Thursday, February 4, 2016

The anatomy of a bad day

So I went to bed knowing that today was likely to be a bad day. It was better than it could have been by far, I got work when I was expecting the day to be a loss and worked with someone I knew from an other gig so there was some catching up.  This is not about that. 

So you go to bed knowing they know longer need you and your not needed there the next day.  Who they are does not matter, what you were doing hardly matters.  What matters is it is over, you were not ready for it to be over.  You spend a few weeks or months learning the gig, you have gained some confidence and some of their trust.  If you are of generous spirit you even like some of the people you work with, are they friends, not really but they are people you have some banter with.  Its worth with some gigs than others, some you know the work is drying up and the project is winding down, your ok with those ending, same with the ones you know are for a very short time. With the short ones you never have time to not feel like the new guy.  But your not needed any more, after feeling useful and perhaps even a little confident you're sent away and those feelings stay at the job site. This has happened before this will happen again, and your response hardly chances. 

If your smart you stick to your normal evening routine, you do dinner, get some exercise and because your brain and body won't let do it any other way you go to bed at more or less the normal time. You turn off the alarm because whatever job you were doing demanded you get up a little too early and you could use the extra sleep.  It doesn't matter in the end you wake up right about when the robot would have told you to.  Whether you had a full nights sleep or a patchy one, and regardless of if you're just missing a little sleep or a lot, you wake up tired. You feel tired and hollow.  Thats how you know its a bad day.  

The thought of staying in bed and getting more of the needed rest crosses your mind.  It's tempting, but you know the sleep will not be good, besides too many years of early mornings have made 7am feel like sleeping in.  So you get up, its a shamble.  You know you're having a bad day, but you have a choice, do you fight to make it a better day, so you get up.  Breakfast and coffee follow their usual rhythm, perhaps slowed down a bit because you are not scrambling to be out the door at a fixed time.  It was not your plan when you got up but you shave and shower, because the bad day does not want you to do them.  Now its an hour or more before the business day starts. Do you call the people who help you get work first thing so you can be busy making money that day or do you take the day for catch up.  

Its never a question, there is always catching up todo.  Your work is tiring, often at inconvenient locations.  The question is not if there is catching up to do, but can you afford to take the time to do it. Some of the catching up is house work, if nothing comes up for work you will try to do it.  The bad day is worse in a messy home.  The other catching up is the working on the plan.  You know you don't want this mind eating uncertainty ruling your working life. There is some direction and you want to do work to chance your circumstances.  

That work, is the hardest thing you know to do.  Applying for jobs, cold calling, networking they have never been easy for you.  By now you have cleaned the floor and are looking for a snack, you know you should be digging into the applications but first a sandwich. You'll open a job board, it don't matter which one.  You have a dozen tabs open, you trim it down to a few less.  The application you write are lack lustre and hastily constructed.   Not like you ever believed anything you said about yourself in those cover letters.  No matter what level of job you apply for, or how qualified you are, the thoughts behind the words going into the application are all the qualities you believe you lack.  It is still a bad day, and what little confidence you might have to put together a pitch worth catching is spent pushing past that bad day gloom.  By now its lunch time. 

You feel down for taking too long to make a good lunch when you should be back at the keyboard hacking out another submission.  But all the convenient food was used on the work days.  Worse you know the work you have been throwing into the web is one of the worse ways to get the result you want.  You have found yourself in the company of employment councillors off and on for close to 20 years.  The refrain has always been 80% of jobs are not posted, its who you know, NETWORKING.  This advice, well your opinion of it requires some anatomically impossible things done without consent. Its not even that it doesn't work. You have had successes in past.  Its just so hard, painfully hard.  You know you should call some of the places on your list, you know who you want to talk with. And you look at the phone and you chicken out.  Or if you don't you're likely to have stammering opening that leaves all the wrong impressions.   And then you try to do it again.  You can't do this too many times.   You try to ignore the feeling that you could fail a Turing test when trying to introduce yourself over the phone.   You think back now and understand your best successes at this occurred at a time and place where my day to day survival was secure.  I could afford the slow recharge. 

There are always a couple things in the back of your mind as you approach any conversation about work.  You're always ashamed that you either don't have a job or are seeking a better job.  But lets be real you don't have a job on these days, nothing lasting.  So you start with shame, and add to it the feeling that your asking for a favour that they don't want to give, and you are asking for MONEY.  Asking for one of two would be bad enough, but at once makes you clamp up.  It don't matter that you are ten steps away from even thinking about salary negotiation ( you have heard rumors about this but you don't believe it, just like you don't believe people can pound in fence posts with just a mallet.)  No, when work is on the table, then money is on the table and it is awkward.   Its close to the end of the business day, your'e hungry again and your brain is tired.  

You put on the show you were watching last and disconnect. The number of things not crossed off from your list is far longer than the things you have crossed off.  You're ashamed of that, and if you let that get to you tomorrow could be a bad day too.  You hope some day to get it right, to get some work that lasts more than 2.5 years.  Work where you know your role, have trust and autonomy, with access to a good mentor.  Its a fight for you to get through the steps at a level that gets any results.  You have been fighting this fight, most of your adult life, it angers you.  On the bad days it is a impotent anger, you know what the input should be, you know what the outcome should be and even know most of the parts in-between but it never comes together.  So you take the next contract, its too far away, the work does nothing to advance your plan, but the rent is coming, the rent is always coming.  

Your next bad day is on the job site. No one else notices, you showed up on time, worked hard and smart enough to make a good impression.  You hid behind some gallows humour and stuck to yourself for most of the day.  But your tired of being an expendable piece of commodity labour, the new guy every few, days, weeks, or months.  Your've all but forgotten you had jobs where you had bigger responsibilities.  And no matter how much work you undertake, you can't shake the feeling that non of your past experience is any good now.  So you take the next contract, you hope it will turn into something that will stick, you know it won't. If you're lucky the commute will be short enough that you might, just be able to have enough left over to stay a head, but the next bad day is coming. 

1 comment:

Ien in the Kootenays said...

Painful to read, more so to live. Well expressed. My latest, very short, effort
is relevant.