spent most of the rest of today looking in the newspaper for jobs, and hanging out with a few close friends, who showed up almost instantly when they heard the news. Although looking in the newspaper for jobs over a year ago seemed so hopeless, I was so content and optimistic this time. I guess when you go through all the scams, and you make all the mistakes, you don’t make them again. Or if you do, you have a much bigger sense of humor about it. Skip James never sounded so good.

It’s strange to remember the events of yesterday. It already seems like a year ago, and still feels like a dream that I will wake up from.

I found myself fighting back the shame of yesterday, and doing it pretty easily. I was in such a good mood all day, and I was afraid of losing that. But wherever I looked, I saw God’s blessings, more richly then I ever would have noticed working the nine to five. Take away one important thing, and you realize all the things you already had, and will always have. My friends from work keep saying that they don’t care what I’ve done, they still care about me and don’t want to lose contact. Wow. I keep dissing the faithfulness of humanity, and right when I needed it, there it was. Man, I love those guys.

I was going through a lot of these thoughts, and suddenly I realized that the lyrics of the random song I happened to be listening to were:

Clear emotions guide
to the gates of open mind
leave the shame behind
peace is by your side
here the voice inside
and see you can’t be blind
it’s another day
nothing is the same

I still find myself wishing to be able to start over. Wipe the state clean of my past mistakes and irresponsibility and not have to pay for it now. However, today was a new day. And nothing is the same. I guess that’s about as close a new beginning as I can get.

So yesterday, the sun rose and fell. People went through their routine. Bill Gates made several million. McDonald’s still served shitty burgers. J Lo and Ben Affleck broke up, and no one cared. Dean Koontz wrote three books. A few more soldiers died in Iraq. Hurricane Isabel scared some east coast people. The Bears continues to suck. The liberals and conservatives in the US continued to bitch at each other relentlessly. A few million people died, and several million replaced them. A couple billion people were lonely and miserable, several billion didn’t eat, a few hundred million were content, and a few million ordered cable television. God looked down on his people, and still loved them. And my life changed.

Day 3

Well, it rained. My shoes and pants are permanently died green, which only means on thing. No it’s not St. Paddy’s day in Chicago, I’ve been mowing lawns. And this was actually the most fun I’ve had at a job in quite some time. As opposed to the two worst days of my life, the guys I worked with were actually quite cool, other than listening to Rush Limbaugh at noon and wearing Red Wings shirts. I showed up on time (big change from the bookstore) first thing this morning and got the whole orientation from the main guy. Then he showed me how to start up one of those big riding mowers with the two levers as gas and steering wheel, and let me drive around. Those things are so much fun! If any of you have an extra ten grand or so to drop on a lawnmower, pick up a Kawasaki “Turf Tiger” or a Kohler “Grasshopper” and just drive them around the street. If you have monstrous headphones on blasting music, you can’t even hear the motor, and if you floor it, you can reach break-neck speeds of 10 mph.

I also operated a weed whacker, or “string-trimmer” as we call it in the business, and a back pack blower. Fun, fun, fun. I was also outdoors all day. Big plus. And get this, I already get paid more than my last job. This is not to say that I’m not still ashamed of what happened, but it was a pleasant surprise. So I think I’ve found something that can last a little while in any case. I still need to look for more permanent things, though.

I continued to receive email and phone calls from concerned friends and family, reminding me all the more that something is coming out of all this. Other than operating heavy machinery.

Later tonight I rehearsed with my band, who picked up a potential new drummer. I just really love making. Music. Dumb joke.

My bird’s being a bitch, and the Cubs are kicking ass. Pretty standard. Although, the past few days still seem like a movie. Everything happened so fast, and I’ve maintained such emotional calm for most of it, that it feels as if it never happened. My Dad called tonight to say “Go Cubs,” and never even mentioned what had happened to me. I only hope I can be that kind of father.

Another note from today: Lawnmowing people wear sunglasses to protect their eyes. I always thought they wear them just to look cool. But they’re not pretentious, they’re just protecting their eyes. So don’t confuse the two, okay.

God’s blessings shower me again, but I keep realizing that it’s not new blessings that God has denied someone else and given me, but things that have been there for quite some time, and I’m suddenly starting to notice. And to think, I used to bitch about how God blessed others and not me. I suppose that’s the biggest blessing of all: not getting what you want, but realizing what you have.

