Archive for the ‘Sisyphus Incarnate’ Category

Sisyphus Incarnate: Mutiny

January 6, 2010

Sometimes, we push the boulder, sometimes the boulder pushes us.

Other times, all one can do is watch as fellow Sisypheans stumble, rolling back down to the bottom of the mountain.

I thought I had seen both sides of a layoff, but today I found myself with yet another vantage point—watching from afar as history repeated itself.

Almost exactly a year ago to the day I watched as one by one, coworkers were pulled into an office with their department manager and an HR representative from the parent corporation, then promptly and coldly told they were no longer viable to the bottom line.

They were neither given the dignity nor allowance of packing up their personal belongings and saying goodbye to (now) former coworkers they may never see again.

They were escorted to the door, then never spoken of again.

I watched and waited, a nervous wreck in my own right, unsure if I would survive.

Sadly, I did—but not for long.

For the bottom line just kept sinking lower and with it the very ship itself.

This time around, I’m already sitting on the iceberg watching a helpless crew and a hapless captain fighting to stay afloat.

Sometimes a sinking ship requires mutiny—sometimes it’s the captain who should be thrown overboard, for he’s the one manning the helm.

History has shown that the iceberg never hits the ship.

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Sisyphus Incarnate: Idle Time, Ribs and the Suicide Jones

December 8, 2009

I can still remember the first time I was ever laid off.

Not fired, laid off.

My soon-to-be former boss pulled me into his office at the very end of the work day, as I was packing up my briefcase and preparing for another road rage-inducing commute home.

The meeting was a blur. It started with small talk then degraded from formal pleasantries to the matter at hand.

Once they said they were going to have to let me go, the buzzing in my head drowned out all other sounds in the room, including my now-former boss, who kept speaking, though I was reduced to reading lips at this point in the conversation.

I can’t be sure, but I think they said it wasn’t me, it was them. I can’t be 100% certain, but I believe they told me we could still be friends.

I made no speeches, I gave no retort. I just sat frozen, uninvited tears swelling up in my eyes.

It came out of nowhere, like an assassin jumping from the shadows. I wasn’t prepared.

I left, defeated—deflated.

Now, I’ve been fired before. It has almost always sucked, but I could usually see it coming. Usually it was time to move on anyway.

I could usually make my exit with venomous parting words, a bridge burned and a conscience clear.

But this was different.

This time, it was less my fault and more the side effect of a crumbling economy.

This time, I wasn’t ready to go.

I returned later that night to pack up my belongings in solitude. I couldn’t face my now-former coworkers.

When they came to work the next morning, all they would find would be an empty office and perhaps an email from the Vice-President of the company.

For the first few weeks, I didn’t know what to do with this new found free time.

Sure, I updated my resume and built a web portfolio—I combed the want ads, Monster.com, Hotjobs and Creative Hotlist.

But a Bush had taken office, the dot.com bubble had long since burst and we were in the throws of 9-11.

There were no jobs to find.

I had far too much idle time on my hands—hard liquor and internet porn can only take you so far.

The more time that passed, the more often I replayed that final meeting in my head; Every time I relived the fateful exchange that left me laying by the wayside, I grew angrier and angrier, full of impotent rage.

After months of fruitless job searches, countless reruns of the Rockford Files and no less than 567 naps taken, I began fantasizing about what I would have liked to have said when the hammer dropped.

Shortly thereafter, I found myself unconsciously writing it all down.

The words flowed from my fingertips as if I were in a trance, speaking in tongues.

When I was finished, I had ten pages of corporate-casual rants written in far more eloquent a diatribe than had I spoken it off the cuff.

But I didn’t know what to do with it. I liked my now-former bosses and coworkers. I’m sure (or at least hope) the decision was hard enough for them without my literary bitterness adding to it.

Still, I hit the ‘save’ button before stepping away.

A few more weeks rolled by, a blur of bad daytime television and time spent staring blankly at a wall, before I reopened the document and read it again.

While riddled with bitterness and uncharted anger, it was at times quite entertaining. Though quite dark, there was humor lurking beneath the venom.

So I kept going—and going.

A new fire was burning within. Where time once stood still, suddenly there weren’t enough hours in the day. Morning, noon and night saw me hunched over my keyboard typing.

For the remainder of my unemployment, and well into my next three occupational downgrades, I kept writing—laboring over what would eventually become Rorschach’s Ribs.

That’s how I became a writer.

And now ten years later, nearly to the day, I find myself swept back up in long naps, hard liquor and bad daytime television.

It’s a vicious cycle.

I guess that means it’s time to finish another book.

I started one a few years back, but between a full time job, wife, dogs, a band and blogs, it somehow landed on the back burner, left to simmer.

I reckon it’s time to heat things back up.

When I write, I find comfort.

Comfort in the control I have over something in an otherwise chaotic world.

Comfort in the fact that if I keep pushing that boulder, eventually I will make it to the top of the mountain.

Sisyphus Incarnate: There Are No Gold Watches

December 2, 2009

There are no gold watches anymore. Sadly, we live in a different world now.

My generation, by and large, will not retire from a company after 40 years of service. That ended with the Boomers, along with company picnics and smoking at your desk.

