Friday, September 2, 2011

September Musings

The acorns are falling off the trees, with or without Hurricane Irene's help and it means that autumn will soon be here. The passage of seasons continues and is made all the more obvious by the coming of September. Of course the change of months does not cause climate change, but mentally one moves from summer into autumn. So swiftly has the time gone by! It seems not too long ago I was coming back home to Arlington, ready to start my job search here anew.  Back then the area was still coming out of a harsh winter and the flowers were cautiously coming into bloom, not sure if conditions were right yet. Eventually things warmed up and in July we were hit by several scorching days. Forward six months and things have not change much for me and now even the weather is beginning to return to the way it was back then.

Even stranger for me is to consider a year ago, September 2010. I was getting my old laptop fixed and setting my lands in order. A new hope was energizing me and driving me forward. I was going to leave Arlington behind and move up to Montclair, New Jersey to be a live-in assistant. It was not New York City, but it was close enough to the Big Apple. Getting there is far more easier and convenient from New Jersey than from DC. Soon I would be hanging out with my friends in all of our old haunts, drinking ourselves from one brief Pentecost to another along the Lower East Side. But more than that, I wanted my time in Montclair to be used to help me finally break into publishing. Obviously very little of that happened, except for the drinking in Manhattan. Some successes happened, I lost weight, I read copiously, I wrote two novels and a novella, and I got back into writing plays.

These trends continue and I do my best to keep them up in the face of other obstacles. This September my hope is simple, to find a job which will lead me, with luck, to a life on my own. The month is young and plenty of my competition have probably given up searching and have gone back to school. Others who had work have left it behind to take part in the same educational exodus and new positions are open. Unfortunately, when I came back right as everyone else was graduating. Now hopefully things will ease up in my favor. I have to find something good about whatever September I am in. In the past, it marked the start of a new school year for me and because it also contains my birthday, the month has become my time for renewal and resolutions. Most adults use January to do this and reflect upon their lives, but I stick to my Old Calendar.   

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

And the Job Search...Continues

No luck so far in trying to fulfill anti-Manchild Project #3. The economy remains just as stagnant as all outward signs of my life. Still with the parents, still largely unpublished, still single, and still unemployed. Oh, I could talk about what I'm writing and thinking up in my lively inner sphere, but that's for my other blog. Luck remains against me. After each time I interview, I find I am beaten out by somebody with more experience. How can I compete with that? In the 1930s of course, we had a plan to give young people experience despite the state of the economy. That one in the White House though, has never really given the problem much thought. This is the support he shows for the youth who once voted for him.

Times are tough all around, but for us Millennials, they're much worse.  If things ever get better, we won't have any kind of ship that will lift us when the tide comes in. But the problem is destructive at present as well. Millions of young people have had the best years of their lives stunted because of the casino Wall Street ran with the economy before 2008.  We reaped little benefit from the risks they took and we are collectively paying the cost.  It's probably only a matter of time until our country begins to experience this or something on a greater scale. None of it will help of course, the response will not be to help assuage youth unemployment and anger, but to double down and build up the police state. This will be what Cameron does in the UK. I can picture a massive influx of consultants from Detroit, Chicago, LA, and Baltimore advising the Prime Minister on how to keep his poor (and Black) people busy under a police state to prevent more rioting.

But that's the historical perspective, the big picture, the Hegelian way to view things. What about the intensely personal, Kierkegaardian way? Thinking like an existentialist completely responsible for my fate, I have first declared myself my own Minister of Labor. With this portfolio filled with plenipotentiary powers, I have been going to the Arlington Employment Center. It's a useful place tucked away by Fort Myer. The only issue I have is that it is quite difficult to get to if you don't own a car, which is a situation many of the unemployed face. I suppose the office space was available and they took it without realizing where it was, or what it would be like for Arlingtonians trying to get there. Perhaps it was a way to inconvenience people in Arlington equally.

Nevertheless, they have helped me improve my resume and showed me other places online to look for work. I even have a case worker now. From my experience going there so far, one really sees the emotional and social toll unemployment takes on people, especially in the long term. There are times it feels like we are all in rehab, feeling guilty for apparently being addicted to our joblessness.  We gather in circles and talk to one another, either around tables, or while waiting for an event to begin. People speak with reluctance about what has happened to them and having an interview is viewed like an attempt at being sober for a week. For some strange reason I am usually the youngest person there. Maybe the quarter-century club comes in during the afternoon.

Ugh, I'm going to be 26 in less than seven weeks.