Day 4

Shoes still tinted green. Mind still trying to figure exactly what the hell has happened in the past few days. But I guess I still feel pretty happy, so just ride the wave right? I still am going to need to bust my ass to find another job for when lawns turn white, thereby nullifying the lawnmowers’ existence.

I wonder how my mistake will affect my next applications. Can I just not put previous employer info? One of my co-workers told me to just put her name as previous boss and she would lie for me. That is definately tempting, but I know it would end up being like when George gets Jerry to answer the phone “Vandelay industries?” Something would go wrong, and I’ve already done enough things wrong. But how do I get around that? It’s easier for my friends and family, who have witnessed my shame and humiliation, to say with confidence that I won’t screw up that way again. But employers don’t see that in the same light. Man it’s hard to not worry and just trust that it will be alright. Will it?

Day 5

Being with church people today was great. Patronizing at times, but I suppose I had it coming. I had lunch with my parents, who gave me extremely subtle scolding and a lot of hope and comfort. Bears had the bye week, and almost lost.

Day 6

It rained today, which means no lawn mowing. It was like having a snow day from school. I got up and was heading out at 7:30 and I realized it was raining. So my boss said to come in at 10:00. So I made coffee, bought doughnuts, and played video games. It was a great morning. When I went in at 10, it was still raining, so we sharpened the blades and changed the oil and other manly stuff. I got grease on my hands like a mechanic, so my hands were all black. I felt like such a man. What a pansy ass i’ve been my whole life. At about noon I was sent home because it was still raining, so I used my afternoon to read, play video games, and of course, continue the job hunt.

All of my optimism about job hunting through the newspaper that I had on Day 2 is shot. It fucking sucks. I circled probably 8 good listings, only one of which could possibly be a good job. And I’m not even sure about that one. One even asked for a one time tax-deductible fee of $499. What the hell is that? I did, however, find a couple more possibilities online.

I played with my bird for quite a while, but I gave her away to a friend of mine, who will have much more fun with her. I kind of miss the bird already. My God I’m so lonely.

It suddenly struck me this afternoon how completely worthless my life is right now. I serve no purpose. All I do is get farther and farther into debt, and leech off my parents to make ends meet. And then I lose my job. And not even for someting to make me a martyr (one could only hope), but for my own stupid selfishness. There is no menaing to my life. I sat this afternoon trying to find anything that had significance, and I drew a complete blank. Even suicide seemed completely meaningless, which I suppose it is. Plus I’m too queasy.

I long for the times when I could be naive. Before I made all my mistakes. Why didn’t I just tell her I loved her? Why didn’t I just cut up that credit card right when it started to get out of hand? Why couldn’t I have just kept my big fucking mouth shut? Why couldn’t I just be somebody else? Because I really don’t like myself very much.

I sometimes wonder if anyone else goes through nostalgic depression, like I so often do. What I mean by that is when I have these overwhilming memories of great times I once had. Times when I was lonely, and someone was there. Times when I was attracted to someone, and she was attracted to me too! Times when I didn’t have money to spend foolishly. Times when I was still figuring things out. Now the trick is, I get lost in these thoughts and I feel more regretful and lonelier, because those people are not a part of my life anymore, and now I’ve got nothing. I know that’s not true, as I’ve proffessed in the previous entries, but those feelings are hard to fight.

When already in this state of mind, and slowly climbing out of it, I talked to a previous heartbreaker of mine, and I was plunged right back down. I wish I could just be okay with her, but I’m just not. And I feel like she shouldn’t be okay either. But I’ve got to put on the smile and pretend I care that things are going great for her and lie that things with me are great as well. I just don’t want to be weak in front of her. I want to say, “Yeah, I’m dating now too. And she’s gorgeous. And we’re having sex like six times a day. And my book just got published, my band got signed, and I just got cast in the sequel to The Core. Oh, and I got a seat on NASA’s Mars Mission, so fuck off.” But I never think that quickly, so she always leaves being the one who’s doing great, and I’m the lonely, ugly, dumb fuck. This day was going so well, too. It’s amazing how one little thing can trigger you. At least she didn’t call first thing this morning, or my whole day would have been fucked. With this attitude, there’s no direction tomorrow can go but up. But you never know. Hopefully sleep will help ease this beast.

