Things went wrong today – so wrong that I have to write about it. This is a writer’s only recourse. Otherwise it will bubble up inside like lava in a volcano and consume me.
I started the day with the best of intentions. I was going to search online for jobs, and then write an essay. Instead I started by trying to check the billing information of our internet account, as it was the end of the month and I wanted to know whether I had to do something manually or it was automatic. There I ran into the first obstacle. The cable company wouldn’t recognize my log-in name, or my password, or even my e-mail address, though they had already sent notices to that address. So I go to their site and try to work out the problem and get into a chat with a technician. She tells me I need to register, which I thought I already had. Since I have somebody’s ear I decide to ask why our modem sometimes works slowly and sometimes loses the connection entirely. She sends me to another technician, who runs me through a series of tests, and in the end solves nothing. By this time most of the morning is gone. I try to register my account only to discover that there’s a glitch in my e-mail account and I can’t sign in. I re-start the computer a few times to try to solve the problem. Then one of my sons informs me that I was supposed to meet the manager where he works today to ask about some insurance issues. I only have about fifteen minutes and the place is almost a mile away. I rush out and arrive four minutes late, only to find out that I was supposed to meet her tomorrow, not today.
And all of this is not really the reason I am despondent today, though I hate to waste a morning. I could have been writing, after all, instead of running about here and there, both in cyberspace and the real world, trying vainly to solve problems. I am despondent because I don’t yet have a job.
In a perfect world my writing would support me, and even in an imperfect world I would try to make it so, possibly even to the point of descending into abject poverty, but there is one consideration that makes such an option impossible. I am not alone. I have come here for my sons, to give them a fresh start, a chance at opportunities they wouldn’t have had had they stayed in Greece. They are not yet ready to strike out and make it on their own. I am here to help them, and help them I must. The money I borrowed to make the trip here is almost gone, and I must have employment to replenish it and pay back those from whom I have borrowed.
I’d actually planned to write about job hunting after I had found a job, when I could write from a position of victory. But perhaps it is better this way. For me job hunting is demeaning, humiliating, frustrating, discouraging, disheartening. Perhaps it is not so for everyone. My sons, for instance, arrived in the US and hit the ground running. They had been so frustrated and rudderless and without options in Greece that it was like a holiday in a theme park for them to be able to go from business to business and fill out applications for employment. They kept it up for days, and it didn’t take long for them to find jobs. One now works in a bagel place preparing sandwiches, and the other works as a cashier at a burger joint. They are both happy with the work they have found, though they get minimum wage.
It has not been so easy for me. I too have applied for all sorts of jobs, mostly online. Minimum wage will not do for me, though; I will not be able to meet my obligations. In addition, I want to use my talents in some way. First and foremost, I am a writer, and I have applied for various writing-related jobs, mostly having to do with providing online content. Whenever I have had to submit a writing sample I have got a callback for an interview, but so far nothing definite has come of it. I also taught English as a second language in Greece for sixteen years. I have experience preparing students for all sorts of language tests, and excellent recommendation letters. But here no school will even consider me because I don’t have a college diploma. It is the epitome of ridiculous bureaucratic letter-of-the-law nitpicking, but there is nothing I can do about it. No school will try me out, or even let me do a sample lesson. I have applied for other types of jobs too: warehouse work, call center customer service information provider at various companies, private tutoring, even barista or shift supervisor at a certain well-known coffee chain. I have searched ads daily, have received e-mails, have had phone interviews and gone in for personal interviews. But so far, nothing. Sometimes I have come very close. Once a company’s personnel director told me they would hire me and then they changed their minds. That was a crushing blow.
I have tried so hard and it has come to nothing. It is, as the cliché goes, like beating my head against a wall. I was paging through a book by Thomas Merton at the library yesterday; he was writing about suffering, about how it is part of the human condition. He said that your attitude and how you react to suffering is vital. One aspect of suffering he uses as an example is being dependent on others. I don’t know if I ever consciously considered that as suffering, but I can see now that it is true, and it is a significant aspect of my present despondency. I don’t want to be a burden to my sons and my other immediate family. I want to be in a position to help them, not the other way around. If I realized I was dragging my sons down, draining their resources, diminishing their quality of life, I would feel like slipping out the door one day and not returning, joining the growing army of homeless I see outside everywhere. I am almost obsessed with them; they seem more real to me than those in the proper rank and file of society, of the system. But then I realize it is not a viable option. My family would worry about me. In addition, I have been homeless. I have wandered the world with duffle bag on my shoulder and nothing more, and sometimes it was glorious, but other times it was rough, exhausting, lonely, even terrifying.
So I search even harder for work, and I hit that proverbial brick wall again. I know there are opportunities here; I know I will eventually find something. But in the meantime the money drains away, the doubts assail me, the circumstances pummel my self-esteem, and I feel lost and lonely and vulnerable. In a way I knew this would happen when I decided to abandon my safe, secure job and well-furnished home in Greece to come here and help my boys build a new future. But anywhere and anytime and for whatever reason it strikes, pain is pain and it hurts. I am hurting now. Perhaps I will not be hurting tomorrow, or even in an hour. Storms pass on and the sun shines again, eventually – it always happens. But when you are in the midst of the storm you cannot always see the sunny skies. That’s why I write about it. It helps me catch at least a faint glimpse.