Thursday, December 9, 2010

Days 336-365 of Double-barrel Unemployment: A Little Novel and A Scary Preview

Welcome back, my friends, to the show you know you wish would end...

Days 336 through 365, collectively known as November 2009,
of my latest (and please let it be my last) trip through the rainy woods of unemployment were some of the hardest and best of that whole first year. It started with a challenge, and ended with success, good news and an even greater challenge, but no zombies whatsoever.

The challenge, as prescribed, sponsored and professionally encouraged by National Novel Writing Month, was to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in 30 days. Now I know 50,000 words is a very short novel - a novella, really - but it's still tough for a first-timer to crank out in 30 days. I cheated a little by basing it loosely on real people and less loosely on real events from my kidhood, but it was still a lot of work - even for an unemployed layabout.

I knew, I KNEW that committing to this project would undoubtedly result in my landing job interviews and quite probably an offer, before the month was over. I was right. The first two weeks flew by, with words piling up like Tetris pieces on crack. I was still applying to several jobs every day, but because I had long-since given up on finding a good one, it was taking up less and less of my time. I was doing it all willy-nilly style. (I might lose friends for using "willy-nilly" in a sentence in public, but oh well - I'm feelin' bold!) Anyway - still working on finding a job and still being the most awesome house-husband ever (I had gotten really, really good at all that stuff), and occasionally like, grooming and stuff, I cranked out 30,000 words in about the first 13 days. I even kind of liked bits of what was coming out. I know! Weird.

BUT... My beloved [Maris]'s own Vortex of Doom was continuing to spiral farther and farther from her, and it looked as though she'd be out of a job just after January 1st - yes, just after they took away all the accrued vacation days she'd been unable to use for years. So, keep writing, writer man, but get a job! One of us out of work is survivable for a while, but not both of us at once. Ick. Despite what I had heard some Congress "people" saying on the news, I did NOT like being unemployed, so yeah - I worked at becoming re-employed and I wrote my little novel. Still, I had the nagging feeling that my story needed a zombie or two.

SO... (dingdingding!) Phone! It's a recruiter from Manpower Professional, and they have a long-term contract position for which I am a great fit. Can I go meet the client on Thursday? Yep! The client, a smallish office of a massive global company, is way out the miserable Dulles toll road - a hellish commute from Germantown, to be sure - but who cares! Good money! Challenging work! A one- to three-year project! I came home from the interview and cranked out another quick 3,000 words of novel-ish drivel, fully expecting to get the job.

Friday, November 20, 2009 (Day 355)

[Maris] called from work before I was up, asking if I could come downtown and bring her and all of her stuff home. She would not be a part of the impending transition from Bad to Worse at her Vortex of Doom. We were surprised, as laying her off now instead of in January cost the company more in accrued vacation than they would have spent keeping her around until then, but whatever. Much as I have felt more than once with my many layings-off, once the initial shock and goodbyes-induced trauma wore off, [Maris] was thrilled to be off of that ship of fools. However, that feeling was going to be short-lived with both of us out of work at the same time.

While I was getting ready to go get my newly-unemployed wife, the phone rang. I let the machine get it, and on my way out the door I heard the Manpower Pro recruiter, asking me to give him a call. I called him from the car. I got the job. Massive sighs of relief all around, but as a couple, it was still a huge net loss of income on the day.

Just those ten minutes of double-barrel unemployment were enough to scare me into leaping at the chance to work anywhere, for any money, doing (almost) anything. I didn't even mind losing a day of writing to attend the agency's orientation/forms-signing at their far-away office, or the half-day for drug testing; I just kept cranking out the drivel and braced for a new workplace and a new job to master. I was also really confident that it wouldn't take [Maris] nearly as long to find a replacement job as it had taken me, regardless of the market, which was now fully submerged in sewage. She's just a lot more employable than I am.

So, we took a deep breath, went to Dogfish Head, then to the Patron Silver store, then the limes store, and I finished my little book. There were no zombies in sight, but I did it. I wrote a novella and found a job. Yay, me. I'd be making decent money, and even if the job turned out to be terrible, it's always preferable to search for another job when you already have one. Right? And [Maris] would be working again before her severance and vacation time was up. Right?

Yeah. Stay tuned...

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