Day 7

My wretched existence continues. I guess that’s being a little dramatic. I was right when saying that today could only go up, but it didn’t go up much. I’m just so worried about everything. I feel like that Monty Python song, “I’m so Worried.” I just wish I could relax and enjoy my day without worrying, but it’s next to impossible. I fight thougt patterns all throughout the day to prevent myself from being overwhelmed by everything and crushing every ounce of motivation and passion I’ve got left. Something’s got to give, I just have to be strong enough to perservere and grow. However, I have stretched myself to the limit. The worst part is I can’t blame this on anyone but myself. Am I strong enough to bear my own weight? I guess the answer to that is easy enough. Just hard to believe.

Mowing lawns is great, though. I get to spend all day outside getting dirty. I’ve also discovered the joy of NPR. That’s all I listen to on my headset radio all day. I feel so caught up on current events. The downside is that I hear about things going on in politics or the environment, and I get so pumped up that I just want to go do something. Sitting on a lawnmower, your chances of taking place in political action are about as likely as an immigrant’s. So I sit there hoping it will rain, so I can go home and try to find jobs or look into grad school. At least make some concerted effort to make something of my future. But then, of course, it doesn’t rain and you end up working until 5:30, and by that time you’ve either lost your motivation, have other plans, or forget what you were passionate about earlier in the day. I had to get writing and music as my two passions, both of which don’t make any money yet, and both of which you have to “break” into. You don’t interview for a 9 to 5 recording contract or book publishing deal. I need to do something with my life, I only wish I could start doing it. I need to get some sleep. Sleep first, leave tomorrow’s worries for tomorrow. I feel like I read that somewhere.

Day 8

One of my friends from the bookstore emailed me saying that when he left his last job he was taking a walk and a bumped into a guy names Jim. He was telling Jim about his job and quitting and Jim said “Just be thankful your last name isn’t Bater.” When Jim was growing up, teachers referred to men as Master Whatever and so he was constantly referred to as Master Bater. So no matter what’s going on, just be thankful your last name isn’t Bater.

One of the guys I mow lawns with is a Mormon. I’ve gotten into a couple religious conversations with him, where he has said that “The Spirit does not dwell in loud places” (which I suppose rules out the interstate, war, and talking to my friends Karl and Damon) and that Catholics suck, basically. He does not wear his religious beliefs on his sleeve, but when you get him talking about it, it’s clear that he has some very opinionated views on it. Now I’m not at all condemning him for being Mormon or suggesting that his religious views are ludicrous because he’s Mormon. I have nothing against Mormons, just like I have nothing against Muslims. We’re all human. What I find interesting about this guy, though, is the fact that he has these strict regiments for religion, yet he refers to people as “dirty Jews.” For instance, if he were to lose a hand in poker to a friend (where I would probably say, playfully, “you bastard”) he would say “you dirty Jew.” I’ve also talked politics with him, where he has said “I’m all for women’s rights, I just think a woman’s place is in the home, raising the children.” Slight contradiction. Then on top of this, he is also pro-choice. Just seems strange that someone who thinks a woman’s place is in the home would also think that a woman should have the right to abort a fetus. Overall, he’s just very confused and ill-informed, yet also very opinionated. Shouldn’t that be against the rules?

So my point is that I may be going through a lot, but at least I’m not that guy. And at least my last name is not Bater. The worst people can do to me is “Did you come from a Foster home?” or “Do you have Foster parents?,” in which the easy answer is “Yes.” That always throws them off.

Day 9

So the other guy I work with called me a “dirty Jew” today, so I called him a “fucking redneck.” He laughed. My usual co-worker also said that he was “getting sick of Rush Limbaugh’s bitching.” So, we’re making progress.

Day 10

I’ll give you a topic. “Unemployment Journal” with neither “unemployment” nor “journal.” I realize that I’ve been doing a piss poor job of updating this “daily” as I claimed I would a couple weeks ago. I guess the reasoning is that I haven’t really had much to say that is profound, and I wanted to avoid making this an online journal, which I’m not a fan of in general. So instead of saying what I did each day and random self-consumed thoughts I’ve had, and considering the fact that I do have a job right now, I’ll add a few more entries of more profound thoughts I’ve had during the day. I’ve had a few “profound” thoughts during this past week, but due to alcohol consumption and watching endless amounts of sports (thanks to the Cubs), I forgot them all. So starting now, I’m going to be not only profound but also eloquent as hell.

