“I was looking for a job and then I found a job,

and heaven knows I’m miserable now.” ~The Smiths

I’m generally a pretty happy person for somebody whose life is often narrated by old Morrissey and The Smiths songs. But this one has played in my head a lot this year. And it was exactly what happened in my most recent foray in the land of the gainfully employed. But more than that, it’s also a form of “Wherever you go, there you are.”

As a people, we focus on problems. We obsess and crank away on them during sleepless nights when we just can’t get a handle on the stuff of the day or our perceived tomorrows. Thoughts along these lines come from the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard which I read recently and is awesome. We skip right over most of the good stuff that’s going on and hone in on whatever we perceive to be problematic. It’s how we’re wired. But we don’t have to BE our natural tendencies.

That song kept me in check a lot during my months of unemployment early this year, and then my months where I wasn’t making enough at my job to make ends meet. Of course it was tempting to think “When I get a job making more money, everything will be great.” But I knew that was a lie. The truth is closer to “When I get a job making more money, there will be a few financial concerns that I no longer have while I’m at that job. And that will free me up a bit for other challenges that can emerge once those financial concerns are alleviated.” And that is pretty much what happened.

I was only unemployed for two short weeks between these last two jobs. I visited friends in Cincinnati, we baked some s’more cookies, I came home and got right into my next job. And at this job I made over twice what I did at the previous job. Cha-ching! It was pretty nice to go from not being able to scrape by on my own (thank you Mom and friends who helped me through all that) to being able to pay my bills that had piled up. Within 5 weeks, I was pretty much alright again financially. Still in debt from the previous months, but more financially comfortable than I had been all year.

I had taken a job doing database work again. It was a solution to my problem. I needed to make a bunch of money fast so I could afford my recent trip to California (which was life-changing and deserves its own series of blog posts), and so I could afford to live, basically. And so came this job where there was zero on-call support, which is pretty much unheard of in DBA work, and I got to clock out at 5pm every day. “Sweet! I can do database stuff for 8 hours a day, and then go home and do other stuff and make good money. It’s a reasonable trade-off. I can handle this.”

And I had a stellar attitude about it for the first three weeks or so. And just as I figured they would, the challenges presented themselves once the sting of my financial situation had been sufficiently mitigated. I realized it wasn’t so much 8 hours out of my day. It was more than 11. I spent 9 hours in the building every week day, and 2 hours a day in the car commuting. There was no place to go for lunch that was anywhere near any of my friends, or even a restaurant that was much higher caliber than fast food. I sat in a gray box for 9 hours with people who had been there for years and planned to retire from there. Lifers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not a mentality I relate to well. And to me it was feeling a lot like “doing time” instead of doing a job that I sort of liked and was somewhat good at.

And when I got home from work, I was too exhausted to do anything that required much brain power. I’d watch some TV, read a little and go to bed early. My time socializing went down considerably, too. Doing things much later than 8pm just wasn’t feasible for my getting up at 5:30am schedule. And so I got a bit depressed. I didn’t really know what to do. The trade-off was seeming less reasonable day by day. But I felt like I should at least finish out my contract there. So I kept doing my thing until they let me go last Friday without warning or notice.

And so, the Universe balances itself out. It always does. Of course I was upset and shocked initially. That has never happened to me before. But I wasn’t happy there, and the two days I’ve had so far where I didn’t have to go there have felt like a gift. I don’t feel like I need to scramble to find another job just to get by right now. I want to take some time to regroup and get back in touch with what’s important to me.

I am not my job. I am not my résumé. There is no event I’m waiting for before I can be happy again. No future pie in the sky that I’m just waiting to bite into. I am here and now. I inhale and exhale. Sometimes with purpose, sometimes automatically. Things that happen to me only define me if I choose to allow them to do so.

And so far this week, I’ve made lunch plans on the fly and eaten at places I enjoy with people I like. And sometimes being happy is just that simple. I’m grateful for the times when I recognize that.

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