Perhaps I am not applying for the right kinds of jobs, but given my experience, I'm not sure what I can do. While I certainly think I could be a college professor or a best-selling novelist, that's not something I can just apply for tomorrow and get. Mostly, I have been seeking openings in the administrative field. I have broadened the search for possible paralegal work. If there is an editing job, I look into it as well, but there are not too many entry level opportunities for that, nor for doing research. I've been told repeatedly I have a fine mind, but everyone prefers such metaphorical organs finely tested and aged instead of fresh.

It seems that in the old days people were given tests and quizzes to figure this issue out. Maybe people still are, I can't recall ever taking one. All I know is that I have seen them referenced in the Simpsons and Office Space, which means they were once common enough to be a cultural touchstone. I've tried looking for ones to take online. The results have been varied. This one seems pretty outdated. One question presents a list of websites and asks which one I use the most. Myspace is listed, but not Facebook. It is like a lot of the other other tests out there. It is just a way to get you to sign up for debt-inducing education schemes.

The quiz here says I'm creative, but doesn't suggest much other than designing signs. One from AOL is based on the Meyers-Briggs model. I have taken the original personality test before and it said I was an INTJ. This one claims I am an INFJ. I trust the INTJ finding more, but possible jobs connected to the INFJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Judging)  include teacher, lawyer, counselor, therapist, and artist. A little too broad a category, I'm afraid, and nothing I can apply for right now. Meanwhile Career Path gives you a color to work with and mine is yellow. It means I'm good for administrating. I should look for jobs such as accountant, compliance officer, historian, financial manager, administrator, auditor, researcher, office manager, and computer scientist. I wish I could apply to jobs and cite my color in place of degrees, licenses, or long-term experience.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Updates from the Writing Life

A few days ago, I finished a novel I had been writing since July 1st, titled "Sexile at the Greenwich Hotel." At 80,000 words, it is  shorter than most of the novels I have written. I am not sure if this is a sign of progress or not, though I never intended for this one to be a real tome. It tells the story of college students living in New York City falling in and out of love while they explore their sexuality in an age of the internet, birth control, gay rights, and feminism.  Some parts are based on real-life events and others are pure imagination. A few are in the middle, taken from the lives of others, or what they have posted anonymously online. It is the eleventh novel that I have completed and finishes up my four-part series of campus novels. 

Often when I complete such projects, part of me wonders what the purpose is behind all this writing. Why sit down and create a novel? Surely there must be something better to do or watch, something that is far more fun! Another part of me answers: Publication! Advances! Release Parties! Readings! Book tours! Impressionable women in bookstores and campuses! Then there is another part which responds to both of them and defends the work. There is pleasure enough in bringing the desperate bits and pieces of life together.  But there is still a place for publication because it continues this process of connection and expands upon it. It is the reason that art thrills us at all. For through art, we realize that the universe is one big attachment.

I'm sure commentators elsewhere have drawn comparisons between drinking and writing, and not only because so many writers are drinkers. However there is one way that the two are related that often goes unacknowledged. One often drinks in order to forget the pains of life and also to celebrate them. We drink after a bad breakup and after a happy wedding. Bars are filled with people unhappy they are unemployed or overjoyed the weekend liberation from work has come. It is the same way with writing. One can write for catharsis, to let go of the trauma of the past, or to delve into whatever happy occasion is taking place at present. 

Writing is its own form of intoxication, but different than drinking or the usual kinds of inebriation. In those instances, the mind is liberated briefly from the impositions of the senses and the ordinary arrangements of the world. In writing, the opposite effect is achieved. One looks at a world that is disorganized and gives a new shape to it. Memories, sensations, fantasies, perceptions, rumors, dreams, myths, and possibilities that otherwise hang in the air like decorations are fashioned into a something different that makes use of them to produce a new reality. Tragedies from the past are given design, direction, and purpose. Comedies in the present are tied together to reveal something deeper about the world, like the warped glass of a funhouse mirror. This process produces the afterglow that the writer seeks after first and foremost. 

What about fame and fortune then? Yes, those are motivations too, for me and for most writers out there. But after our own pleasure (however sadistic it may be) the secondary mover for words on the page is the thought of just getting something read. I say thought, first of all, because the writer's work cannot be read until it is written. Secondly, there is no certainty it will find an audience. However, the writer writes on, not just out of habit, but from a hope that they are expressing something inside that might dwell in others. The hope is to reach out and find a very basic recognition that also influences the reader as well. Ideally, through the writer, the reader is able to both uncover new internal territories of the psyche and to find a connection for those parts they have found and are looking to piece together with others. In literature, the broken continents inside the writer and the reader come together to form some new landmass.

