Does anybody remember the South Park episode, where Stan has to vote for the school mascot, and the choices are a turd sandwich and a giant douche? Â That’s the way this particular choice feels to me right now.
Short story: Â I’m closing in on 42, never married, unemployed. Â I’ve burned up all my savings, and I scrape by thanks to the help of my parents. Â If that’s not emasculating enough to snuff it, I don’t know what is.
Longer story: Â I’ve struggled with severe depression most of my adult life. Â First time I ever seriously thought of killing myself was back in my first year of graduate school. Â I dropped out, took several months off, and enrolled in a new school. Â This time, after a year and a half, I ended up with a week long stay in a hospital, after I went way around the bend. Â Three years later, I was in for nearly a month. Â By then, I’d finished school. Â I’d had a couple of jobs. Â Quit the first, fired from the second. Â Spent several months trying to build the semblance of a life back. Â You know, normal things, like going out with friends and such. Â One of these friends found me a job, with her parents’ company. Â Worked there for a total of 6-1/2 years. Â I’m sure I wouldn’t have lasted that long, had it been anywhere else. Â The things that I used to have such a tight lid on when I was younger, things that should have been big old red flags to me, were no longer things I could suppress. Â I quit once, but was rehired back over a year later, when the company was struggling with a project. Â Ironically, as miserable as I was/am to be around, I knew my job better than anyone else there. Â And for some reason that I can’t fathom, they seemed to still like me, miserable as I was/am. Â Year or so in, and my brother managed to get himself killed via drug use. Â And once again, I clamped down on myself, tighter than before. Â And finally I exploded. Â Yelling, screaming, cursing. Â Lost my job, and deservedly so. Â Went to work for another brother of the same family. Â Volunteer for a while, paid later. Â Still not perfect, but I’d built some things into my life that I’d never been good at keeping before. Â Time away from work, for example. Â Social life. Â Outside interests. Â I was improving. Â When I was down, it wasn’t as extreme, and usually no one knew. Â When I was up, I kept it under control. Â I couldn’t afford counseling and meds at this job, but I thought I was moving in the right direction.
And this is where Peter and the Wolf comes into play. Â At one point in time at this last job, had a silly little crush on a coworker. Â One of those, ‘damn she looks good’ things, knowing all the while that her personality and mine simply didn’t mix beyond the work level. Â I was dating someone else, not seriously, but also not my coworker. Â My coworker had become a big fan of Facebook, spent half her day, it seems, on Facebook. Â She’d confided to me, one day, that she was looking for a new job, that she was afraid she would lose hers because of our company’s impending failure…our company was in pretty desperate straits, and neither of us, nor the owner, had an easy time seeing it pulling through. Â Couple of weeks later, she’s acting really strange, and begs off work early. Â It seemed weird. Â I popped on to her Facebook page, thinking perhaps she’d posted something that would hint at it, and she’d just written a screed about me that was patently untrue. Â I talked to my boss. Â He told me that she’d mentioned it to him, but that he’d told her he hadn’t noticed anything. Â I emailed her. Â I told her it wasn’t cool. Â Next day, I was fired for stalking her. Â He said he wanted to help me, but that I “couldn’t be there.” Â And out the door I went. Â For checking Facebook when a coworker was acting freaky, and being offended when publicly identified as being less than familiar with a shower.
My now former boss promised that the following week, he’d sit down with me and hash out what had happened. Â The only communication I received from him after the fact was wondering if I was still going to do a pet project for him on the side, one whose intent was to provide advertising for the business from which I’d just been fired. Â He didn’t respond to my request for information. Â He never told me why. Â To this day, I’ve not been able to find out what really happened that got me fired. Â Is it possible that I was doing something unsettling to her? Â I guess. Â I have no idea what it would be. Â I didn’t know if my boss loathed me, or if he knew that he’d fired me for a bogus reason, or somewhere in between. Â I simply didn’t know. Â And I had no intention of begging him for anything. Â IÂ didn’t want my job back. Â After what she’d said, which bordered on slander, and was untrue, I didn’t want to work with her. Â I didn’t want to see her. Â What I wanted was to move forward. Â I wanted to know what I’d done that was bad. Â If it had existed, and I had somehow been unaware of it, I would have understood. Â All I would have appreciated was a willingness on his part to at least be willing to tell prospective employers that I did my job as well as could be expected.
