So, What Is It All About?…Walking Between Worlds

May 16, 2010 at 10:09 pm (Walking Between Worlds)

“If you hear nothing else I say, you need to hear this;” she said as she turned her desk chair toward me in order to look me in the eyes: “ this is not about you.”

I smiled. “I know that in my head,” I responded. “But, after almost three years, it feels like it is about me—like it is a reflection of me…” I paused. Her gaze was constant, reassuring and empathetic. “It feels like I must be some monumental fuck-up.” She nodded. Somehow, I knew she understood.

I was in her office because I called her out of desperation and asked if she thought she could help me find a job. An actual new career would be nice. But, at this point, an adequate job would do. She gladly made room in her schedule. Sandy is actually a friend of mine and recently changed job paths herself. She works for Goodwill in a position that is grant-funded by stimulus package money. And, the purpose of her job is to help people exactly like me: folks who, for one reason or another, are displaced and in need of employment; a large number of her clients are higher-end professionals like me.  I felt sure that all of them feel like I do and never thought they would be sitting in an office at the Goodwill seeking help to find a job.

Sandy confirmed all of this as she explained to me the many ways that the world has changed—and, not all of those changes are due to a bad economy. Many of us have watched the change occurring over time. A fair amount of it is due to a shift in business thinking that began, noticeably, during the Regan-Bush era. This shift moved us toward larger businesses with more branches, off-shoots and partners, greater  power and control, even more top-heavy management, and a greater degree of corporate greed, self protection and self preservation. There are several resulting trends. A growing lack of customer service: customer service now means sales. Poorer working conditions, less pay, and fewer—if any—benefits for workers. Increased pay and bonuses at the top end. Pay cuts at the worker end. And, the awful truth is that the smaller companies have had to adopt many of the same practices just to stay in business. [This is an area where my previous business partner and I parted ways. He wanted to be like the big guys; I did not.] Even though Sandy and I had an interesting discussion of these things, her point was one I had experienced but had not found words to articulate.  And, although her voice was calm and kind, beneath it was the slight tone of anger and frustration she clearly felt—emotions not unlike my own. Very matter-of-factly, she said:

“The sad truth is this. The more skills you have, the more experience you have…the more educated and talented you are, the less likely you are to find a job. I have a stack this thick—[she gestured what would be about 8 inches]—of people with resumes like yours. It sucks and it doesn’t help, but you are far from alone…”

Of course, Sandy knew that I have enough sense to know these things; she even stated that she was sure I had figured this out. I did not need for her to give me a crash course in Capitalism run amok or the current economy. What I did need, she gave me. I needed validation.  After nearly three years of applying for an average of five jobs per week, hearing nothing from most of them, and enduring [thankfully infrequent] humiliating and debasing interviews maybe once every three months, I needed a little help in the perspective department. I have been beaten by these circumstances to the point of feeling like a boxer who keeps getting up, but can barely stand and is too swollen and bloody to see the other guy. I needed to get back a sense of reality.

Often when we are dealing with large things by ourselves, there is a point where we become unsure if we are clear about the thing; we begin to doubt our own senses and our thinking. It is a great help—and is often necessary—for someone else to look at the thing with us and say, “yep; you’re right…that big thing out there is a pile of shit.”

So, if it is not about me, or about us—us being the older, more professionalized, highly skilled group of people who are seeking work—what is it all about?

It is about some really serious and sad truths. Unemployment numbers are still at the highest they have been since the Great Depression. Jobs are being created in some areas, but more are being lost every day in others. Working conditions for those with jobs are worsening each day. And, the majority of the wealth in this country is controlled by about the top 2% of the population. There are more excesses and abuses in business operations now than we could have imagined due to the gross deregulation measures put in place over the past 20 years…Well, that is not true; we did imagine them and the resulting picture was the reasoning behind the creation of regulatory measures that have since been deconstructed. We were in a recession for nearly a year before anyone would use the word. Now, the mess we are in could be called a depression. There are two primary reasons that we have not crumbled completely as we did in the Depression. One is the presence of the social reforms and support programs put into place as a result of the Depression; there is a burden and growing cost for this too. And, the other is that there is a greater degree of relative wealth in the first place due to many factors—not the least of which is the greater integration of our society on many levels including the closeness of communities, communication and information exchange, as well as financial practices and systems. It is also about the basic self-preserving fact that employers are afraid that people they view as overly qualified will leave for better jobs. The fact is that this is a condition of their own making. Moving from a relative respect for and investment in workers to an attitude of minimal investment for dime-a-dozen employees has created a self-fulfilling prophecy. As I said, even smaller companies have adopted the same kinds of operations practices as the large corporations. An example is the trend toward hiring only part-time employees. It is not a pretty picture. 

Despite all of this, I left Sandy’s office with some hope. At the least, I know it really is not about me. And, she assured me that I am one of the more employable people seeking her help—if only because I planned really well and can work for less that I was used to making. I believe that she and her team can help me find a job. And, I continue to believe that there is some reason that I am going through all of this, that it all serves some as yet unseen purpose and that more will be revealed. Maybe that is just a denial system to make me feel better, but I believe there is some payoff in all of this.  And, as much as it is not about me, it is also about me. It is about how I handle and process all that I am going through to find a job and get back on track. It is about how I choose to perceive things and how I react to them. It is about what I learn about myself and the world I inhabit—and what I do with what I learn. So, I continue to try to learn. I try to become a better self in the process. I do the next right thing in front of me. And, I hope for the prospective employer who sees value in his/her workers, sees my potential, and takes a chance on an fairly educated, overly experienced, likely over-qualified, old professional in transition. Stranger things have happened.