In the absence of progress on my aforementioned goals, I write. Even if I was making progress on all other fronts (job, house, social life, publication, love, etc.) I would still be writing, though probably not as much. These days my one resource is time, so I use it until my time does indeed equal money. I admit, writing is an escape from my life, which is nothing new. But this is not the only reason I have turned to writing and continue to do so. It is still fundamentally a place where I can rearrange my experiences to fashion cohesive narratives or illuminating lines. This would hold true even if everything was moving along splendidly for me. Most writers in history have felt the same way. This is why we not only put words down, but are more likely to finish our literary projects as well. We need some sense of completion and fruition in their lives. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Hazards of Job Hunting

So far, there has been little luck on the job front. I know it's early in one sense, but in another it's late. True, I only began looking in earnest for work a few weeks ago. Yet this was really just a renewal of a hunt that started when I was laid off in October. The difference is that now I spend more time going over listings and I have cast my net wider to catch any work that I might be suited for. Plus I was in a different market looking for whatever was available in Montclair New Jersey, which it turns out was not much.   

I keep running into the same problems, namely a lack of supply and a lack of previous long-term employment. There are just not that many jobs someone right out of college can do here. So much of what the government offers requires advanced degrees and everything in the private sector demands years of work experience. Many of the listings I come across want 3 to 5 years experience at a minimum and I only graduated college in 2008.  It seems like it's been longer, but that's a product of the free time unemployment grants, one benefit that doesn't run out.  

The jobs I read through every day are just not encouraging. The trend seems to be positions I have no chance of getting unless everyone else decides to stop looking for work. My only other hope it seems  is to come across a listing that is an outlier from the other jobs, a position with unique requirements that I meet. The trouble is anything I'm qualified for in the least is going to attract the attention of dozens of more candidates who have been out in the workforce before I learned to read and write, or even before I was born. It's hard to see a way through it all. The world of the unemployed truly is a dark tunnel with a dim light at the end that flashes on and off.

This is not to say that if someone offers me a job in the DC area that I will snub it or think there is something wrong with them for wanting to hire a person like me. If an employer wants to hire me because they think I have the fine mind they are looking for, I am more than amenable to the proposition. My only real sticking points are health insurance and public transportation, both of which I need to work at all. Without health insurance I can't pay for the drugs that keep my Crohn's in check and without public transportation I can't get to the job in question. It's a fairly sensible deal. If I could forgo either, I would. Indeed, if it wasn't for the Crohn's I would already be abroad, trying to teach in some country where they need people who can provide total English immersion because they don't speak any other language fluently enough to interrupt the flow of Anglo-Saxon.  

The only thing that helps is to know I'm not alone. Millions of people are in my position, not only unemployed, but missing out on the most important part of their career, when they gain the experiences that help them get their foot in the door for better jobs. Falling by the wayside, we are not only competing with older workers who trounce us in the experience category, but against recent graduates who are exactly in the same boat as we are. Do they have any advantages over us? I suppose they have more energy and whatever contacts they have are freshly minted and can be tapped for leads. In time though, all of us younger members of the lumpenintelligentsia  and lumpenproletariat will fall into the same position, left behind.

In the 1920s, Gertrude Stein coined the phrase "the Lost Generation" to describe those who came of age during World War I and whose careers were truncated by the experience, making it difficult for them to adjust back into civilian life. The term could just as well apply to us unemployed members of the Millennial Generation. If the recovery ever comes I wonder how many of us will be able to take advantage of it after having been either unemployed or underemployed for so long. To make matters worse, we are inheriting a country that is in decline, whose political structure cares little for us, and who will force to pay an ever growing share of whatever income we can manage to earn in order to support a generation of Baby Boomers who generally refuse to either die or take proper care of themselves. At least previous generations did not have to deal with such deep infrastructural problems on the horizon. And that is assuming we don't run out of natural resources, something no one in power is prepared to deal with.

Yes, we are Generation Esau, being cheated out of our inheritance one way or another. Those is power will starve us until we agree to the austerity which will make us hunger even more.

What can one do? Try to amuse oneself in the meantime I suppose.. One has to keep their spirits up. I handle rejection on a daily basis as a writer. Just today I got a rejection from a journal of short poetry. No matter. I send my poems back out. Their loss, I tell myself. The same can go for jobs, though editors at least get back to you eventually. They also mean business when they say they are interested in your work. This has not been the case with my job applications. Like anyone applying for work these days, I come across my fair share of job scams. So I try to have fun with them.

