sudden (un)employment

Remember that there are only three kinds of things anyone need ever do. (1) Things we ought to do (2) Things we’ve got to do (3) Things we like doing. I say this because some people seem to spend so much of their time doing things for none of the three reasons, things like reading books they don’t like because other people read them. Things you ought to do are things like doing one’s school work or being nice to people. Things one has to do are things like dressing and undressing, or household shopping. Things one likes doing — but of course I don’t know what you like. Perhaps you’ll write and tell me one day.

— C. S. Lewis, in a letter to Sarah, his godchild, on 3 April 1949

I gave notice at my job with the accountants yesterday in order to accept less reliable but potentially more interesting work. I don’t know if it was the right decision. Even though there’s a whiff of career about the whole thing, signing up to be the administrative assistant to a professional pyro, my track record of shockingly bad luck makes this move feel ominous, as if I’m getting back in line for another ride with disaster.

On the other hand, I just handed Sean my recently vacated job.

zohmigod, like woah

The first interview went extraordinarily well. We talked in the owner’s office for over an hour, chatting about theater, arts culture, the people we have in common, and my job history. The second interview, a more serious thing with the office administrator, went fairly well. It was less casual, more the regular check list of the sort of formalized corporate queries I always find awkward, like “what is your five year plan?”, to which I gave near desperate answers like “to work steadily at something I like until I win the lottery and can move somewhere warm enough to open a sloth preservation foundation.” Despite this, they called the next morning and offered me the job. (While someone else at the office was apparently still on the phone with one of my references.)

So now I have a real job.



Just in case you didn’t get that.

As of first thing tomorrow morning, I will be the new office administrator/receptionist-in-training at Stage One Accounting, a firm specializing in entertainment industry clients, which no, is not a euphemism. I am thrilled, intimidated, and incredibly relieved. On one hand, accountants, my justifiable fear of math, working on Saturdays, and joining a tax office in January. On the other, everyone I’ve met there so far has been smart, funny, interesting, and competent, the sort of person I always feel lucky to make friends with, and reliable, solid pay-cheques from a company not running on crazy. Heaven!

Of course, because the universe is a quirky place, to add an extra dash of ridiculous to the whole situation, I have turned down three very promising job interviews since accepting the job just yesterday. Three! THREE! That’s as many as I usually have in a MONTH. I have saved their numbers, though, just in case, as I cannot get over the foolish notion that I will sleep in and blow the whole thing, just out of some sort of residual existential despair left over from two years of unreliable contract work. David has offered to make certain that I’m awake tomorrow at seven, but even so, I am sure that when I go to bed tonight, it will be in dread.

Oh! And I totally got to chat with William Gibson tonight! And though I was initially terrified of speaking, it turns out we like each other! He thinks I’m “funny and smart”! Hooray! Exclamation mark! Annnnd! AND! I fit into my kilt again, just in time for Robbie Burns! EEEEEEEEE! PERSONAL VICTORY DAY! HAVE AT THEE!

on my way to learn pachabel’s canon

  • bOINGbOING: Stamp semaphore as early emoticons (& secret messages).

    I interviewed with a non-profit this morning. Four days a week, Tuesday to Friday, upstairs from a methadone clinic, less than an hour away by bus. I won’t know how it went until the end of the week, when they contact me to say yea or nay, but it seemed to go well. Fingers crossed and all that.

    Speaking of fingers, I cut the nails on my left hand today to better play the guitar. Most people would find that mundane, hardly news, but I am odd about my nails, I keep them sharp and long. It’s potentially only the second time in my adult life I’ve purposefully trimmed them. Now my fingertips feel downright bizarre, as if I’ve done something considerably more drastic. More than that, it feels as if the nerves under the newly bared skin aren’t sure how to fire yet. I find myself flinching away from touch. It helped, though. Although my fingers still feel like the fattest sort of sausages, I’ve been successfully playing some chords.

  • I have a job interview there tomorrow

    It is only from one of the higher towers, the myriad smaller buildings laid out below and higher ones gleaming in the distance, that the City’s infinitude truly becomes intuitively and not merely intellectually apparent.

