airsafetycardAs I enter Week 12 of my unemployment (or as I suppose I should prefer to call it, my “underemployment”), I’m grappling with the frustration of Job Hunting 2.0.

Here’s how it works: You find a listing through any of the services — thus far, Monster and Dice (symbolism alone keeping me away from CareerBuilder, owned by Gannett). You respond to it, cut-and-paste the text version of your résumé (already meticulously laid-out as a PDF but not uploadable or attachable), cut-and-paste individual lines from it yet again into their online application form, then hit the submit button.

And that’s the last you see of it. No rejection, no confirmation, not so much as a howdy-doo. Oh, with one exception: there was a job the employer had pulled, which generated a manual reply (yet still appeared on the list; go figure).  

Needless to say, as a deep chill descends on the New York area, even deeper in these northern hustings, requiring dark, drab survival gear just to leave the house, I find I have every reason — no, make that every excuse — to be discouraged.

And with the extra time, I find I’m absorbing more news from the Old Media (which, when I was in college, was the New Media). It seemed every story alerted me of more facets of our economy, many I hadn’t realized could be affected by a downturn, a good many I’d never even heard of. And they are all reeling from the impact. Cascading their failure, like individual relays bringing down the power grid of entire regions.

In the midst of this, I was expected to write cheery and self-glorifying prose, not only in cover letters but in my LinkedIn profile. (One form, I think it was on Monster, asked me for “career highlights”. Particularly nauseating.)


On Thursday, hoping to break the funk, I went to a Social Media Breakfast in New York City (Twitter-tagged SMBNYC3), hosted by Ripple6 (also owned by Gannett), at the Roger Smith Hotel. (Don’t tell me I don’t link!) I had an invigorating conversation with Barbara Bellafiore, and later Danielle Lanyard and Damian Basile. Thus reminded of my place as a social being, and buoyed by the interaction, I got home, sat down at my computer, went to TweetDeck (my Twitter client), and seconds later, I read this post from Grace Piper:

her alert about the US Airways plane in the Hudson

Predictably, justifiably, all eyes and all cameras panned over to this rescue flotilla surrounding a scene from Irwin Allen‘s idea box: passengers in shirtsleeves, disembarking on the wing of a downed plane (US Airways Flight 1549), inching over to a tugboat. A scene made that much more perilous by a harsh Manhattan cold, which was still stinging my cheeks, swelling my (dry) toes and hampering my typing fingers.

It was a firecracker of good news, pre-empting the economic dirge. Now television’s finite windows worked for good, crowding out the bad news in favor of the hero story we knew we needed, and they were only too eager to deliver, and keep pumping through three news cyles now, showing smooth sailing till the inauguration of Barack Obama.

I discovered I was buoyed right along by this story (pun very much intended). As I watched, I became aware of the connections to my personal mythology. My subconscious was making hasty switches of neurons, even as I vegged. I realized, with some dismay but not enough to break my smile, that I was letting the Media dictate my mood, by telling me the aggregate situation of forces that don’t and can’t affect individual people, any more than one individual nail can puncture the back of the yogi lying on a bed of them.

Speedy Delivery

That night, my wife told me she’d overheard talk of some openings for letter carriers at the post office in some wealthy zip codes. I knew the trepidation she had in telling me, and I knew how my societal programming — by those faceless others who monopolize the meaning of the word “success” and “career” — requires me to be repulsed by such a prospect.

But in the wee hours of the morning, I realized I would like to be a mailman.

My grandfather was a mailman for a while, as was an uncle. The pay would be good, the work sufficiently back-brain, so as to allow me to think of loftier things. I would be getting exercise, I’d see many other humans every day, and I’d be done by 3, at which point I could blog my brains out for my currently frozen-on-the-slab niche site, DutchNewYork.com. The thought that I could even entertain such a thing had me realizing how ready for anything three months of idleness and boredom and fear and dispair can make you. I was sick of being down.

That morning, I was whistling a happy tune from my recent acquisition, a Swing Out Sister album from the 80s. I posted the following five tweets:

  • Liberating Realization #1 : A drought in my chosen field does not make me unemployable.
  • Liberating Realization #2 : A bad economy means my financial difficulties aren’t due to my incompetence.
  • Liberating Realization #3 : When you do the same work for 25 years, maybe taking a break will make you better at it when you return to it.
  • Liberating Realization #4 : I used to work for a newspaper. There’s one word to describe my fellow ex-colleagues: diaspora. I’m not alone.
  • Liberating Realization #5 : Anything I can do that is in demand — anything — is a potential job.

“Break Out,” indeed!


2 responses to “Buoyed

  1. Lovely especially, “I was letting the Media dictate my mood, by telling me the aggregate situation of forces that don’t and can’t affect individual people, any more than one individual nail can puncture the back of the yogi lying on a bed of them.”

    At one point I worked in independent film and supported myself full time as a security guard at The Getty Museum. I loved it. I was surrounded by some of the greatest art in the world and had time all day to write obsessively in a very small pocket notebook. I think there can be hidden graces in all kinds of jobs, except maybe Taco Bell(I worked there in my teens).

  2. As a physics undergraduate, my career aspirations were jolted by a proof that over a lifetime, a letter carrier would earn more than a physics professor.

    One of my most enlightening jobs was foot messenger, carrying envelopes for less than six dollars an hour. It enabled me to do a significant amount of philosophical speculation. Too bad it didn’t pay as much as the Postal Service.

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