Dry run

Today was kind of a dry run for when my job ends. I stayed home from work (in part because I was so wiped from playing back-to-back kickball games last night at 8 and 9pm and then hanging at the bar until almost midnight) and figured it would give me a good idea of what it is going to be like to have no job to go to.

It was not encouraging.

I was up at 6 am but then snoozed on the couch until about 9:30am, which was fine. Once up and showered I sat down at the computer to get to work.

First, I checked my email, automatic deliveries of job-posting based on specific criteria. Not one job that I could apply for. So I filled some time by writing a blog post and replying to some emails and troll facebook and the rest of the internet a little. Then I did some searching on careerbuilder and other job-post sites. Nothing.

I did register for a class at the community college, Photoshop — trying to bolster my computer skills — but I’m kind of dreading it. The class is 4 credit hours but 6 contact hours, which means every Saturday from August 27th until December 17th I’ll be spending the majority of my Saturdays sitting in a classroom. Tuition cost me $714. Can’t help wondering what the books will run me. And will I need software of any kind? I’d considered taking a different class, one in health care records management, because that seems like it could be a growing industry in the years to come, but the degree requires some 70 credit hours. That just seems so daunting. I guess I’ve figured I’ve done my time in school, and I’m not all that hip on going back. But it seems to be necessary. So if I’m going to go I should build on my existing skills not start over. Maybe I’m just being a chicken.

I did watch multiple episodes of The Waltons and Roseanne. During commercials and in between episodes I did some more searching. Still nothing.

I guess I had too much time to think today. I should have gotten out of the apartment. I could have cleaned my car, vacuumed and run it through the car wash. It needs an oil change too. Keeping busy is going to be the key, I can see that now.

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Behind my eyes…

Usually when I retreat to the employee lounge at work to eat my lunch I try to read but more often than not end up taking a nap. It’s not a deep sleep but rather more of a half-waking slumber. In the past it has been a time for me to work on writing. Behind my eyes I would envision a piece of fiction that I’d been working on and imagine myself tapping out a new bit of it on the computer screen in my head.

However, this past week that hasn’t been the case. I’ve simply been napping. I’m still in my half-waking state but my mind does not conjure up any writing to be worked on. Does this mean I’ve given up on my fiction writing? Or perhaps I’m just taking a break from it? Or perhaps I’m simply too tired these days to do it? I have to say I don’t know.

But how could I not know? You ask. Excellent query. After all isn’t writing a decision that is conscious? One would think. That’s what I’ve always thought. But I’ve tried to stop writing several times in my life. Just give it up. But I’ve always returned for one reason or another. This time was not a deliberate action. I just sort of stopped one day and did not pick it up the next. Maybe I’ve just run out of fiction writing gas.

Or maybe I’m simply switching gears because I’m starting a class at the community college in a couple of weeks. Maybe I can no longer divide my time between a class and writing along with everything else that I need to do. I need to focus on one or the other, and that’s what I’ve been doing. Class hasn’t even started yet and I’m already 2 chapters deep into both of the texts that go along with the class.

I feel a sense of urgency about school these days that I did not when I was in my late teens and twenties, not long out of high school. Then there was a certain excitement about being in college. Now, there’s more a certain weight to it. It feels more like work. It’s more of a necessity than a choice.

Perhaps that was a mistake, not seeing college as a necessity back when I first went. Maybe had I viewed it that way I would have majored in something more practical, like business or computers or engineering. Who knows?

All I do know is that beginning on January 15th, every Saturday for the next sixteen weeks I have four hours of computer class. There go my Friday nights, and perhaps along with it my fiction writing, once and for all.

Aren’t I the gloomy Gus.

Just because….

… I haven’t posted in awhile. Not sure exactly why not. Not sure why I’m posting now, other than I haven’t posted in awhile.

July has been a busy month. That could have something to do with it. I’ve been traveling a lot. Plus I’m working on an application to a graduate certificate program. It’s in Technical Communications, specifically called Writing for the Digital Age. I’m hoping it will  help me retool, bolstering my current writing skills and helping me to refocus my career.