    Mastering new things generally comes easily to me, yet contact lenses are presenting a strange new kind of learning curve. Despite several months of switching them back and forth with my glasses, (a task that abruptly went from herculean to simple when I learned how to peel them off the skin of my eye with a fingernail), I remain severely discomfited by the visual change, how everything warps, the way my brain readjusts its input parameters to redefine normal.

    When I first tried them, the doctor put them in for me then told me not to stand up right away. I didn’t mind waiting at first, but eventually even the marvel of peripheral vision became boring in the broom closet back office, so I stood up and tried to step to the door, thinking I was ready. Wrong. As I crashed immediately to the ground, shattering every pretense of sophistication and grown-up-ed-ness, I could hear him shout from the other room, “I told you so!”.

    accumulating in a great mass of human-interest material

    There is a perpetual, combative arithmetic involved in my daily life these days that I want very much to do away with. I am not terrific with math, in fact it’s probably my War On Noun nemesis, so this irks me on more levels than it might somebody else. The problem is this – with no steady income, my life, kneed in the gut by the financial collapse, becomes dictated by To-Do-Later lists. Chores that I cannot address because I do not have the money to purchase the required materials to fix the issue, like the leaky faucet that has been steadily torturing my roommate and I that I’m fairly certain only needs a washer, a wrench, and a youtube instructional video. I appreciate To-Do lists with a near institutional fondness, but my preference is for immediate problem solving, so I loathe To-Do-Later lists. They are Not My Style. If something’s wrong, if something needs to be addressed, now is always better than later. I’m well known for showing up at other people’s houses and suddenly helping rearrange the furniture, because when they drop a comment akin to, “it’s something I’ve been meaning to get around to for awhile”, I’ll jump up and suggest we tackle it right then and there. Yet my life has become a massive sinkhole of financially twisted procrastination, a stack of “when I get my first pay-cheque” balancing. Cold weather shirts versus my credit card bill versus better cat food versus winter weight curtains versus the utility bills versus a can of paint versus groceries versus the zipper on my boots versus a washer and a wrench. Never even mind my Irish passport. It has reached the point where once I do find regular, (lovely! beautiful!), ordinary employment, I suspect that my life will barely change, given that so much has piled up. So here’s the thing, given that many of you are also involved in the poverty economy, how are you managing? How do you make breathing room?

    letting the cat out of the bag for a trip around the block

    Shane Koyczan
    Promotional photo for Shane Koyczan.
  • ChatRoulette Love Song: speed dating done right.

    Arron took me on a driving lesson the other day, all the way from Home Depot to Metrotown, the farthest I’ve ever gone in a car. I suspect he found it vaguely terrifying, but given my lack of experience, I think I did rather well. No one died, nothing got wrecked, and I finally found myself okay with driving at more than 30 km/hour. I had been vaguely concerned that driving his truck would be somehow scarier than the little car I had been learning in with Young Drivers of Canada, (bigger equals more dangerous), but instead I discovered that though I disliked the hugeness of the thing, (the amount of space it takes up is slightly ridiculous), my years of living in a truck have apparently made me significantly more comfortable sitting higher up. It feels more natural being able to look down at other vehicles, rather than up at them. I blame my mother and her addiction to vans. Also, not dealing with a clutch meant that I stopped mixing up the pedals, so that was a victory, too. The best one, probably. Notes: remembering to check blind spots, figuring out how much space is actually required to change lanes. (Hint: significantly less than I think).

  • Little Wheel: a sweet, beautiful art game involving robots.

    I had a try-out day of work with Agentic yesterday, the web development company I’ve been interviewing with that I rather like. It was a very relaxed time, some easy work in a nice environment, surrounded by quiet, friendly people, not stressful at all. I was mostly left to myself, just me and a desk and a small pile of simple tasks. It was only after, during my gentle walk home, that I started feeling worried I wouldn’t get the job, as if my body had saved up all my concerns for later, tucked away in a bottom drawer of my heart until it was deemed safe to let them out. Silly, in a way, as it is out of my hands now. Everything left to do is on their side – talking to my references, deciding which candidate to hire, then calling us with the decision. (I was told they’ll let me know no later than Monday.) In the meantime, all I can do is wait and cross my fingers that I am what they need. It would be great to work in a positive environment again. I’m tired of spending time in offices where you can tell that everyone there wishes they weren’t.

