Wednesday, November 06, 2013

A New B'ak'tun

Life upheaved yet again this September. I’ve entered a new personal b'ak'tun, it would seem.

My six-to-seven on/off years at Paul Wurth Inc. came to an abrupt close, but it shouldn’t have been a surprise. The company was changing rapidly and news came down that they were moving into offices in Downtown Pittsburgh. That pretty much made the decision for me. Amy spent years commuting from Waynesburg to the North Side when she worked for Verizon and that commute nearly killed her (literally on a couple of winter drives). Plus, she was being paid almost double my salary at the time, so there was no up-side to the idea of my staying with the firm.

I’d figured that they’d keep me on at the office until the end of 2013. They had other thoughts and jettisoned me before the end of their quarter. This decision had less to do with me than it did saving the company a grand or so by getting me off the books. There followed some financial wizardry, none of it to my benefit, but the long and short of it is that I got a firm handshake from HR and was shown the door, given about twenty minutes to pack my shit, say some brief goodbyes and agree that this way I could still apply for unemployment.

[Aside: when I returned a few weeks later to deliver the severing paperwork, the same HR official told me that they received the unemployment notification and that they “weren’t going to fight it.” This came with an air of great magnamity. “Why would you?” I asked.

“We’re not,” he responded. “We could though. I just wanted to let you know—”

“It’s not up to the company.”

“I’ve fought it before and I never lose. But—”

“Why are you even telling me this beyond your own power trip?”

“I wanted to tell you not to worry—”

“I wasn’t worried.”

So I took leave with one last little confrontation wherein someone had the small penile need to assert dominance over me. Cementing the notion that I’d made the right decision.]

I’m not crazy about how things ended, but the ending was inevitable. The company was changing rapidly and I didn’t fit into their current plans, much less their future ones. Back onto the dole I went.

We made sure to get our myriad prescriptions refilled before the benefits stopped. We stocked up on preparable foods, started putting miscellaneous crap on eBay—the usual things you do when you become jobless. I’ve been lucky enough that the majority of times I’ve gone on unemployment, I saw it coming ahead of time. Like those other times, I had plans set in motion. Also like those other times, I must have said them out loud at some point which, as we all know, greatly amuses god. 

The one thing I've been able to do with fair consistency is write every day. It's a habit I've never forced myself to adopt in the past, though I paid lip-service to it in lectures and articles. In the month-plus that I've been unemployed, I've missed writing either because I wasn't home and/or too tired/sick to stick to things. These occasions have been far less frequent than in the past, so I'm looking at this as a good thing. I may not dig everything I write--there's a Middle Grade horror novel I'm working on now that refuses to reveal its footing--but at least I'm doing something beyond Facebook Statuses on an almost-daily basis. 

The next step is to turn this motivation into profit. Which seems to mean turning back time and returning to the '70s when print media was valued. Or at least to some point prior to the ubiquity of the internet and the idea that "anybody" can write. Monetarily speaking, I'm up against a lot of "anybody"s, most of whom are willing to crank out their illiterate screeds for free. Or for the Huffington Post or Salon. "For the exposure."

What's the old saying? A writer could die from exposure.