It’s not that I haven’t felt like writing. I have. But I’ve been feeling more internal, I guess. So I’ve been keeping a private journal, writing stuff I would never want anyone to read (until I was dead anyway) much  less publish online. I’m just not that confessional. Also, I’ve been working on my novel, the one that grew out of my MFA thesis project, a novella about a young girl whose brother disappears after a semester at college. Not really a thriller or who-done-it, more of a psychological/circumstantial examination, if I may be so haughty about it.

The other thing is this month was my final divorce judgment. It was this week in fact, Tuesday. I am now officially divorced and single again at the age of 42. It’s a little sad and depressing, but also a bit of a relief to, to have it over with. The build up to it was rather emotional. It didn’t help any that we, Colleen and I, had to wait on our attorney. Our case was supposed to be at 8:30. We didn’t get up in front of the judge until  maybe 10 o’clock. I was pretty nervous. Never been in front of a judge before. My legs were shaking. But in the end I was surprised at how effortless it was, how quickly the past 7 years and almost a month weve dissolved. Well, not really dissolved, I guess, but you know what I mean.

Next thing I knew Colleen and I were heading out of the court house, as single people, saying goodbye in the parking lot, driving away in our separate directions. <sigh>

Still, I try to remind myself that it could have been worse. At least we weren’t being petty and trying to tear each other down. There was a couple up before us, who were there because the ex-wife was claiming that the ex-husband refused to work blah blah blah and thus provide for his kids. Man, did the judge lay into those two. Colleen and I quietly made an agreement to never drag each other into court, to always sit down and figure things out between the two of us. Hopefully we can keep that promise. I know I’d  rather never step inside a courtroom ever again. And I’m pretty sure that Colleen wouldn’t either, especially not against each other.

Anyhoo… I thought I’d post some random musings, just to fill  up some more cyberspace with my chatter.

Back to school: the sequel

What does it mean when your when your life feels like an ill-advised sequel to an 80s movie? It can’t be good.

So I guess that it makes sense that it is a cold gray morning as I am about to head out to the campus of Eastern Michigan University, where I did my undergrad back in the lat 80s/early 90s. I’m going to look into a graduate certificate program in Technical Writing. If I lose my job I can go back to school with money from the Michigan Works program. At least, I think that I can. They don’t just hand out money to anyone. In any case, I figure it’s a good idea to explore all my possible options.

But as is probably obvious I’m feeling conflicted about going back to school. I mean, I already tried once this year when I took a class at Macomb Community College, and I ended up dropping that class. What makes me think this will be any different? And it’ll be even more money down the drain if I bail this time.

I have to do something, though. I can’t just do nothing, can I? I know: even not choosing is a choice. But that always struck me as a cop out. And besides I’ve done my share of not choosing in  my life. The biggest problem with not choosing is that if you don’t choose your life someone else will choose it for you. And then where will you be?

I suppose in a way it is easier to let someone else choose your life, to let someone else make all the decisions and just follow along, but it fails to provide a certain satisfaction. Plus, if the day ever comes that you want to choose something it’ll be a struggle, perhaps even a battle.  I think it makes people uncomfortable when someone they know as a non-chooser suddenly wants to choose. They fight against it. But that’s just this bloggers opinion [insert sound effect of two pennies hitting a table top].

Boomerang 3

No. That’s not a new Eddie Murphy flick. Although, Hollywood is in a remake/sequel mood these day.

NOTE TO SELF: crank out screen play this weekend n find way to bribe/blackmail Eddy Murphy

In actuality (not to be confused with reality), I’m speaking of my impending move back in with my parents. Yeah, you heard me right. I’m moving back in with the rents. Should be … an experience.

The first time I boomeranged back to my parents house was after I undergrad. I was about 25, which is the pretty standard age for doing that. Even so, I knew it was temporary. I was heading to graduate school in a year. I was just taking some time off to make some cash and try to write. I did make a little bit of money, working at B. Dalton’s in the mall. As for writing, well, I made some notes for a novel but didn’t make much progress beyond that. Still, I had a good time hanging out at bars where alum from my high school liked to congregate, and isn’t that what you’re really supposed to do in your 20s. I like to think so. In any case, that’s my rationalization and I’m sticking to it.