  • Mills & Boon: self-portraits that mimic the covers of romance novels.

    My others news: Lung and I are finally starting a photography business together, Fox-Rain Wedding Photos. We’ve been talking about it for years, but the timing was never quite right. This time, however, I’ve already kludged together a solid rough draft of our website that I plan to take live in the next few days, before he leaves for California next week, and hope to get some sort of quick logo nailed down by the end of today, the better to toss on business cards asap. Neither one of us is particularly flush at the moment, so start-up money is tight, but I’ve done my research and I’m not only certain we can do this on the cheap, I’m absolutely confident we’ll succeed. If we can get everything together quick enough, things could even be up and running by the end of the month. Expect us at a tacky wedding fair near you, soon! We’ll be the people who don’t suck.

  • news from the dark

  • Chris Dame writes about our favourite night at Burning Man.

    Plans have changed, the April road-trip between Orlando and New Orleans with Van Sise has been canceled, perhaps to be picked up at some later date, replaced instead with a trip to New York City, when as yet unknown.

    In other news, the shiny web development company I interviewed at last week has asked me to come in for a try-out day of work, to see how I fit. They’ve whittled down the applicants to two. The other candidate is working with them today. I go in on Monday. It would be earlier, but this week my life’s been swallowed by a different madness, one of the best: CanSecWest. No sleep until Friday!

  • a thousand thoughts

    I felt immediately welcome at my interview this morning, which wasn’t stressful in the slightest, but an undeniably positive experience. I liked the questions, the interviewer, the vibe, everything! I especially appreciated the quick tour around the office at the end, as it confirmed my brightest hope about the company, that it’s built of the astonishing power that comes from good people doing good work. I feel like I could very happily fit in there in a very satisfying and productive way, like calling to like. I’m told I’ll hear back from them on Monday, but to send in another résumé in the meantime, one that covers my creative work, too.

    My only worry is that I may have seemed distracted, as I was silently agitated while we spoke, all too aware of my lover, sitting in a clinic across town, about to go into surgery. Between one waiting breath and another, his name will be called, and they will move him to one of the hospitals, then to an operating room where they will strap him down to a table and drill into his knee. It is not the surgery that concerns me, however, but the the anesthetics, because the only chemicals that will work on him are the sort that are tricky to properly balance. Too little and he’ll wake up, snap the needles piercing his flesh, and destroy the operation, coming out worse than he went in, but too much will poison his heart, a defibrillation-resistant dysrhythmia will set in, then, quickly, cardiac arrest.

    Being my usual reasonable self, however, I did my best to stay objective and only focus on the interview. I may not have been as winning as usual, but it was a pleasant conversation, even so, and I am grateful for it. If nothing else, it warms my heart to know that those people are out there in the world, making it better, a tiny line of code at a time.

    looking for atlantis

    Shane Koyczan
    Another of Shane Koyczan.

    I attended a Napoleonic Star Wars themed birthday party on Friday until the small of Saturday morning, dressed as a courtier/tie-fighter rebel pilot, lace ruffles fluttering from the cuffs of my orange pilot’s jumpsuit, a flouncy white cravat at my neck, hair snail-coiled into tiny Leia buns, lips painted in a tiny red heart, and then I walked three miles home in the incredible snow, taking the long route to see a man who wasn’t there, and stopping to buy ice-cream on the way. Coated in white, dripping as I walked up the counter, the windows obscured by flurries. Seriously, you should have seen the sales clerk’s face.


    Shane called just after midnight the other night, thrilled with his pictures, asking if I could shoot his band soon, too. Of course, I said, I would love to, so we set it up that we’ll see each other next month, when they’re in town rehearsing for When I Was A Kid, his upcoming show at the Cultch. If all goes well, however, I’ll miss it completely, as I’ll be out of the country as he stands on stage, somewhere I have never been before with someone I’ve never met yet utterly adore. (My favourite kind of exciting!)


    I have a job interview coming up on Friday, a follow-up to a promising phone call I had last week. I really hope I get this one, far more than usual, as it seems like a perfect combination: a company of good people doing good things, ethical, open-source, media-savvy, and clever, within an easy bike-ride from home. I’ve been keeping busy lately, taking pictures, writing, catching up on MIT’s open course-ware, learning new things, but underneath the triumphant glaze of productivity, there’s been an unwavering desire to jump back into the workforce, take part in more than my own little projects. This job, if I get it, could be the key to an entirely new level of personal satisfaction, so fingers crossed that I am what they need.

