Sunday, February 23, 2003

Another annoying autobiographical abeyance

So like I said the other day, I'm stopping working at the end of the month; next Wednesday, to be precice. I have mixed feelings about this. Mad sickness cover and lousy pay aside, my current job hasn't been so bad. It's relatively varied compared to assembly-line work*, and has a minimal gross-out factor compared to fishing used condoms out of bushes* or scrubbing dried-on shit out of toilets in a bail hostel.* My co-workers are fun to be around and my boss is, as bosses go, a joy to work for. On a scale of zero to ten, where zero is the hinge factory** and ten is writing my 15th bestselling novel while Nicholas Brendon gives me a neckrub, Alan Rickman pours me shots of cognac and my personal shopper, Eddie Izzard, picks up my latest tailor-made outfit from House of Harlot, it's about a three-and-a-half.

See, I really do need to take a month off to sort out the packing and the bills and liase with the removal guys and learn Spanish and so on, but I hate being out of work for any reason. I know I complain about the kind of jobs I have to do but deep down I'm very grateful to be in work at all.

Once you've experienced long-term unemployment, you fear it. Even a brief spell of enforced joblessness can be an utterly crushing experience, and I was on the jam roll for nearly three years (interspersed with periods of sick-ticket when my health packed up). That's three years of sending out as many as thirty applications in a week, only to get rejected or completely ignored. Three years of working through phone books, cold-calling potential employers. Three years of never having quite enough money. Three years of going up the job centre and finding out that every other card in the window is actually out of date. Three years of being told that I was too young, too old, too underqualified, too overqualified, or-- surprise!-- too inexperienced. Of waiting on tenterhooks for a giro that didn't come because someone lost a box of sign-on tickets, of pointless re-training for mickeymouse certificates that meant nothing, of getting my application forms sent back crossed through with red pen or torn into pieces, of boredom, of eating the same cheap crap every day, of insomnia, of ill-health, of crappy, insecure accomodation, of being told every day in a hundred small but important ways that I was lazy, stupid, and worthless. Oh yeah, and of being called Clive by electronics firms. Funnily enough, anything that reminds me of that time in my life depresses the hell out of me.

I still consider myself to be one of the lucky ones. I'm childless, so I never had to watch my kids go through that. I was young, so I never entirely lost hope. And I was able to make the move to London, where I finally found work and lived happily ever after cheers cheers cheers.

Hence the nagging discomfort at the thought of taking this time off; hence the increasing trepidation at the thought of trying to find work in Spain. It's natural that a person would be having those feelings. What it isn't is rational.

I can always get money. Got plenty of experience under my belt, and I'm not all niminy-piminy about doing dull or messy jobs. Barcalona is a big and vibrant city, with plentymuch opportunity for pint-pulling or floor-mopping. Ergo, no joblessness, and in the fullness of time I bet I can find something really fun and memorable to do for my dough. Even if I fetch up in the usual minimum-wage grind, it won't be a total loss as any job I do will present me with more opportunities to learn and practice my Spanish.

The other thing to bear in mind is this: Why, given that I was stuck on the dole, did I not do something exiting like sign up with the VSO? Because the bloke at the youth advice place said I couldn't. Why didn't I get my arse down the local uni and sign up for a foundation year? Because the people at my old tech said I couldn't. Why didn't I try and get an apprenticeship with a local firm? Because the people at the dole centre said I couldn't. Now, I can either sit around and go "Oh, those bad bad people who crushed my youthful ambitions! How thoughtless and rotten they were!" or I can look at the common factor here, which would be moi. Sure, I've been given cruddy advise by a number of egregious wankers in my life but I was the one who took that advice-- I was the one who sat and listened and did exactly what they said.

So I'm going to treat moving to Barca like being 17 all over again, and I'm going to try all the things I never tried back then, see if I can't wrangle myself that really cool job I've been hankering after. Maybe it'll work, maybe it won't; the important thing is giving it a fair shot.

Why am I telling you all this? So that whatever age you are and whatever you want to do, you never just take someone's word for it when they tell you you can't do something. So that you give it a fair shot, so that you don't miss out on an opportunity by giving up before you've even started.

I hate you, but not even I hate you that much.

*Yes, I really do have to do stuff like that for a living. Incidentally, I had probably just come home from doing one of those things the last time one of you twerps accused me of browbeating you with my superior education. You accused the cleaning lady of intellectual elitism. You are funny and I laugh at you. Loud and long.

**It's been brought to my attention that when I talk about the whole hinge factory thing, some people assume that it's a Schindler's List reference and that I'm comparing my situation to that of a Holocaust survivor, leading them to the inevitable conclusion that I'm a really big fuckwit. The truth is that I worked in a hinge factory. When I talk about the hinge factory it's not a metaphor. It's a factory. That makes hinges. Where I worked.

If I was comparing myself to a Holocaust survivor, I would indeed be the biggest fuckwit in the entire known universe.

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