I attended a job fair last weekend, and I can scarcely recall a more depressing and desperate scene. It was extraordinary really, a thousand unemployed educators, young and old, queued up, sixty at a time, for a chance to speak with someone, a chance to place a piece of paper in someone’s hand, and to look a prospective employer in the eye. The faces I saw looked desperate and more than a little scared.
I’m growing more tired and discouraged and depressed by the job hunt with each passing day. Each day that is exactly like the last: wake up, read the news, drink my coffee, scan the classifieds, go to the gym, eat a little something, stay up late watching Star Trek and the X-Files, go to bed and give my woman a kiss on the cheek. Rinse and repeat.
The sad thing (or, more properly, the tragi-comic thing) is, I’m unemployed by design. I left a pair of jobs that I had held for two years to move to Atlanta, to be close to my lover, my woman, who is an assistant professor at a local university. She’s someone I’ve known for almost a decade, and we’ve seen each other off and on for much of that time, though we have rarely lived in the same city, or even the same part of the country. It was time for one of us to make a sacrifice, and I offerred myself up. I knew at the time that leaving two steady jobs during the worst job market since the 1940s was folly.
But the heart has its own reasons.
It is emasculating, however, to rely upon her income, I feel like so much less of a man, it’s a withering, wilting little worm of a thought. So I stay at it, day after day, decrypting scams, feeling a lift when I apply for something that is appealing, and an absence when it doesn’t pan out.
I hold the lazy in high personal regard. But I’m not like that myself, not really. The Protestant Ethic is in my marrow, despite my protestations. My parents were upper-middle class and educated, but every one of my ancestors prior to that worked with their hands, in the fields, behind the wheel of a truck, for generation upon generation, as far back as I can know. My Dad was born in a tar-paper shack, the son of a sharecropper. My mom rode a horse to the corner store. Her parents hunkered down every winter, when construction work dried up, with food carefully stowed away from the garden the previous summer.
And I’m not afraid of hard work. I’ve picked strawberries, and worked in a sawmill. I’ve installed cabinets and built a pole barn. I’ve tried (unsuccessfully) to raise chickens and break horses. My first real job was working a hydraulic press in a small factory, at 15. For the past couple of years, in addition to my teaching duties, I worked for an environmental company, and we did all sorts or very dirty and dangerous jobs.
Now I’m trying to get a job, though I remain wary of scams that seem all too common among the listings. Any company that would have you pay your own expenses, or provide your own capital equipment, likely isn’t much of a company at all. I read a job listing yesterday that required the applicant to have a credit card with at least $1000 limit in order to cover travel expenses. You get to pay for the privilege of having a job. Imagine that.
So that’s all I have to say, I don’t really expect or want any sympathy, by reading this you’ve counseled me already. What I want is a job, something to do when I wake up in the morning. At this point, almost anything would do.
(2/10/2010, cross-posted at Daily Kos, first diary at Docudharma!)