Dog Paddling… Toward the Zero Point?

Long time, no post. This has been my year of trying to figure out how to earn a living, after 40 years in the workforce, or at least of constantly trying to be, mostly successfully, up to a certain point.

The leaves are turning brown and falling to earth now, as Fall begins. Earlier this year, as those leaves blossomed and established themselves on those trees and Spring established itself, I spent four solid months of long days revamping a website I had originally established to house “webisodes” into a 104-page shopping site. Nearly six months after setting out on that journey, I have not earned one single penny with the results. In retrospect, I feel like such a fool, getting that business license and registering with the state, only to file one “zero-return” after another, month after month.  Yes, I did some social media promotion and online advertising for the site. That helped keep me busy. That’s all that did, except cost me a little money. My only consolation is the truism that you do not know, until you try, if something will work for you.

Sure, I’ve put in applications for jobs. Lots of them. All the while. It’s getting really hard to fill out those forms, over and over and over. In nine months, I had six interviews and no offers. I stopped counting applications after hitting about 150. What’s the point? One of the longest forms of all was for a placement service you might have heard of, and it involved one of those “psychological” profiles I love so well <sarcasm>. This one took the prize for asking, over and over in slightly different wording, such questions as when was the last time I had punched a co-worker, whether I had smoked crack, grass, or PHP this morning before breakfast, and many other similar questions. Evidently, they were looking for a younger, more energetic type to fill their position. The one result that filling out that application evidently produced was lots of phone calls from strange numbers all over the country began to flood in with sales offers. No, I’m really not in the market for anything except food and shelter, and really just trying to remain even in just those markets…

Aat least four of my six interviews have arrived in the following sequence: filling out an online application; receiving a follow-up telephone call and conducting a telephonic pre-interview; then, after receiving an email follow-up with details, performing satisfactorily on a skills assessment test and one of those lovely mind-fuck assessments, which I suppose must be checking one’s capacity for robotic repetition. Then, I would drive, at an appointed time, to conduct a face-to-face interview, or series thereof, with no fewer than three, and up to as many as eight persons. Afterward, the nicer ones sent me an email declining to employ me.  Each time, six to eight hours I could never get back, gone.

A dear cousin of mine I lived with for a period in our childhood grew up to have several children. These included, until this year, a young man reaching his mid-twenties, who still resided with his parents. In the late Spring, they discovered his body, lying on the floor in his basement quarters. Families being far-flung and preoccupied as they are in our culture, I never knew this troubled young man, unfortunately.  I do know this is not a time when I would want to be young. It’s hard enough at my age, more than twice his, facing whatever promise the future seems to hold now. I can only imagine how I would feel if I were his age. My solace is the time in which I was born and grew up in the United States, during its more liberal and most prosperous era in history. It was a real sweet spot, the time of my birth. Detroit, where I was born, was thriving and US withdrawal from the War in Vietnam was proceeding when I reached draft age. After forty years of right-wing domination, Detroit is a ruin and the US is locked in a struggle to conquer the entire world, justifying its actions with lie after lie, regardless of which party produced the person nominally known as the President. The sources on line I tend to trust peg the true unemployment rate in the USA at around 23%, so I know I’m far from alone in living my life of quiet desperation. In polls, Congress is getting the popular approval rating it deserves, I think — about eight percent. But, in my life, in my era, in my youth, there was a chance to enjoy sheer Being, and even a measure of freedom and hope. Surely, that spark is not gone altogether for today’s young, but I believe society’s capacity to permit it has greatly diminished.

What’s interesting about having time off is the way it absorbs all your time. My hobby, for many years, has been writing and recording my own songs. I, honestly, haven’t had time for that, aside from keeping in practice and coming up with a few new progressions.  Words seem to have deserted me, when it comes to song — at least for now.  No words seem strong enough to fit any more.

I picked up a few hundred bucks in the spring, proofreading and editing books. It wasn’t a living, but for one month, I got to preserve my bank balance by that means. The best experience was proofreading a comedic novel by a pair of screenwriters who have worked on Saturday Night Live, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Boy Meets World, among others. I’d recommend it for light humorous reading, but, as I search the internet for the title, I can’t see that it’s hit the marketplace since then. For freelancing, I’ve been using a site that lets people who want help collect up to five bids. Those who want to provide the services have 24 hours to submit a bid. It’s cutthroat, and, as a service provider, you’re bidding based on sketchy information. After my few initial successes, such as they were, my most common experience was not to be contacted, and the next most common was to have the requests for help cancelled by the requester. P.S. you pay money to buy points to enter those quotes into the competition, and you lose it if they look at your bid and don’t contract with you, or if they cancel their request. Your points are refunded if they allow 48 hours to go by without looking at your bid.

Anyway, that’s why I poured all that energy into establishing business relationships and building a large sales web site.

I’m luckily married, and my virtuous wife, who has a good-paying, if, at times, onerous job (but, I repeat myself?), has been a real source of support for me, in every sense of the word, in all these months whizzing by. My financial role in the marriage is to pay for our health insurance, because that is not a work benefit for her. So, I do have bills every month, that being “the big one.”

We still have our Netflix subscription, for now. Last weekend, we watched Robert Redford’s remarkable movie, All is Lost. The mariner, Redford, in that film, did everything right and lost out every time, pummeled by the random, merciless elements, his desperate flares ignored by whomever might be hidden in the bowels of passing cargo ships bearing freight from China. If you have not seen this film, I recommend it. It kept me in suspense until the very last second. The only thing I’ll add about it is that, at no time did the character practice reality denial as a means of struggling for survival.


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