Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Notes from a year named Kindness: October

It is a strange thing, job-hunting. Because you have to let yourself believe during the hiring process that this could be your job. You have to let that possibility in and grow it with each successful step forward. And each time it doesn't happen, each time reality diverges and this timeline we live in isn't the one where you get that job, you have to mourn the loss of the possibility.

That is not always an easy thing to do. But it is a thing I have to keep doing, even if it doesn't get easier. Because the goal is to get a new job, and not getting one isn't an alternative. It helps to know other people in this position; we're all doing our best to find something stable. When we discuss this, everyone agrees that the only thing to do is to keep going. Disappointment hurts, and when things are difficult it hurts more. But it still doesn't hurt like it did a year ago.

I had a job lined up earlier this month. Well, I was dead certain that I did. I cleared reference checks. I was the best candidate they had interviewed (they told me so.) And I wanted the job. It was the kind of challenge that channelled traits I have in healthy ways so I could thrive. Three weeks after the reference checks I was still waiting to hear next steps, so I called the company to get an update... and found out they couldn't hire me. They couldn't hire for the position until the end of their fiscal year—which is the end of March.

That possibility of not having to worry about income and paying rent and being on a salary when the end of my current lease comes up mid next year vanished. The little knot of dread in my stomach returned, tied up in the possibility that I might be in over my head. Then people showed up. They said I'm sorry. They said that sucks. They asked what do you need? And I remembered I have a small army, and the reason I stopped thinking about leaving this city is because I spent this year growing my in-person support network instead.

See, the company told me you didn't do anything wrong. I thought of course, I didn't. And it's difficult to know that—to know this is just something that happened that wasn't in my favour. Because things happen. It doesn't make it easier to accept. It doesn't make the disappointment hurt less. But things happen. So I let it hurt for a day or two, and then I got back to work looking and applying for jobs. Because I need full-time work.

I didn't get the literary grants that I applied for in June, either. Last year—or even six months ago—that would have been devastating. Now it was a moment of disappointment followed by another afternoon of putting words on the page. Continuing to do the thing I was doing anyway and would keep doing anyway. It would have be amazing if someone had paid me to do it, but that no wasn't going to be the thing to stop me. (I am old enough, and have been at this long enough, to recognize the only things that ever stop me from writing are me and exhaustion.)

When my family had a farm, I remember growing up with an understanding of how much of its success was beyond anyone's control. Wet summers. Early frosts. Fields flooded out, or the snow came too soon, and people lost entire crops. The precariousness of grain farming is part of why my family stopped doing it. But I learned that when it was nothing you had done or could have prevented, you did what you needed to prepare the ground for the winter. You looked at your options. Then in the spring, you went out and you planted more seeds. And you grew those possibilities all over again.

This might be why I've always been super goal-orientated. I was raised to set a goal and work towards accomplishing it. Then set another one and work towards that. To go out into the world looking for what I expect to find. And I realize this is a privilege in its own right, because not everyone has that support to fall back on. Occasionally, I do battle with the thought that accepting help is too easy. I could always be doing more, you see. I could always be trying harder.

That's why I applied for the writing grants, even though I had already decided what I wanted was full-time work. Because it was an option, and how much I needed it didn't affect my chances of getting it. The only thing I could ever guarantee would be to never get one because I didn't try.

190 people applied for the June Works In Progress grant, and 20 people got one. They're not stupendous odds, but they're not impossible ones, either. I've beat out more candidates than that for job interviews these past few months. Also, all of this job hunting has taught me that I have options. More options than I ever had when I restricted the paying work I wanted to do to a job in publishing or writing fiction.

I have a certain amount of privilege that allows me more choices about how I'm going to get to where I want to be. But I still have to get there. As does everyone else. We don't all necessarily want to travel the same route. Living life is a lot like writing in that everyone has a process and it's individualized. What works for me doesn't necessarily work for someone else, and may not even be what they want to work.

This is not revolutionary news. It's not an epiphany. It's mostly a peptalk for me, a reminder that I may need again later, that getting up and putting one foot in front of the other is still only way to get anywhere. Because somedays that feels harder than others, and somedays I still need to hear it.

If this happens to be a day that you also need to hear it, there's a shorthand among some friends of mine for this: Do the work. Prep the fields. Plant the possibilities. Let them grow.

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