Ours is a generation of professional nomads, forced to traverse the landscape as seasons change, following after food. Doing our best to weather the storm.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked somewhere, or how much you know. Skill, passion and dedication mean nothing when contrasted with the bottom line.

Retirement is for our parents—it’s a myth.

I admit, I’m still easing back into the unemployed life. I’ll get used to it again, I always do.

But…

Quite frankly, this is something one should never have to get used to.

I spend my life working, struggling, fighting my way up to the mountain top. Metaphorical, yes, but the incline is steep and rocky nonetheless.

Sometimes, I get close—I can see the top just ahead.

But the gravity of the world always somehow finds a way to pull me back down, a boulder rolling over me—crushing me.

Leaving me back at the bottom of the mountain, back to square one.

Wanting to reach the top all the more.

Sisyphus Incarnate: I Got Yer Fun Right Here…

November 18, 2009

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People keep telling me I should turn my unemployment into a funemployment. Even my wife, who has been forced to adjust to a husband that rarely wears pants, thinks I need to enjoy my time “off” more.

A friend of mine has been unemployed for about eight months now. He plays tennis, and meets old friends for lunch. He’s reading more books, and embarking on home improvement projects.

He’s celebrating funemployment.

Like so many others, this friend has told me countless times that I should lighten up and take advantage of my new-found free time.

This is easier said than done.

There are over 141,800 unemployed St. Louisans right now.

It’s a hot topic…a trendy topic…

Countless articles have been dedicated to productive ways to turn unemployment into funemployment—a word far too cute for the circumstances it involves.

It’s hard to take such words to heart, considering they were written by someone who has a job.

They tell me to seize the day, and see my time off as a blessing in disguise.

The Urban Dictionary defines funemployment as “The condition of a person who takes advantage of being out of a job to have the time of their life. I spent all day Tuesday at the pool; funemployment rocks!”

No. No it doesn’t. This is no paycation.

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They tell us that funemployment is a great opportunity to (re)evaluate our lives—to revisit the eternal question of our pioneering youth; what do you want to be when you grow up?

They call it a second chance at fulfillment—an opportunity to start an entirely new career path. A chance to learn new and interesting skills.

But I did all that the last time I was unemployed, and it wasn’t fun then, either. Essentially, it means I’m unemployed from twice as many jobs.

They tell us we deserve to have fun, but why? Where does this sense of entitlement come from? Ours is a narcissistic culture; we’re a self serving lot.

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I am not a man of leisure. Would that I were but…

I need to feel as if I am contributing something to the world—that I’m the one driving the bus, rather than merely a passenger who forgot which stop is his.

How can I allow myself to have fun when my life is up in the air? I hardly feel I deserve to go play frisbee golf when I’m not sure how I’ll be paying my bills six months from now. How can I enjoy the next ten minutes when I’m worried about the next ten years?

It’s not fun to worry about your mortgage.

It’s not fun to put your life on hold.

Job hunting is not fun.

Maybe they’re all just trying to find the silver lining on a very dark and ominous storm cloud—they say if you love the time you’ve wasted then you haven’t wasted your time…but…

Fun has lost its meaning without work for comparison—it’s like pushing a boulder without the mountain.

Sisyphus Incarnate: Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places…

November 12, 2009

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I’ve been married for over ten years now. My wife and I have been together even longer. Once I found that special someone to spend holidays with, someone I could fart in front of while sitting on the couch in my underwear, rife with the knowledge that she’ll be there tomorrow and the next day—well, I thought I was in the clear. I thought I was retired from the dating scene.

Foolish mortal.

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I’m unemployed. I used to be just another corporate soldier, entrenched in the front line of the cola wars, sitting in my fabric-lined cubicle wearing my corporate casual uniform.

Now, I’m just another casualty. I wear a bathrobe all day, and haven’t shaved in over a month. A day once filled with meetings and busy work now consist of job hunting and old episodes of the Rockford Files.

It’s amazing how much unemployment is like my bachelorhood—only with less internet porn.

ringsThe similarities between dating and job hunting are rather uncanny. Finding a job is just like trying to pick up a strange woman at a bar.

It’s true.

Instead of a pickup line, you have a cover letter—dates are replaced with interviews.

Being fired is akin to being dumped for someone better looking, and getting laid off is the professional equivalent of “It’s not you, it’s me…we can still be friends.”

And of course, there’s the hiring process.

That first interview is like a blind date—you met on the internet and seem to have a lot in common…You clean yourself up and watch what you say; you find yourself acting a little more polite than normal. You conceal your bad habits and pop breath mints like candy.

You pray they ask you out on a second date.

And when you get home, stomach full of butterflies, body a buzz, you wonder just how long you should wait before calling. You don’t want to seem desperate or psycho.

Sometimes they lead you on—you think you’re about to get lucky but it turns out they’re just not that into you; it’s the corporate equivalent of a tease.

Sometimes they say they’ll call, but never do, as you sit and stare at the phone for weeks—waiting, wondering what you might have done wrong.

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It has been said that everyone has a soul mate out there, just waiting to be found. In the arena of love, I know this to be true; my wife reaffirms this belief almost every single day.

Let’s just hope the same can be said of careers—I’m not cut out for the bachelor life.

In the meantime, I just keep pushing that boulder up the mountainside, trying to make it to the top.