Tomorrow evening, at about 5pm or possibly sooner or later, I won't have a job any more.
This will be an odd situation, given that I've had a job pretty much constantly since 1998. I've not always loved 'the toad', but I've liked the idea of having an income, giving me money to pay for things; and I've been lucky enough to work in an industry that was almost adjacent to the things I like doing, even if I didn't really end up being as successful as it as I might have hoped to be. So, I am already better off than a lot of other people. What have I got to complain about? Many, many, many people are much, much worse off than me right now, and getting a P45 won't change that.
I am still remarkably fortunate to have blagged a career as a so-called journalist, working for a series of small and deeply unloved newspapers across the country, given that I never did the proper training, or sat the proper exams, or any of that. All the same, there's something unsatisfactory about having been made redundant; you feel that there was more, perhaps, that you could have done to ameliorate the situation, or make things different - maybe you could have made different choices at different times, and things would have worked out in a better way, and this wouldn't be happening. But then, so many other things, good things, wouldn't have happened either. You can't go back. Where you are is the result of all the choices you've made, and all the things you can't control. Where you are is where you are; where I am. And it's not so bad, despite everything.
Things are a little different, though, from when I was last unemployed and had just graduated from the unlovely former polytechnic where I studied. Then, I just popped into a couple of temp agencies and got offered a few jobs that I could do. It seemed pretty easy: you wanted a job, you got given a job, and off you went. Simple. Now, well it's not quite the same. I walked into a temp agency the other week, to be told that they wanted my CV sent by email.
"But I have it here, in my hand, and I could speak to someone."
"No, you'll have to email it to us."
"And then I can speak to someone?"
"Well, we won't be in touch if there isn't anything suitable for you."
Oh. And they weren't in touch, either. Whether a fatter, balder, more weary-looking 36-year-old me is just less appealing than a 23-year-old me, I don't know, but there it is; despite all the experience and skills I've accrued in the meantime, I appear to have gone backwards. I am worse off now than I was then. Maybe they can sense the desperation, smell the fear, or see the jadedness dripping off me; I don't know. But it doesn't seem particularly promising. I wonder sometimes if people see the word 'journalist' or 'journalism' in a CV and think you've been sitting in a sandpit with an upturned potty on your head for the past 11-12 years rather than working at a job with transferable skills. Maybe they just don't like me. I don't know, and I have no way of knowing.
Presumably, as ever, writing about this and being available to find under a quick Google search as someone who writes self-absorbed blogposts about feeling sorry for oneself about nearly being unemployed and unemployable is exactly the kind of thing that will make the situation worse, rather than better. Potential employers may be scanning through this very text, shaking their heads, already reaching the arrow towards the X in the top-right corner, preparing to chuck the CV in the bin - if they've made it this far through the turgid mess of mewling rubbish. Ah well. That's how I deal with things, by writing about them, so whether it helps or makes it worse, that's the only thing I have.
So, there I am, into the abyss. I don't think it will do my depression much good, given that the structure and routine of work is something that I actually enjoy. I like having a series of tasks to tick off and get through in a certain amount of time, rather than no deadlines and the opportunity to meander and be distracted... the latter is not a good thing, and brings out that restless, anxious, awkward, procrastinating side of my personality, the depressed kind of side. So I will have to watch out for that, I suppose, and think about other things to keep me occupied, without the toad to worry about, or fret about, or keep me stable.
"I've pencilled in your breakdown for Thursday," jokes the person I'm closest to. At least I think she's joking.
Sitting at home all day, doing nothing, thinking I can write. Looking out of the window, peeking past the half-closed curtains at the sunshine outside, wishing the day would turn into night, and then I could get something done, though nothing ever gets done... daytime TV... the long empty afternoons of nothingness. I don't want to retire. I don't want to give up. I don't want to not have a job, much as I might have complained about having a job when I had a job. I want to work, but I can't work at anything that uses my feeble white-collar skillset. I chose to work in a dying industry, and it kicked me out before I was ready. That's all my own fault, and there's no-one to blame but me. And that's fine. It's just that I could have done with a bit more time, or for this to have happened at another time. But no, it happens now. It's happening now, it's really happening.
Is it really the case that I am looking into the abyss? I don't know. I don't know if it's an abyss or not. I can't be relentlessly and pointlessly optimistic about something that hasn't happened yet, nor relentlessly and pointlessly negative about it either. There's just no way of knowing what will or might or could happen, or where things will go. There is just another day, another week, and then a thing called the future. All I can do - and I will do - is try to make it as good as possible.
So, that was that. That was work. Or one lot of work. One career, which didn't quite work out in the way I'd hoped it might work out. Instead of which, there's only uncertainty. But uncertainty can be a good thing, a positive thing, a thing that can lead to better things. That's what I tell myself. That's what I hope.
In the meantime, I just wait, and write, and wonder.
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