Monthly Archives: September 2012

Banana republic

Being unemployed or underemployed brings a whole new focus to conversations. In the same way that new parents discuss their offspring in exhaustive detail, I find myself discussing my employment prospects to the exclusion of nearly everything else.  These days, I try to steer every conversation toward my employment woes, in the misguided hope that someone might be able to help. (“Oh, you’ve just delivered your firstborn? How nice. Look, I’m trying to find a job, do you have any leads?”).

I used to enjoy talking about music or literature or politics. If memory serves, I even promised in my last blog post to talk about politics rather than my job frustrations. Ha! While it is true that I have some political opinions that you need to read, you will have to wait because I need to obsess over my unemployment fears.

My temp job might finish around Thanksgiving. Either way, I need to revisit my long-term employment strategies. I’m continuing to apply for jobs, but I’m not getting any interviews, and I see no reason why that should change. I’ve concluded that I’m not going to get a permanent job in western NC with my education. It’ll be great if I’m wrong about that conclusion, but I’m not holding my breath.

I could change one or both of those things. I could move. I don’t want to, but I could. There are more job openings in more densely populated areas. There is more competition, too, unfortunately.

Or I could get another degree. I already paid a lot of money for two degrees, and look where that got me. It seems unwise to shell out money for another degree. Why gamble the last little bit of my savings? I could put it toward food or rent.

But if I did somehow talk myself into purchasing another expensive piece of paper, what variety would I get? I could do community college, but I would not be able to live on loans. I could get another bachelor’s degree, but that seems like a huge step backwards. I do not want to sit in English 101 while 18-year-olds learn about Foucault. I already did that once.

Or I could get another master’s degree, though I don’t know what I’d study.

I don’t know what I’d study at any level — community college, four-year, or graduate. Would I try for something in a career that would make me happy? Or is job satisfaction something that happens to other people? Should I just concentrate on getting a degree that would lead to a job?

I’ve had a year to think about these questions. I still don’t have any answers, but I need to keep gnawing away at them until I figure something out.

Meanwhile, I do still have my temp job, even if it has meager wages, even if it only lasts for a couple more months. It provides moments of unintentional comedy; just last  week I overheard someone refer to a fruit headdress, “like the kind that Che Guevara wore.” When I got home that night, I took out my markers, because that is imagery that deserves to be put to paper.

My temp job also has one delightful, unexpected perk: I get to listen to music most of the day. It’s necessary, actually; there’s so much chatter and noise going on that  I need my headphones to tune out everything else.

Last week I listened to nothing but Brahms. Among other things, I was determined to decide once and for all whether I preferred his cello concerto or his violin concerto. (The violin won.) I also found that, in one of his lyrical pieces, I was able to sing along with the chorus. Most of the words are in German, but the refrain goes “La, la la la,” which I assume translates into “La, la la la.”

This week I decided to put my whole music collection on shuffle. At one point, Lady Gaga’s song “Telephone” came on. There’s nothing musically sophisticated about the song. The lyrics do not have a lot to offer in the way of political activism. (Plot summary: Gaga’s phone keeps ringing, but it’s annoying, because she’s at a party.) It is about as fluffy as pop gets.

But I was sitting there bopping along. It is impossible to hear this song and not tap your toe or groove your shoulders or something.

Then I heard a few songs by Steeleye Span. I didn’t know I had them in my collection. I have no memory or borrowing or buying any of their music. I didn’t even know who they were till I looked them up on wikipedia.

At any rate, I heard a song for the first time this week, “Let Her Go Down,” and I nearly started crying right there, just listening to it. The song’s about a captain who goes down with his ship to save the lives of his crew. I think. Probably.

And I heard Steeleye Span cover “The Black Freighter.” It will shiver your timbers. I will leave you with this song in celebration of Talk Like a Pirate Day. Ahoy! (And next time I really will try to write about something other than my job woes, honest.)

Conjugational visits

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Look. I never wanted to be a grammar snob. It’s not like I specially asked for it at the dweeb store. If I’d had any say in it, I would have chosen something that didn’t make me seem fussy and petty and mean. My grammar snobbiness happened without any deliberate effort, leaving me saddled with a niche skillset of practically no real value. Sometimes I read grammar books for fun, like The Deluxe Transitive Vampire, but even without extracurricular studying, I’m just naturally prone to grammar snobbiness.

Every day at my temp job is a little slice of hell. Because communication at my workplace depends on a high volume of email, I see a lot of comma splices and misspellings and run-on-sentences and subject/verb disagreements and paragraphs of dubious coherence and words that are completely imaginary. Each time it happens, a little bit of my soul gets erased from the fabric of existence.

And then there is the matter of conjugation. Several times daily — I am not exaggerating the frequency — I hear such constructions as “I had went to the cafeteria” or “The report has been ran” or “She had came back from vacation.” Syntax likes this makes baby pandas die.

Again: I recognize that my grammar predilections make people want to stuff me in a locker between classes. I’m the sort of person who uses the subjunctive properly and who appreciates the stylistic economy of semicolons, a condition that does not foster meaningful friendships or personal fulfillment.

There is a persistent myth, repeated and reinforced from elementary school through graduate studies, that it is important to be academically successful. People who do well in school will succeed in life, the thinking goes, whereas those who don’t will end up selling used cars or serving time in prison. I would like to use my experience, anecdotal though it may be, to refute the myth. Apart from the dead baby pandas, it’s completely okay to have weak language skills. I am a published author with a master’s degree, and this year I will earn less than twenty thousand dollars, whereas the People I work with Who Capitalize words According To rules I don’t Understand have Health Insurance and good Salaries.

I realize this is a theme I visit a lot on this blog. Faithful readers are surely sick of hearing my complaints about unemployment, underemployment, and job dissatisfaction. I’m sick of job dissatisfaction, too, to the point where I actually considered joining the military. This period of consideration lasted perhaps four seconds, after which I dismissed the idea and instead sang the lyrics to the Ben Folds song “Army.” I also considered joining the Peace Corps, which I dismissed for very similar reasons, believe it or not.

I can’t imagine that I’ll be any less frustrated or discouraged next time I write, but at least I can change the topic. Up next: politics — because my personal opinion matters to you and should influence how you vote.