The second time I moved back into my parents house was after 3 years of graduate school and a couple more years of living in Kalamazoo and working as adjunct faculty a the university. I was about 31 then. And I just needed a place to hold up until I could figure out what I was going to do, how I was going to make money while I wrote the great American novel. Before that, though, I helped my folks do some fixing up of the house —  painting, new carpet, remodeling the kitchen. Then I got me a job, made some green. I had a baby. Got married. Tried to write, but still without much success, unless you count filling up pages with words documents on a computer. <sigh>

Now, here I am about a decade later, getting a divorce. And getting ready to move back into my parents’ place. Again. At the age of 42. Ugh! Hard to escape feeling pathetic at this point. Of course, my purpose is to try and save as much money as possible before moving out on my own again. I want a financial cushion. Also, like a lot of people in this country, and particularly in the state of Michigan, I’m worried about my job. Budget issues have put it in jeopardy. I need to see how things are going to shake out in the next 4 months. Even if I survive that cutoff, a year from then I’ll be in the same position with the chance that I’ll lose my job even more likely, very likely in fact. I’m operating as if I’ll be unemployed in 4 months or a 1 year and 4 months. Either way, it’s going to happen. And then what?

Two choices, really:

1) Job search, which I’ve already begun, in a very preliminary way.

2) Back to school, which I’m also looking into. I could bolster my writing skills by getting some Technical Writing courses under my belt, perhaps even a graduate certificate. That’s something else I need to be saving my money for. Because it may be necessary to work only part-time while attending classes.

In any case, moving back in with the rents is less than ideal. And of course, I’d really like to have my own place. It won’t be easy. But I think it’s the best course of action right now.

And based on things I’ve read and heard, I’m not the only person exercising this option. I guess I should be grateful that I have it. What if I didn’t? What if I had no choice? Some people don’t. What happens to them?

I think I’m done…

…studying for my first Environmental Science exam, even though I’ve got at least two more hours in which I could pour of my notes some more.

I used to do this in undergrad (grad school didn’t really have exams). I’d just reach a point and I’d stop; I couldn’t study any more. Well, I could have, I suppose, but I just felt full up and that anything more was just overflow. But maybe that was justme being lazy,  a slacker. Still, I didn’t do half bad in college — community college, undergrad and grad school. So…

In any case, I can’t help wondering what difference it will make. Good grade, bad grade. What am I doing anyway? Aren’t there more productive/constructive ways I could be spending my time? Is this just a distraction? From what? And why?

I guess I just got kind of worked up about the idea of Environmental Science, but as always the reality set it. And as we all know Reality Bites, right. I know because I’m watching it on cable…again. This was a profound movie for me when it came out. Just as Generation X by Coupland was a profound book for me and Smells Like Teen Spirit was a profound album for me.

I still like the movie. But I guess I just woke up one day and realized that I wasn’t Troy. Oh, sure, I might be a slacker extraordinaire but I’m not as smart as the character is supposed to be. And I never was. I may have thought I was for like a blink but …

Anyhoo…it’s been kind of existential (if that is the proper term) day. Can you tell?

this GenX dad on Superbowl Sunday…

…can  only hear the roaring of the crowd from the TV set in the other room — Go Colts! — because I’ve chained myself to the desk in the office in order to study for my first exam in the Environmental Science course that I decided, for some dumb reason, to take. We can use one 4×6 card of notes for the exam, so i’m carefully selecting info, typing it out and shrinking it down to 8 pt. font and pasting it to a card. So far it’s working quite well. Although as per usual I’m sure I’ll forget something. Hopefully the test is all multi-choice. I rock at those. And at essay exams. Fill in the blanks, though, I suck at.

I still have to write 1-2 page CTR (current topic report) as well,  in which I distill a news article that is relevant to the course in some way. I have the article, this time on the increased growth rate of trees in the northeast part of the country, but I’ve yet to write it. Hoping to do that tonight.

Add to that a pretty busy first half of the week. Wife is out of town on biz. While she’s working hard in the Big Apple, I’ll be filling in for my daughter’s Brownie troop outing to a local police dept for a safety program. Not only am I driving but I’ll be providing snacks – got em, check! Then on Tuesday morning my daughter has an 8:45am doc. appt. (need to remember to call school to let them know she won’t be there in morning) after which I need to hustle her to school and the head for work. Now, I’ve got a babysitter lined up for Tuesday night so I can go to class to take this exam but if it snows too hard (is it supposed to?) that could fall through. Have a couple of options, though. We’ll see.

Damn, I feel tired just writing this.