Day 11

Started the other job today, and I’m already having flashbacks of my Nam like days at the bookstore, which I’ve grown to miss so much. Ugh, I’m wasting my life. I walk around and ask people if they need help finding CD’s or DVD’s, both of which I wish I was making not selling, and they say “No I’m just looking” and then I’m supposed to say “Oh, what for. Why don’t you buy all this other stuff too?” and then they give me an irritated look and I leave, alone and afraid. The random times when I can actually help someone are great. But other than that, it just seems like a giant waste of time. But I guess I’m just being too negative in general. There are some days when I just want to make myself be positive, but it doesn’t work very often. Life isn’t very fun sometimes, but you have to tough through it and trust that something better is coming. I believe that. I think.

However, in other news, the dumbasses I mow lawns with just keep getting better and better. We listen to talk radio all the time and one of them, we’ll call him Hank, feels the need to always voice his opinion on whatever topic happens to be on out loud. He then always poses a statement or question to try to get me to respond. We rarely agree, and he’s one of those guys you just can’t argue with, because they are just content to be ignorant. So they’ll start talking about something like homosexuality, which is when I just role my eyes because I’m just waiting for what he’s going to say. Then he turns to me and I want nothing else than to avoid whatever impending conversation is on the way. It always comes though, like the conversation which started with him saying, “Blacks can’t complain about slavery because they sold themselves.” or the other one “What? You don’t agree with Jack Kevorkian?” or the classic “Homosexuals should not be allowed to adopt because what if they walk in the room and there’s pee-pees swinging everywhere?” I wish I was making those up, but those are actual quotes.

Will this string of dead end jobs ever end? I’m sick of training videos, I’m tired of being patient while I start to fit in. I finally had that at the bookstore, and I fuckin blew it. Seems so rare that you find someone doing what they really enjoy for a living. I just keep hoping I’m going to be one of those. I just hope I can make my parents proud before the end of their lives. But like REM said, “When you think you’ve had enough of thise life, hang on.” I’m hangin in there. I just hope it’s for something.

Day 12

One of these days I’ll actually do what I enjoy for a living. Or is that possible? My parents don’t like what they do, yet they stick with it for the money. Am I destined to do that too? Or would I rather be broke doing what I love? I hate money. I want to bankrupt the whole system, like in Sneakers. I just want to start all over. Now I’m just repeating myself. Maybe if I was able to find the time to work on the things I really want to do, then I’d be taking steps in the direction of actually doing them. Okay, now I’m confused. Start over.

Well, God created man.

No, not that early.

Okay, God created you.

Okay, that’s a good start.

Then he created all of the things you would be good at.

Okay, that didn’t take him long, but next.

Then he created a bunch of weaknesses in you as well.

Why did he do that?

So that you could learn from them.

The hell’s the point in that?

So you could grow from those, rely on him, and teach others.

Why?

Well, if you can’t grow from and through something, then you’re life will just be boring.

It is already.

Oh shutup.

Okay, next.

Then he worked on what you would be passionate about and how you could use those gifts to express them to people, helping them grow through their weaknesses by example of yours.

Tying it all together are we?

Trying to.

Okay, I guess that makes sense. So what does he want me to be?

What you are.

I mean later. What does he want my future to be?

Well, if I told you, it would take all of the fun out of it.

What if I fail?

If there’s no chance of failure, how will you know the taste of success.

Will God let me fail?

I think the more important question is will you let yourself succeed?

I wish I knew what that meant.

You will.

Day 13

I want to wash my hair, my hands, my face with snow. Snow, snow, snow, (harmony parts) snoooooooow. The reason I wish to do this is because it means money, that I desperately need. Since it is snowing now, that means that lawns will die, much like my soul. Sorry about that. Turned into a self-consumed poet for a moment there. Wait a minute. Oh my God, I have a whole page of self-consumed poetry. Oh well, I don’t think anyone noticed.

Living through retail’s “Black Friday” is always fun. It never ceases to amaze me the emotional investment people can have in a certain product we have on sale. Then when we’re out of them at 5:00pm and we’ve been open since 6:00am, they get pissed. Or there’s the people who come in and expect everything in the entire store to be on sale, not realizing that the store does still need to make money. And then they leave their entire shopping cart of merchandise in the middle of the aisle when they see how long the line is, as if they didn’t think there would be all that many people out the day after Thanksgiving. That day is for power shoppers only. And I am not one of them. Dealing with those people is exhausting enough. Ahhh sweet retail. I’m not going to complain though. It’s not helping anything.

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