You know, the legend of Pandora's Box talks about how when it was opened, all the furies were loosed upon the world--all kinds of really bad crap, all the ills of mankind--but, the legend adds, "there was one more thing in the box: hope."
You know why hope belonged in that box? Because hope is the worst of them all. And unleashing that on the world was probably the worst consequence of Pandora's curiosity.
Hope has never helped me one iota. All hope has ever done for me is to lead to utter dejection when it was dashed. This time was no exception.
By itself, it's no big deal. WTF, no one ever gets offers for all the jobs he interviews at (except my Mom, who was lucky that way). I had even been cautioned not to get my hopes up too far. But I kinda thought, "This would be a good thing and it would offset all the crap that's happened to me. I did really well on the interview, and I've never lost out on a job when I inteviewed that well!"
Yeah. Well, there's a first time for everything.
The hope I had for landing this job has led to bitter disappointment. The hopes I had for marriage--both times--led to bitter disappointments. The hopes I had for my various career attempts...well, same shit. Hope is cruel: it leads you to think that you might actually be able to improve your lot in life, that you might be able to make things just a little bit better than they are--and when those hopes are inevitably crushed by reality, the pain is excruciating. And the worst part is, the hope doesn't die. It stays, even when you know that the situation is unsalvagable. Hope is cruel.
The past ten years have not been kind to me. In the past decade, I've had three careers, all of which were crushed out of existence by issues beyond my control. I've been engaged twice, and both times I was dumped. I lost both my parents. I went from being a moderately successful technical worker, living on his own and trying to build a good future, to being an unemployed lonely douche living in his parents' house and on their dime.
I have nothing to show for any of my accomplishments (such as they are) and I don't even have a freaking family. Women won't give me the time of day and I can count my friends on one hand. Even when I manage to get something to go right for me, it always comes at a cost--and usually I don't see the cost until it's far too late; and further, the good thing disappears long before that cost has been paid, so I suffer far longer than I enjoy the good.
Life is full of disappointments; I ought to be used to that by now. But I feel like I'm still paying an outrageously high price for bad decisions made more than a decade ago--decisions which were correct based on the information I had at the time, decisions which turned out to be wrong only in the sober light of experience. I could not have known beforehand that they were wrong--such as my decision to take a job in Iowa rather than one here in Illinois--and in fact every single piece of information I had to hand told me that I'd be better off there rather than here.
The major mistake I made was not applying for a job with Garmin in Kansas City in 2001. I should have gone ahead and made the application and done the interview and moved there if I got the offer, because all else being equal I'd probably still have a career right now. But my entire career up to that point had been in the technology bubble economy, where computers were a quickly-growing industry and there was plenty of money to be made; I had never experienced a normal tech economy in my life. The information I had--faulty as it was--told me that I didn't need to move to another state to continue working in technology.
When I was still in school, I interviewed with someone for some position, and I mentioned that I was interested in robotics. The interviewer shut me down: "It's not a good field," he told me. "No one uses robots. Unions are powerful enough that they keep robotic use in factories to a minimum. If this were Japan, you could do that, but not here." So I gave up on the idea of working with robotic and instead focused my attention on computers and technical writing.
Sure...in 1994, no one was using robots. But in 2011, they're all over the goddamned place, and I just lost out on entering an excellent and lucrative career fixing them because I haven't had a technical job since 2001. This means that I'm stuck looking for an unskilled position, and guess what? We're still at 17% unemployment! Borders is going to lay off enough workers to man 200 stores, making the pool of unemployed unskilled laborers even bigger!
It seems to me that over the past ten years, the light at the end of the tunnel has been a train more often than it's been anything else.
You know, I landed that job at Target, and thought, "This is a good break! I can work my way up!" ...and it turned out that I was working for a couple guys who only promoted their friends, so no matter how hard I worked I was never considered for any promotions. When I heard the story about the two executive team leads playing Xbox in the conference room with a team member (who later became a team lead) and a seasonal team member (who was kept on after the holidays and who later was promoted to be the music and movies specialist despite his functional illiteracy) I realized what a break my employment there wasn't; by the time I heard that story, the company was already in "trimdown" mode and very, very few promotions were happening anywhere.
If you work hard and do your job, it's supposed to lead somewhere; but even though everyone in that place knew I was a hard worker who was smart and disciplined and capable of self-supervision--even though I was a "Wow!" hire, hired permanently on the spot rather than given a seasonal slot--there was no way I could advance there, because I wasn't friends with the boss. No amount of hard work and perserverence could or would lead to a promotion under those circumstances: instead of hanging around the office schmoozing with the boss, I was getting stuff done, but the primary criterion for advancement there was--you guessed it--how well you schmoozed with the boss, and performance be damned.
It seems like I always end up excelling in the wrong damned things. At the nursing home, nearly all the residents loved me, and I tried to give them my best care at all times. But the director of nursing was always telling me that there had been "complaints" that I wasn't working fast enough.
I worked for the Linn County IT department for six weeks in 1997; it was the job I originally moved out there to take. I was fired the day after Labor Day because the boss had decided I wasn't a "people person." And here I'd thought I had been hired to fix computers. I guess I should have gone to school to be a people person, instead of learning all that useless technology! After working as an on-site computer technician for seven years with nary a complaint about my personality, suddenly it was important that I be better at schmoozing than fixing machinery.
So I guess this most recent reversal is not terribly surprising. Thinking about it now, really, it was too good to be true: the prospect of working for a company which actually rewards loyalty and hard work, doing a job which promised variety and interesting puzzles, something that would have used my brains and my hands and my talents--it's just not possible in this universe for me to get a job in which, y'know, I might actually be able to succeed.
When the fuck do I get a break?