About Last night’s class

It wasn’t as bad, maybe because it wasn’t as cold.

Got to campus early after dinner with the wife and daughter — mmmm burrito!  Since I had time I decided to check out the library. I hadn’t been in it years. When I first went to Macomb, I worked in the library. It was as pretty cool job. The library has since been remodeled — a new front desk and now there is a cafe inside. Bookshelves have been slight rearranged. I found myself wandering down the American Literature isle. It was funny how some of the book spine were still familiar. I used to spend a lot of time in the library, studying, sure, but also just discovering new stuff to read.

I searched the collection of Best American Short Stories volumes for the one with a story by my former teacher at Western, Jaimie Gordon. Found it. It was my favorite bit of writing by her. I started reading it but knew I’d never be able to finish. Perusing to the end of the fiction section I pulled down a small book of John Updike stories. The cover had been rebound but pages practically fell out when I opened it. I wondered when was the last time anyone had picked it up. Not that many people attend Macomb with literary ambitions, or so it always seemed to me. Community college is a practical place — people want to be trained for jobs, or educated to go on to a four-year university to be educated for a slightly better job.  I wondered if I’d ever picked up this collection before. It was all stories about the Maples, a married couple who end up getting a divorce. Of course, it is an Upike story. What else would the do? The most famous of these stories is Separating, which I still adore.

Anyhoo… standing there among those books I knew that even if I do manage to muster enough enthusiasm to get another degree English, books and writing will always be where my heart, always what I felt I was meant to do. Just haven’t been able to make money at it yet, not enough anyway.

Got class….

….tonight. And not really looking forward to trudging across campus from the parking lot in the cold. Ugh!

Any excitement I had for taking this course pretty much dried up last week when it was really cold. It just felt depressing. That’s not to say I don’t find the Environmental Science class that I’m taking interesting. I do. But I beginning to wonder why I really took it. I mean, do I expect to start a whole new career? Or what?

Sure there’s nothing wrong with taking a class just because you’re interested but I can’t help feeling that I’m trying to return to something. What exactly, I can’t say? Perhaps I thought I’d recapture something that I felt their all those years ago, when I was a young twenty-something first time college student. I did well then. I was excited about my classes. I figured I was going somewhere. Where exactly I couldn’t say beyond transferring to a four-year university.

Now, going to class really feels like work. I”m tired and yet I have a hard time just sitting still. I want to do well and don’t really care at the same time.

Thing is, I was good at school. I did well. I enjoyed it. In the work world, not so much. I’ve felt often very inept ever since I left grad school and stepped into the “real world,” into corporate publishing at the time, a job that did not work out well for me, which I did not excel at, unlike school, which I always excelled at. Perhaps there’s something in that? I don’t know.

Anyhoo…thanks for attending this installment of my navel-gazing self-pity party chock full of ennui and angst. Come back next time when I when I lament my thinning hair.

GenX parents v. teachers

Courtesy JenX67, here are a couple of really great advice/informational article for teachers re: GenX parents.

The first one is by a GenX mom who fully admits to stealth-parenting, which is so much cooler a label (I mean if you have to have one) than helicopter parenting, which was/is a Boomer thing.

Here’s a taste (i.e. quote from the article):

“They’ll go over your head if they don’t get the results they want from you,” says Anita Thomas, who taught science in a public school in Beaufort, South Carolina. That makes sense, says Lisa Chamberlain, author of Slackonomics: Generation X in the Age of Creative Destruction. “Anything that smacks of bureaucratic red tape or protocol is an irritant,” she explains. “We had to fend for ourselves, which is great if you’re an entrepreneur, but not when you’re a parent.”


The second is by generational guru Neil Howe:

Many Gen-X parents acquire a surprising degree of (self-taught) expertise about teaching methods and will bring stacks of Web printouts into meetings with teachers. A quip often used by former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings (herself a late-wave Boomer, born in 1957) speaks to many Gen-X parents: “In God we trust. All others bring data.”

This local, pragmatic, bottom-line perspective certainly contrasts with the more global, idealistic and aspirational perspective of Boomers. It has driven the rapid growth of parent-teacher organizations that opt out of any affiliation to the National Parent Teacher Association. According to many younger parents, the PTA is simply too large, too inflexible, too politically correct and too deferential to the educational establishment.