As you may or may not recall (because it’s been so long since I actually, you know, wrote something here), I got laid off back in May … and although I was courted by a Big Financial Services Company and briefly flirted with the idea of becoming the new Aflac duck, I passed on both of those opportunities in the hopes that something better might come along.
Prior to my layoff, Wonder Woman and I had already decided to move our family from the Boston area to the Philadelphia area, so the week I was laid off, I haphazardly fired off a couple of résumés to some Philadelphia-area companies, one of which was looking for a full-time web-designer/web-developer.
I was laid off once before, back in 2002. It was at that time that I bought a stack of web-design books and taught myself how to build one o’ them there website thingamajigs, because I had a hunch that this whole Internet thing might catch on.
The interview process for the aforementioned web-designer/web-developer gig involved roughly four phone interviews and a three-hour on-site interview here in Pennsylvania … and at no time during any of this did I feel like I was qualified for the position, and at no time during any of this did I have even the slightest intention of accepting a job offer if, in fact, they were foolish enough to make me one — both because I felt like I’d be getting in way over my head, and because, seriously: Who the hell would want to work for people stupid enough to hire someone as grossly under-qualified as me?
And yet, as the weeks wore on, and I focused on our relocation efforts, and did very little job searching, it occurred to me that I was probably going to need to have some sort of income once we finished moving into our new house. And when it turned out that they were, in fact, foolish enough to offer me the job, I decided I should seriously consider it.
Wonder Woman and I discussed it one night while driving from Boston to Philly.
“They’re willing to pay you [five figures] more than you were making at your last job to do something that you taught yourself out of some books you bought on Amazon,” she said.
It was somewhere near the Tapanzee Bridge that we passed a work crew comprised of several men using jackhammers to bust up the road surface, and several other men whose job was to lift the massive chunks of concrete and rebar, and shuffle them onto a flatbed truck … at about 11 o’clock at night.
Suddenly, the prospect of earning a pretty damn good salary for playing on a computer all day seemed not entirely awful.
During that same visit to Philly, my father-in-law and I had what I didn’t realize at the time would be our last-ever one-on-one conversation. He had long been a major supporter of my writing career, and of my dream to some day earn a living from my own creative-writing endeavors, and he was well aware of how difficult it would be for me to give up my completely autonomous lifestyle and take a jarringly unexpected detour into a corporate cubicle for a non-writing gig.
“I get it, Jon,” he said. “And I’m quite sure you’ll find your way back to making a living as a writer. That is, and should be, the goal. In the meantime, this job sounds like a good opportunity … and you don’t have to do it forever.”
That last part really hit home. He was right. Up until that point, the thought of accepting the job felt tantamount to being slapped with a life sentence, and, for better or worse, felt like giving up on my dreams — dreams that, until age 40, I’d successfully managed to build a career around.
Eight weeks ago this past Monday, I, for the first time in roughly a decade, rose from bed at a time not of my own choosing, showered, shaved, put on business-casual attire, kissed my wife and kids goodbye, drove a number of miles away from my house, and set up shop in a fluorescent-lit cubicle where I have since spent 40 hours per week. And, yeah, I know: most people don’t have the luxury of working from home, nor get paid to go to a fairly nice office building, sit around listening to an iPod and code websites, so I should shut the fuck up and deal with it — and, believe me, I am … but it is a massive shock to my system at this point in my life to suddenly not be able to do whatever the hell I want to do whenever the hell I want to do it.
So now I am the Lead Web Designer (also, incidentally, the Only Web Designer) for a publicly traded corporation that employs 5,000 people … a job I landed with a résumé that basically said I hung with Van Halen for a couple years and then spent the past decade working as a music journalist. Go figure.
Of course, given that that’s the case, it should come as no surprise that I was having full-on anxiety attacks during the first week or so at my new job … because I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to do anything … and I was certain that, at any given moment, someone was going to call me on it, and tell me that they realized they’d made a massive mistake by hiring me, and would I please put all my shit in a box and beat it. So sure was I that things were going to end badly that I started fantasizing about walking into my boss’ office and telling him that he’d made a massive mistake by hiring me, and that I would presently be putting all my shit in a box and beating it.
I’m not kidding. It was a very fortunate thing that I had placed on the wall in my cubicle a picture of my family in order to remind myself of why I was making such a massive compromise … because there were several moments during those early days when the dread and panic and terror washed over me in waves so large that I literally was on the verge of standing up, walking out of the building without saying a word to anyone, getting in my car, driving right the fuck away and never going back.
Fortunately, I hung in there, and things seem to be going pretty well. The steady paycheck definitely takes some of the sting out of it.
The big challenge now, however, is finding some way of balancing this workaday-shuffle routine with the ongoing pursuit of my dreams — a major part of which involves writing for this blog on a regular basis.
Thing is, I know there are other bloggers I follow who seem to manage working full time jobs (The Muskrat and Dad Gone Mad, for example) and still find time to do plenty of writing. So I’m open to suggestions. If you people wanna see more writing around here, then y’all need to help me figure this shit out. Thoughts?