For the past 13 years, I have worked almost every week in an office of some sort, with a semester off my first year of college to get settled in to the swing of "life out on my own..." (Yeah, that went well...) When I was 14, my mother arranged for me to work as an assistant at a local small business management firm. After work, three days a week, I would hitch a ride with the company owner's son and file, type, sort, label, water, dust, mail and post myself into oblivion - for three hours. THREE. At the time three hours was F-O-R-E-V-E-R, dragging on until, finally, my dad pulled up outside and I skipped over to the timecard area to write my "out" time for the day.
11 jobs, seven years of schooling and 13 years later, I have been unemployed for almost an entire month - the longest that I have been without something structured to do since summer break between junior high and high school. Time has no meaning - I have no idea what day it is, what time it is, where I am, if the Apocalypse has come and gone...
I am searching for a job - my daily ritual of combing thru craigslist, simplyhired, santacruzjobs, ucscjobs, santacruzsentinel - but y'all, there ain't much out there. I'm sure that others in this situation would relish the opportunity to do NOTHING all day while collecting unemployment, but unfortunately my body and mind have completely and fully rejected that scenario as unacceptable.
Sooooo... I find myself washing dishes and floors, rearranging cabinets, reading the entire Twilight series again - twice, cooking new dishes, baking cookies and breads, refinishing furniture, sorting thru old photos, cleaning out the closets, seriously considering posting every single last item of *crap* that we own on craigslist, planting a victory garden, pulling weeds, making ridiculously long and involved to-do lists, reading blogs, getting up-to-date on political news sites, paying bills, contemplating a million DIY Christmas gifts, dusting off the sewing machine and making personalized "ugly dolls" for our seven nieces and nephews from scratch, crocheting hats, memorizing lines for the Christmas play, preparing to sew a new skirt and handbag to see if I could possibly make more as gifts, designing our Christmas cards, setting up our church advent season decorations and stage set, working on new jewelery projects... sketching, sanding, sawing, seeding, scrubbing, stewing, scanning, stalling, singing, sorting, staining, stretching, snuggling, sensing, screaming, straining, searchingsearchingsearching...
Almost everyone that knows I am out of work has advised me in their most sage/condescending/jealous/all-knowing voice that I should see this time as a gift and use it wisely. Which is great advice... advice I would GLADLY take and follow and relish if it weren't for the tiny detail of insanity+debt=not so feasible. Does this make me wish that perhaps we had chosen slightly less expensive rings? You betcha. Not paid for everyone and their mother to have their hair done at the wedding? Oh hell yes. Saved more while I was making ridiculous loads of cash and completely stayed away from Kodak Gallery, Sierra Trading Post and Old Navy's websites? *BLEEP* yeah! Stuck to the cheap food and eaten out WAY less? DARN TOOTIN'! Can I change that now? Dammit, no. Have we changed our ways DRASTICALLY in the past few months? Again, you betcha. And this past month, with us both being without pay, we have SERIOUSLY been frugalgroovin'...
It's quite easy to spend WAY less. Quite. Well shoot. Now you tell me!
The projects that I've been tackling have all somehow skirted around the main thing that I would love to achieve in this season of time - my art. Painting, carving, creating, molding, DOING... Something is in the way, holding me back from my easel. Everyday I see a new image or color or vision that I need to capture on the canvases that are strewn about the house, closets and garage. But I am held back by unseen ties that bind my arms to my sides and whisper into my ears ...you can't do it... you aren't good enough ...it will never look like you want it too... So I am held captive by my self doubt and dance about the house, doing other projects to keep me from the paints. But they are there, yearning for my fingers to brush over them, screaming to me to USE them... if only their screams were louder than the whispers.
This has been a tough month for me, not knowing what to do or who I am without the identity of a job. Isn't it ironic that we so pointedly define ourselves through our work? "What'syournameandwhatdoyoudo?" The beginning of all new acquaintances. So who am I? And what do I do? Who have I become in the years since my first job? What do I do in the years ahead?