Monday, February 15, 2010

My Time Away

This week, I start out on a new venture; a new stop along the path in my career trajectory. It's not exactly a stop I had ever really envisioned, or expected, but hey. Sometimes curve balls need to be thrown in order to mix up an otherwise ineffective sequence of pitches.

Clumsy baseball metaphors aside, this week is going to be a bit on the strange side for me. I'm starting a new job in a new field--one that I have absolutely zero familiarity with.

Any port in a storm, though. Right?

I hope to not screw things up too much, and I hope to find my way and figure things out without disrupting too many of the people around me. I'm starting on a trial basis, so there will probably be some give to the rope they hand me, for a little bit, at least.

While I'm happy and incredibly fortunate to be starting a new job (with the potential for it to be a permanent gig), it's obviously not in my desired field, and frankly, I have no idea how I'll be utilized once I get there.

It's kinda cool to think that I'll be leaving my comfort zone of publishing and writing and editing. But at the same time, it's sad. Immensely so, in fact. Things ended just about as badly as they could end at my former employer, but no matter what the outcome, I was always content working there.

Mostly because at the very least I could say that I was in the publishing industry.

I was working with writers (and, later, artists) and I was helping to produce books that you can now buy in stores and online. Granted, I wasn't editing War and Peace (or fiction, at all, for that matter), but still.

I got to work with words, and I could always find solace in that, no matter how frustrating and unfair the situation got to be. Because words, I know. Numbers? Selling? Excel sheets?

Yeah, not so much.

Now that's not to say that I won't be able to do the new tasks that will be asked of me. I'm just saying that, they're not exactly the things that I love. Or like. Or want to do. And that concerns me a little.

Growing up is weird.

We go our whole lives being told that we can do anything we put our minds to. They tell us that, in the end, the good guys always triumph and the bad guys get what they deserve. Of course, in real life, there are times when that stuff just isn't the case.

My former employer, for example, seems to be doing just fine. My bank account? The lawyer fees I needed to pay to protect myself from his not-so-honest intentions? They're another story altogether.

And as much as I wanted and worked to land a job at a company like Marvel or DC or DK or Harpers, I just couldn't get a foot in any of those doors while I was laid off.

Over that time, I got very tired of having to do things that I didn't want to do. Like making phone calls and sending emails to contacts I once worked with. This was always an especially fun part of the unemployment process, because each time I spoke to an old colleague, I had to relive the events that led to the full staff lay-off at my old company.

And each time, I'd hang up the phone and start to think about all those late nights, alone in the office save for the overnight janitorial crew, all of whom I knew by name. Or that Saturday in the summertime, desperately trying to fact-check the latest chunk of text we received the night previous. Or that Sunday morning, hours before the Super Bowl, when I needed to prep for the onslaught of work waiting for me the following day.

Or the day (it was actually right before our Christmas party) we were told that our salaries would be cut, and that we should be glad it's only that. Or the morning we were told we would be laid off in two days' time, but not to worry--the company would go on.

Over the course of the past four-plus months, I have applied to nearly 170 jobs. I know this because I kept a record of every single one that I applied to. Out of those nearly 170 job applications, I got two interviews, one phone call, and a handful of emails.

The two interviews went well, but in both cases, the jobs were "frozen." Put on hold because of financial restrictions implemented upon the respective company. I got lots of, "oh, man, I wish I could help, but we're making cuts on our end now, too" and "we haven't hired someone new in more than a year."

But now, as I get ready for my new job with its new hours and new work and new whatever, I'm trying to look back at the time I spent without a job. And I'm trying to convince myself that I did something worthwhile with my time.

I did lots of worrying, I know that.

My weekdays were almost always the same exact thing. Wake up at 6:00, drive my brother to work, come home, run on the treadmill, lift weights, eat breakfast, search for jobs. Sometimes the job search would take all day, and bear no potential employment.

Other times, I'd find a flurry of jobs right away, apply to them, and maybe spend some time on the blog, or on some side project or another.

During my time off, I wrote just over a hundred pages of a story that I kinda dig, I got in all 22 pages of art for my comic book that never saw the light of day, and I was offered a couple of business opportunities.

Two of which I am now still considering.

If nothing else came of my time away from work, I was able to find out one thing. I love writing. I love to shut the door, cut off the real world, sit at my keyboard and type, and lose myself in whatever stupid piece of whatever I'm working on.

I didn't get to read as much as I would have liked over that time, though today I finally got around to completely catching up on my Marvel books--all the way up to Siege, issue two. And I'm glad for that, because the most recent books Marvel has put out seem to me a return to what I love most about that publisher.

All the titles are nicely meshing together with the Siege event, and things are happening--fast and interestingly--in the main book by Brian Bendis. Marvel is exciting again, and this latest stuff (especially Siege, issue 2) reminds me of the way I felt when Bendis started on the Avengers, just about seven years ago, and, later, when Civil War was raging through the Marvel U.
Wolverine: Civil WarI wish the whole Dark Reign thing had moved along much more quickly, but this payoff promises to be huge and satisfying. And fun, as the heroes finally band together to confront Norman Osborn.

It looks like it's time for the good guys to start winning again in the Marvel Universe, at least.

During my time off, I also had the chance to buy and to play Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, for the Playstation 3. Sure, I only just bought it last Saturday, and I didn't open the package until two days ago, but it's a ton of fun, and I'm actually enjoying a non-baseball video game.

And I started watching the excellent late-90s Paul Feig/Judd Apatow show, Freaks and Geeks, which has been a constant source of enjoyment for me.
Freaks and GeeksI didn't watch the show when it was on television--it was on Friday nights while I was in high school--but it has stolen a place in my heart through the DVD box set I picked up a while back.

Finally, during my time off, I joined the staff of a nationally distributed magazine, and while that didn't was a good experience, and it kept my mind off of not having a full time job. Sure, it was voluntary, and the magazine was going through horrible financial problems, but I'm glad I did it.

I wish more had come out of it, but this wasn't exactly a year at Disney World, so no harm, no foul.

If this is starting to sound like a, "What I Did Over Summer Vacation" essay, that's probably because that's what it feels like as I'm writing it. Tomorrow morning, very early, I start my new (trial) job. I'm a little nervous, a little bummed that I'm not heading to a publishing house, and a little excited about what the day might bring.

I'm also a little confused as to how I'll be getting my comics, since the job is requires a bit of a drive, and the hours probably won't allow me to get to the store on Wednesdays anymore. Add in the fact that I have a strict No Weekend policy at my LCS, and buying comics becomes a bit of a head-scratcher. But that should be the worst of my troubles.

So, wish me luck, and here's to new beginnings.


Scott said...

As a writer, any job is in your field; they'll all give you experiences that you can use in your writing at some point. I mean, look at Robert Heinlein, who was a sailor, scientist, silver miner, real estate agent, and more -- all in addition to being a very good writer.

It's interesting to see how other fields work from the inside, too. I've been a painter, a web developer, an on-site repairman, a technician, a car salesman, and the guy who makes aisles/puts in shelves/puts up product at Target before I came to Japan.

AJG said...

That is a really good way to look at it, Scott.