Recently I received this response for a entry-level receptionist position:

Our recruitment team viewed your resume published on  (Craigslist) and we are pleased with your qualifications. Your  details as been forward to the senior supervisor (Ms Stephanie Brown ) She would like to conduct an online interview with you  to discuss your duties and pay scale with our company .If you  are interested in this position,set up a screen name with the  yahoo instant messenger( and add up  this screen name ( Report online at9:00am (6/25/2011) for an interview.

 Contact Ms Brown via the email  below to let her know if the time frame works for you If you got any problems feel free to email   back.


To which I responded (after doing my research!):

Sure I'm interested, if you can explain this story:

A Mr. Jon Williams (not the composer) sent this to me:

Your resume was received and it has been reviewed, I did appreciate it. it's reasonable and acceptable. So I will give this a go.

I'm looking for someone that can be trusted and reliable, someone with good understanding and working skills.

I am Jon Williams , 49 yrs of age, I'm Self employed..I am an importer  by profession and I have been pretty successful in a handful of ventures I get involved in; from the Angel of importing fabrics  to various welfare and community service programs. I most very often get my hands occupied, so it is imperative for me to have a worthy assistant who can monitor and keep me up to date with my activities.This position is home-based and flexible, working with me is basically about instructions and following them. My only fear is that I may come at you impromptu sometimes, so i need someone who can be able to meet up with my irregular timings.

And I responded right back (after doing my research!):

Damn it, stop scamming people on Craigslist. Go do it on!

I'm not sure if anyone reads such responses. Anyway there was also this moneymaking opportunity from the United Arab Emirates (I guess they've run out of Nigerian princes to use for scams):

From Mr. James Gamal

Dear God's elect,

This message may come to you as a surprise due to the fact that we have not yet met. I have to say that I have no intentions of causing you any pains so I decided to contact you through this medium.

My name is James Gamal, a 72 years old merchant in Dubai, in the U.A.E. suffering from Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis I am a secret gay supporter because of the part of the world where I come open is a ticket to death if it is displaced open but I have not stop to support gay and lesbian right movement because I lost my only son who was gay and because at that time I was not properly informed that being gay is not the person’s making. I have only about a few months to live according to medical experts.

Though I am very rich, I was never generous, I was always hostile to people and only focus on my business as that was the only thing I cared for. But now I regret all this. I have willed my wealth to various charity in the UAE and abroad. I decided to give alms to charity organizations, as I want this to be one of the last good deeds I do on earth. Now that my health has deteriorated so badly, I cannot do this myself any more. The last of my money which is the huge cash that I deposit in a top security company.

I want you to help me collect this deposit and dispatched it to charity organizations especially for the promotion of gay and lesbian right movement if you have the time and means you can start one such charity organization with this fund if you cannot just distribute to charity.

I am writing this from my laptop computer in my hospital bed where I am receiving palliative care waiting for my time to come. If you are interested to help me I will give you more information about this like the amount that I deposited in the bank and Contact of the bank so you can contact them.

Note that you will take 20% out of the funds and give 80% to the charity organizations. I pray that God uses you to support and assist me with good heart God be with you.

If you can help please respond back to me

James Gamal

My reply was simple:

Ewwwww gay! Gayz is bad. Reed yur Bible. 

Well, there's a jobs "boot camp" on Tuesday being hosted by my congressman, Jim Moran. I'm going to go to it. We'll see how it goes. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Anti-Manchild Project #3: Get Myself a Job

Well, I'm back from my family trip to Italy, and nothing makes you want to work more like going to Italy. So now it is time to get into full job hunting mode. Probably the real cornerstone, and stumbling block of trying to gain my independence. The irony is that this necessary component to my personal freedom requires approval from someone else (if not an entire organization), in fact, it is totally dependent on it. With other goals there is much more leeway. If I wanted to publish a book of poems on my own, I could have. The details would have been hard to manage, but it has been and can be done. If I want to move out of my parent's home and just live on somebody's couch, I could do that too. If the owner of the couch wanted me out, I could try and find another one. I believe there are now more couches than employers in the United States. If I want to learn a language, it is still all about me. If I want to teach myself how to cook, start salsa dancing, or take road trips, I have a similar degree of flexibility.  The only one of my goals that requires outside approval as much as a job is starting a romantic relationship, though I believe there are still more single women in the United States than employers.

Of course, I don't believe a person is defined completely by their work and that when one is unemployed they have nothing whatsoever to contribute towards society. But economic reality remains and work helps fill up the hours. People who say life is short have never spent a long time single and unemployed. I have been trying to fill my free time with as much productive use as possible since coming home at the end of March. I have been writing, submitting, and studying Italian too. I interviewed for one job, connected with friends, returned to dancing, and did some reading. In addition there have been a few odd jobs, such as working as a test proctor at my old high school, Yorktown. It was an interesting experience, walking back and forth to spy on the students like a German commandant while reading Sophie's Choice during breaks. I'm still waiting for my check...