NOTE:  This work is published here as proprietary and may not be reproduced, distributed, sold, or otherwise utilized outside the posting on this site without the express permission of the author; these works are the sole property of the author writing as Androgynonamous or DreadPirateRobert.


  1. Blazer said,

    I honestly don’t know how you keep such a positive attitude, though I am thankful you are able. As you know, it is having a bit of a positive effect on me. Seeing what you and so many others are going through makes me thankful that I have a job that is secure for the time being at least and also fearful of what might happen if that were to change. It is so easy for me to attribute much of what is wrong in this country right now to overwhelming greed of corporations. But really, corporations are not living breathing creatures. They are headed by and supported by individuals who lack empathy and have lost any moral compass they may have been born with. I have to hope this is a cyclical and as reforms were once before put forth to protect the worker, the environment and the consumer they will be again. I need to believe this for my own sanity.

    In the meantime, you know my fingers are crossed for you and yes, I am doing the spinning and spitting thing as well.

    • Scintillectual said,

      Oh…and what she said.

    • androgynonamous said,

      I very much appreciate your perspective…as well as your support. I am encouraged that you agree with my perspective that it is the shift in thinking–made by individuals–that has caused the mess in our economic and work force culture. This loss of moral compass and empathy–as you so eloquently put it–is exactly the kind of thing Marx and others warned us of and tried to draw our attention to in their work. Capitalism does not work without checks and balances; any political science student will tell you that these trends are, indeed, cyclical in an unchecked capitalist structure. Revolt and reform bring temporary correction and wider spread dispursement of wealth occurs; then those with the greater part of the pie become more greedy and morally bankrupt and the cycle turns again…unless we learn from the past and keep the checks and balances in place. Had we not had the relative reprieve granted us by the protections once in place for the worker, the environment and the consumer, we would have had more serious recessions and this would be a larger depression than what we are seeing. I do fear that, as is often the case with correction, it will get worse before it gets better. But, you know all of this and I am prattling on…
      At any rate, your support and well-wishes really do help keep me focused and hopeful. I am glad to know that some of my hope and belief in the generally positive flow of the universe is rubbing off on you. It is a cool thing to see and be part of. Seems to me that this is what happens in good and healthy friendships: it brings out the best in both parties–you certainly have helped me keep my sense of humor, dry and dark as it may be at times. Please don’t get too dizzy in your support of me; I’d feel so bad if you hurt yourself falling or something. I really do believe that something is coming soon and more will, indeed, be revealed. Love you, buddy and I am every so grateful you are here.

  2. kerie said,

    Mate, the fact that you still keep trying shows character and backbone. It takes a strong person to keep going in the face of adversity and I truly admire your guts and determination. Hope and faith count as well as believing in yourself.

    I tried to spin and spit but I kinda dribbled and got dizzy…got anything else I can do?

    • androgynonamous said,

      Thanks so much, mate…HA! I appreciate you more than you know and the encouragement helps. If nothing else, it helps me keep a rational perspective. Sometimes, it feels as if the hope, belief in myself, and general belief in the good results of good intentions and determination are just the denial-based ramblings of a woman on the edge of going round the bend, you know?? The validations of your friends go a long way toward keeping things reality-based. I am grateful. I do appreciate, as well, your efforts at warding off bad ju-ju…but I hate to think of you dizzy and dribbling. Maybe you could just box and send warm, hopeful thoughts…LMAO!! I sometimes fear you and Blazer are going to end up injured and in the ER due to your wonderful dedication and support….HA! Thanks so much for being here.

  3. Scintillectual said,

    You know I do not have the capacity, understanding, or even desire to politic-speak. However, I am forever in awe of your tenacity. You have been beaten down by this economic catastrophe more than anyone I know and yet you, like the boxer you alluded to, continue to keep going for one more round and one more after that. So Rocky, I think it’s time you beat Apollo once and for all.

    It is abhorrent that you cannot find a job because you are educated, qualified, and have experience. It just takes one person to cut you a break and I keep hoping that soul is looking up your phone number right now. What I am sure of is that you are more than deserving and your time has long come due.

    I love you and I’m with you no matter what.
    Always and in all ways,
    Your Sweet Scin.

    • androgynonamous said,

      Sweetheart, love of my life,
      Your faith in me and unending support make it all so much easier and help me keep going for the next round, and the next, and the next. Knowing that you see me for who I am, what I am capable of, and love me even when, outwardly, I am not seem like such a great choice, lift me up…I am held aloft in the arms of a love and respect like I have never known. Know that I feel for you the same respect, recognition, admiration and love that you bring to me. I am with you, too, always and in all things. Know also that I do really believe that the time is coming when that one person will see in me something worth bringing into the right company for me. I know in my heart that you are right: it only takes one person. Just as that one person helped us find a home for you here, the one person who will set me on a new career path is just around the corner. You and I both are coming into our own in so many ways…it is only a matter of time before things all fall into place and we can see the larger picture, see the forces at work that required that we endure these things in order to be fulfilled. It is simply more of the broken road we have traveled.
      I love you and my life is a better place because of us. I am ever yours…

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