Saturday afternoon I’m walking down the street on the way to the grand final barbecue with my music plugged in. On comes a Warren Zevon song, My Shit’s Fucked Up. Now I love Warren Zevon in general (bless him), and this song is a favourite, probably because it seems so true. There’s a line in it: the shit that used to work, won’t work now.
I’m listening loud, singing along, and think, how fucking true. I don’t know if it’s the standard thing, that as you get older the things that worked so well for you lose their magic, or if it’s just me. In a way I’d like to think it’s an interesting development to life – you’re not going to get it all your own way, we’ll make you work for it. The trick is to find a better way.
My shit’s been fucked up for a while, and I’ve been searching for a solution for most of that time. The old shit isn’t working for me.
I’ve taken this week off from work. In part that’s a mental health issue. Work does my head in, both the mindless, repetitive nature of it, and the organisation as a whole. I could feel myself burning out; a few times I’ve felt like reacting. I can be challenging at the best of times, but I don’t need to become reckless too. And so I’ve wound things back.
It will be a quiet week – I’m not going anywhere – but there are things I plan. Some of them are small. I need to sort out some of my boxes. I look forward to doing some cooking. I’ll take Rigby for a walk along the beach each day. And I’ll get writing too. The plan also is to apply for some real jobs, but mostly, to get my shit in order.
I keep on saying it, but things can’t go on as they are. It’s better than it was, the bleeding has slowed, but I’m still losing blood.
Last week, as it happened, was a week of rejections. On Thursday I heard back from one of the publishers that they’d knocked back my book. That was no surprise – in fact I’d have been shocked had they said yes. I was disappointed, but a long way from upset. I believe in it, and I have contingency plans. One way or another I’ll get published – what happens after that is for the world to decide.
Earlier in the week I discovered I’d missed out on the the job I’d applied for internally. That was a blow. I hadn’t expected to get that either, but then I think some of that was self-preservation. When you’ve been disappointed so often you take care not to expect too much. And so I had believed that something would prevent me from gaining the role, and that belief was vindicated. Still, I felt it. I realised no matter what I’d told myself I’d been counting on it. I felt grey and dismal for a few hours. I wondered if I’d ever escape. I realised that I’d return from this break not to the new job as I’d hoped, but to the old job I despised.
I missed out because, as they told me, they went for a ‘more technical consultant’, someone who had ‘worked in the environment we’re moving into’. I received the news by phone at my desk and couldn’t query it too much. Afterwards I wondered if there was any point anyway.
I’ve written a fair bit the last few weeks about the state of flux I’m in. I’m questioning everything. To a great degree that’s a function of what has happened, and the lifestyle I’m now stuck with. There’s a lot to question. There’s been a lot of self-examination separate to that though. I need to figure things out. Among other things I’ve got to figure out what the new shit ought to be.
In the days since missing out on the role I’ve felt a mixture of cavalier disregard and burning frustration.
I think back to the interview, which seemed to go fine, but which was a mirror image of any interview. As always there are behavioural questions and scenarios, and after the fact they seem so lame and irrelevant. I answer, but there’s a part of me that is chafing at the bit. I long to express myself, to break free of the limiting conventions of the interview process and actually be my authentic self.
I understand the purpose and value of such questions, but they can only ever give a glimpse of the candidate. Who is the true person? Well worn answers to well-worn questions is a form of play-acting. It probably works well for a certain kind of candidate, the unimaginative and structured, but there’s no real subtlety in it, no real range.
It’s my eternal frustration that I have to conform to such norms. You might think that’s the game H, and you have to play by the rules – and I do, reluctantly. But the point is that who I am and what I have truly to offer is inadequately expressed by stock standard responses. I think for myself. My mind doesn’t run on rails. I’m intellectually daring. I have an imagination that I use. I’m creative and curious and independent. Put me in the job and I’ll tick off your boxes, but I’ll do a lot more too because I’ll break free of the box. I flow. I’m not someone you sit in the corner and expect to churn out work. I’ll seek instead to find better ways, and do it dynamically.
Put me in the right role and I’m big; but the questions they ask reduce you. I want to perform, and I can’t. Like a bookkeeper I have to instead attend to the pro forma questions they tick off as they go along. I have to deal with it though, that’s the world. How much more meaningful is it though to have a conversation about the role, about you, about what makes you tick and how you get motivated. Give and take rather than question and answer.
I have to deal with reality though. That’s why I’m here now. I’ll look for work this week and submit to the process again, as I must. Hopefully I luck onto something. But is there a better way for me? A more direct solution?
There’s a few things I need to do. In terms of work, I think I need a champion. Someone who believes in me and will be my advocate. I’ve had people like that in the past, but I’m no longer in contact with any of them. I don’t know how to go about that.
I’m sure inevitably I’ll get back to something. I had a good opportunity a few weeks ago I was in the box seat for, except it was in Derrimut and I couldn’t do it. I need something like that to come up again, just closer to home. It’s important to me to tick off that box, just to prove I can again.
There’s life beyond that though. What am I good at? Cooking and writing, and maybe thinking. Where does that lead? And what do I need? I need someone, as I’ve said before, and have to do it a different way.
These are the things I need to figure out. I need to figure out where my shit’s at, and what the new shit is. I’ve watched these years go by, wasted years while I’ve struggled to survive. I ca’t waste any more. There has to be a way.