Anyway, back to the job search. It's hard to say what I am looking for, times have made me flexible. The current economic situation began almost as soon as a graduated from New York University (magna cum laude). Originally I had hoped to work in publishing, since that was where my interests and skills were. I wasn't trained to do much by NYU and what work experience I had involved summer camp counseling. Extracurricularly though, I had an internship at Folio Literary Management and was poetry editor for this publication. Unfortunately, the publishing industry imploded, in no small part because of the incompetence of its leaders, but that is another story. With my main prospect for a job derailed, I went looking for work elsewhere: temp agencies, doctor's offices, website writing, but was unable to find anything. Finally I got a series of small breaks. I worked as a data entry manager for a get-out-the-vote campaign and then had a brief paid internship for election security analysis. They were interesting, compensated experiences but nothing long-term enough to allow me to stay in New York City.

If the recession (and I don't care what the economists say, it's still a recession for most of us) has taught me anything, it is not to take employment for granted and to be willing to change career paths and industries with ease. I went from publishing, to data entry, to political analysis, and then settled on a job that kept me busy from late 2008 to October of 2010, writing questions and answers for Answers Encyclopedia.  It was good enough money for me while it lasted and I got to read a lot of interesting material. The job involved going through encyclopedia articles and finding bits of information people might want to know. I then wrote possible questions that these bits could be answers to. This way people searching for the facts could get them without searching a whole article. It was complicated to explain to other people (I hope I have done a decent enough job of it here) without looking like I was involved in some scam, but the company sent me checks that cleared, so in the end that was all that mattered.

The interesting thing about that job was that I worked from home and never saw my co-workers or my boss. I have no idea what any of the people I dealt with looked like. It was another lesson I learned from our new economy, working without an office, motivating myself, and putting faith in the Internet to connect people and get things done. For the older generation, the idea of work meant getting up, leaving the house, and going to an office, store, or factory. I know my parents more or less had this idea and convincing them I was, in fact, employed took some time. But now things have changed and workers today have to abolish all preconceived notions of what work is. The only thing that remains central to employment is that is involves getting paid, or it should. However the worrying rise of unpaid internships threatens even this basic notion. This is one change that can and should be fought.

But my job ended and because I was an independent contractor adrift in the new economy, I had no benefits from being laid off. I admit, and maybe it's just the American Protestant inside each and every one of us, that I initially felt more depressed at being laid off than when I heard my grandmother had died. I suspect in this country, that's not too rare. Without a job you tend to feel untethered and wonder what your real worth is. At this point I was in Montclair, New Jersey, living with the Book Doctors. In exchange for a room and a renewed sense of independence, I helped them with a variety of needs. These ranged from developing their social networking, publishing blog posts, entering contact information, and editing manuscripts. So I became an assistant in the trenches of the ever-changing publishing industry. It was a good gig, except it was unsustainable in the long run, since I was only being paid in housing and consultation.

So it was back to DC for me, because unlike Thomas Wolfe said, you always can go home again. Now with my family vacation and my brother's graduation out of the way, I have a long, clear, and empty schedule ahead of me that needs filling up with a job. Preferably something with set hours, near a subway line, and that doesn't involve sales. I can do a lot of things, but sales isn't one of them.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

First Great Success! Anti-Manchild Project #1 finished!

You see this? You see whose name is on it? Well, my first project is now completed. I have a very real and very beautiful chapbook published, all thanks to the very lovely Jessi Graustein and the rest of Folded Word Press. They have decided to put out one of my collections: Common Symptoms of an Enduring Chill Explained. It is an exploration on the relationship between a physical and spiritual breakdown and the effect of both on one's language. See, sometimes dreams do come true. Cue the Disney music. Anyway, the important stuff to check out:

Here is the link to buy it.

Here is a link for updates on Folded Word's blog.

Here are some cool pictures that show the chapbook's making.

There will be further updates about the chapbook later. It's interesting to see me name on the cover. I know that is not the total goal of writing, or the only reason to do it (it's really all about the chicks, man). It's still nice though and seeing a work published makes me feel like Zeus after his headache and seeing Athena emerge. Or something like that. I guess this means I am really published and everything. The next step, of course, is to get a book through, either one of poetry, short stories, or even a novel. Ideally, all three. But for now, one of my major artistic aims has been met and I can cross off one of the many goals I have set up for me to achieve. How many Manchildren can say they've been published?