Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My plate is empty

It was the summer of 2004. Officially a university drop-out (I had given up on my political science degree after only one year), I gave away my pet iguana and spider plant, left my beloved broken couch in the alley, packed up my Edmonton apartment, and drove north home to Cold Lake. I had no job waiting for me, no idea what I was going to do the following fall and no direction.

The first week at home was unbearable. I sent out resume after resume. But jobs in Cold Lake are limited, to say the least--unless, of coure, you're willing to work at Walmart, which I am not. It wasn't like I was unemployable--as a Cold Lake local, I had tons of volunteer and work experience, was well-known in the community, and I even had one-quarter of a degree. (Hey, that had to be worth something!)

By week two, I was crying in the shower. Having no source of income and no work is my worst nightmare. I like my plate best when it's way too full and ending up with a bloated stomach is the only option. (This is more than just a metaphor.) And then one day, getting out of a tear-soaked shower, I got a phone call. He was the owner of a lawn care business, and had heard I was looking for work. He was looking for someone to answer phones. Oh, and I could do basic accounting and payroll, too? It seemed too good to be true.

And it was. I ended up spending the summer in a dark, dank office on a 486 computer, responding to phone calls from anal, angry lawn owners wondering why we weren't cutting their lawn--in the rain. My employer regularly called me at home at 10 at night with questions like, "What was the address of that guy who wanted that thing done to his lawn?" I changed my phone number and didn't give him the new one. During the day, the quiet of the office was sometimes punctuated by my staff dropping in for their next assignment--usually drunk or stoned. And I, as a 20-year-old, with an $8/hour income, was responsible for disciplining them. It was pretty awesome. It got even better when I realized that I was literally allergic to work--I had an adverse reaction to the black mould that was growing on the carpet, and had to drive myself to the emergency room early one morning. My employer offered to bring me medication--from his wife's veterinary clinic.

That summer was a well-learned lesson in what happens when you don't have a plan (or a job lined up.)

And for first time in four years, I'm finding myself in a similar situation. School ends in two weeks, and after the last magazine launch party is over, I don't know what I'm doing. I have no job, no source of income, no direction. I have had three job interviews, and today I got another phone call: "You interviewed great and we really liked your clippings, but I'm sorry to say we can't offer you the position. There were a lot of qualified applicants. We enjoyed meeting you and hope you'll apply again next year."


I want to say that I know everything will work out fine. But the last time I went with that mentality, I ended up with a job thats perks included access to horse tranquilizers and the chance to perfect my solitaire skills.


  1. Anonymous10:06 PM

    Say, have you thought of doing a little freelance for trade magazines? Not that that's a long term plan (unless you love it and are wildly successful at it) but that's actually what I did after graduating.
    Consider, you have both experience and ability, and these trades are always looking for people with both.

    I'd recommend knocking on the doors of the various publications at Rogers (used to be Maclean Hunter) and the other publishers in Toronto. And also industry associations like the Ontario General Contractors' Association have their own magazines that need articles written.

    See if they need people to write articles -- even if it's stuff like 'what's new in truck tires.'

    Also, large corporations often have in-house magazines. BMO does, IBM used to (and may still), Esso did... So maybe contact their corporate communications dept.

    And... Harlequin is based in Toronto and uses freelancers to write the backs of their book covers. Not just romances, but their adventure series books too. That was my first freelance job ever.

    Best wishes on your graduation!

  2. Thanks for the advice. Re-grouping is really what's in order at this stage, so I need to figure out what my priorities are. All I know is that the handsome $500/month internships aren't a financially viable option for me. (With six years of post-secondary under my belt, I have a debt to match.)

  3. Remember Biznatch? That was the same summer, right?

  4. Anonymous8:50 PM

    keep your chin up!

  5. Anonymous9:36 PM

    All the best to you. If this blog is any indication, you're intelligent and a good writer.

  6. Hahah. That was the summer of the biznatch. . .ugh. (Amongst a whole lot of other things.)