Initially, I decided that, even feeling lousy about what happened, that I would be able to make something happen. Â I threw myself into job hunts. Â I still had no way of paying for counseling, but early on, I wasn’t feeling so bothered about things. Â I had a bit of money set aside. Â I’ve got skills in math, software, data processing, IT/network stuff, marketing, retail, warehouse…I knew I could contribute in lots of different roles. Â I knew, too, that I’d dug myself a hole in the past. Â Most of my jobs as an adult had ended badly, and I knew who was to blame for most of it. Â And in interview after interview, I stepped up and took responsibility. Â I was reasonably honest about disclosing why I had gaps in work: telling prospective employers that you were in the funny farm after narrowly deciding NOT to jump in front of a train doesn’t win points. Â So I’d say that I’d recovered from illness. Â True. Â I wish I could’ve been fully honest, but those that asked received at least that honesty. Â I’m a pretty lousy liar…if I’d ever tried to bluff my way around a tough question like that, it would be pretty obvious.
But that last job…how do you spin being fired for stalking, even when it didn’t happen? Â Again, the second you say you were fired, you’re toast. Â And when you’ve been fired previously, and those times were your fault (even if you’re ready to jump off a bridge or jump in front of a train, it’s still your fault) it’s hard to argue that the last time is somehow, completely independently of the others, not so. Â But I kept trying anyway. Â I worked odd jobs. Â I ate into my savings. Â I’m more or less a pessimist, as you might gather, but I kept trying anyway. Â Money ran out. Â Car broke down several times, until finally I couldn’t fix it anymore, and couldn’t pay anyone to fix it for me. Â So, no car, no job, graduate degree in math…highly marketable skills with all of the personality drawbacks of someone who is intimately familiar with 15 minute bedchecks in the suicide ward.
I lost my job in February, 2009. Â I haven’t had a regular job since then. Â I’ve been to temp agencies…I would end up spending 40 hours a week sitting, and maybe getting a 3 or 4 hour gig once a week. Â 40 hours sitting, hoping for a part days work while unable to try to pursue other opportunities. Â It made me enough money to buy extra ramen noodles one month. Â That was a good month, indeed. Â I’ve seen the well of opportunities shrivel up in the past year and a half. Â I haven’t had an interview since I don’t remember. Â I’ve actually run across jobs that were practically written with me in mind (well, the part of me separate from my personality) with the all-important “We are only considering inquiries from people who are currently employed. Â If you are unemployed, please do not respond to this ad.” Â I’ve just about given up.
But I can’t. Â My parents, they who have been helping me out, are in turn benefiting from my stopping by on a daily basis. Â Both have severe, chronic health issues. Â My dad barely walks, an aftereffect of poorly conceived treatment for cancer. Â My mom’s blood pressure will periodically plummet, and she will, for no observable reason, nearly pass out. Â I do their shopping and laundry and heavy duty stuff around their apartment. Â Since my brother had the ill grace to get himself killed, I’m the only kid they have left. Â Unlike my brother, I have no one to dump the responsibility on to. Â As much as I want to finish this off, I have responsibilities that it would be immoral to abandon.
I don’t harbor a ton of bad will for my former employer. Â Suffice it to say, he’s not on my holiday card list, but I don’t want to see him hit by a bus (or even experience a near miss.) Â I wish I had an explanation, I think I deserve one, in light of what I actually contributed to that company, but I’ve given up hope of ever receiving one. Â Of course, given that the company has sent out “going out of business” cards recently, perhaps I don’t deserve a lot of credit for success there.
I don’t even feel a ton of anger at the former employee. Â There were things she was going through that she told both me and my boss about every chance possible. Â Even through the veil of pseudoanonymity that is provided here, I am not going to disclose those things. Â But I think it’s possible they could have contributed to this. Â I think it possible that she made something up, to preserve her job a little longer. Â It’s also possible that she misinterpreted something. Â And, again, it’s possible that something I did, that I didn’t think was bad, was uncool. Â Again, I don’t know, because outside of work, we didn’t hang out that much. Â Without my boss being willing to actually tell me what happened, I never will know. Â And as desperate as I am, I will not beg.
So, back to short story: Â I’ve dug myself a deep hole. Â There’s a good chance that, when I tired of digging, that I received some help making the hole a little deeper. Â I’m 5’6″ tall. Â This particular hole is 6 feet deep. Â That means I have to jump, to see outside. Â And I’m getting very tired of jumping.