Saturday, February 28, 2009

"May you live in interesting times..."

A famous Chinese curse, veiled as a blessing!

When I first decided to move to NYC in 2007, sans job and with very little savings, it was with the blind confidence of a Naif, a fool. At the time, I thought, "La la, it's the publishing capital of the world, I'll have no problem making a living..."

To the saint who watches over fools and children (even 40-something-year-old children)... THANK YOU! In the past two years, I've gotten quite lucky just in time: At two points of near-desperation, I, at-the-last-minute, got hired for projects by publishing companies, just in time to pay my way overdue rent and bills.

My last ex-project ran out in April 2008. I knew ahead of time that it would probably end then, but chose to hang onto hope and rumors: Maybe it won't end, maybe the company will call you back a month or so later. Didn't happen.

What did happen to me mentally after that April is that I laid around on my couch in May and June of 2008, lethargically watching re-runs of bad reality TV, sweltering (because New Jersey really does have hot summers and I couldn't afford to buy an air conditioner), doing absolutely nothing to find a job, waiting passively for a phone-call. In July, with my savings running out, I finally shook myself out of it and started scrambling. For the next 4 months, I did odds-n-ends, scraping together enough to live on, panicking in the meantime. I finally got hired for a 6-month project in November... and just found out that, due to company budget problems, this latest position really IS going to end after 6 months: This May 15.

Today's February 28. I've got 2-and-a-half months until May 15. And I learned my lesson after last April: Do not sit around on your ass thinking that a job is going to magically appear.

Initially upon hearing this latest news, I was scared and depressed, thinking, "Jesus Christ. Not again." Last year's job search was tough and emotionally draining. The constant "sell and sell and sell" of yourself wears you down, as does the overhanging financial fear. My initial panicked thought this second time was, "Well, I can always go back to Texas." Sure. I can do that. It's not that I'm in danger of starving or being homeless or anything. I've got people back home who will take care of me.

The thing is: I don't WANT to go back home to Texas. I like it a lot where I am. I like (nay, love) NYC and I like Jersey. There's the dumb, physical stuff like liking the weather a lot better here (all four seasons). There's the surface stuff like liking the general behavior of the people better here (frat boys/ex-frat boys don't rule here; people are generally down-to-earth, like in Texas, but also way more tolerant and sensible -- there seems to be a lack of underlying sadism in the Northeast, which is a genuine mental relief. I'll always be a Texan, but I cannot stand the shit that people get from being "different" there, even if it's "different" from the liberal PC bullshit in my liberal college hometown of Austin).

Point being: I want to stay here. I learned my lesson about lying around on my ass. I've been applying for jobs tonight in anticipation of May 15. I don't want to get a roommate to halve my bills, but I will do so if need be. It's nerve-wracking watching the latest layoff news on TV: "The highest unemployment rate in 16 years." 16 years ago, I was still in college mode, about to go off to grad school, sure of plentiful student loans, unconcerned about the job market. This go-round, I'm in full adult mode, fully aware for the first time that there are very real consequences.

It's scary, but it's also weirdly exhilarating. A personal test.

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