    Speak the truth, even if your voice trembles

    Back when I was laid off in December, I couldn’t get a Record of Employment from my previous employers. Told me I was a contractor, then that contractors don’t receive them, which I knew was wrong for a number of reasons, not least of which being that I’ve received them in the past as a contractor, at jobs where I’ve actually, you know, signed a contract. “It’s just a ticky-box at the top,” I said. “Oh, uh, well, we forgot to get you the paper,” said they. Awkward. I went in again to the same excuse, then finally, after growing tired of pestering and running out of time to apply for EI, I went in to the Employment Insurance offices. “Hello, here’s all the paperwork I have, I would have brought more, but my employers are withholding. Am I eligible?” The lady behind the counter was very sympathetic. She asked me some questions, had me fill out a form. Of course I was, she said, “it will be fine.” The Ministry would request my ROE for me and all would be well. Right? Wrong.

    The Ministry requested it only to be refused, so the quest for my ROE was turned over to the Canadian Revenue Agency, the Canadian equivalent of the IRS, and my claim was suspended while they investigated, leaving me again without any income. Once their decision was made, I was meant to receive a phone call and a copy of all the paperwork involved, including my missing ROE. That, however, is not how things went down. I never got a phone call from either the CRA or EI or any of my case papers in the mail. Instead the only thing I received was a bill of collections notice from EI stating that I owe them back every penny they paid me. Calling the office got me nowhere. All their operators could tell me is that my account was “under investigation, decision pending”, no matter that a decision had obviously been made, given the improbable, terrible bill in my hand. Calling the CRA proved equally useless. (“I can tell you nothing of the case in question, except that given your lack of income, you may defer the debt until August. The best news is that because this debt is in no way your fault, you do not have to pay interest.”) And yet I still don’t have an ROE. Or an income. And now I’m in far worse debt.

    Which brings me to this week. Given my precarious financial situation, where I’m not making enough to cover food and shelter, essentials in the bottom tier of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I’ve caved and signed up for the dole. From here on in, I’ll be receiving rent $75 a month from the government, as well as enrolling in JobWave, their outsourced employment program. It might not be enough to live on once the EI debt starts collecting off the top, but it’s the only option I seem to have left. I signed up yesterday, answering simple questions, sitting in a cubicle under a giant canvas printed poster of a pop art John Lennon, a copy of one of the Twilight books on the desk. The staff seemed nice, but even so the place seemed painfully stereotypical, a community center rec room, beaten chairs and cheap computers, walls tiled with brightly coloured print-outs and stacks of photocopies so degraded from endless duplication they could have been printed by a soot blower. Even the other clients, the word they use for us, seemed to be stamped out of some sad, run down machine, all first nations people with cheap red and faded blue tattoos, obviously poor and missing some teeth, or teenagers in death metal t-shirts and rebellious high top boots, their manifest frustration shimmering off tiny pentagram necklaces, too annoyed by living for life. I’m not sure what I expected, but somehow it seems that wasn’t it. I’m not sure yet how I fit in.

    All such details aside, however, it sounds like I’m being signed up for some good programs. The woman who processed me into the system gave me two packets of bus-tickets before I left to make sure I could get to my classes and an application form for a year long Vancouver Parks Leisure Access Card, which grants access to free swimming and half off the Community Fitness Centers, so I can try and fix my broken body a little more on my own and get back into better shape. Tomorrow I have a four hour course called Tools For Work, and then on Friday I have another one called Setting The Stage. Not sure what the second one is about yet, but I imagine it will be a sort of an education overview introduction course to the program. (Next week is a week long course called Job Club, from 9 am – 4 pm. There goes my mornings. Ouch.)

    Honestly, I was meant to start today, but my upcoming GED tests are crushing me with stress and I couldn’t bring myself to sleep a wink last night, so I called them this morning and moved it to Friday. Scary, sort of, because Friday is when my exams start, so now I have my JobWave course from 9am – 12 pm, my math test from 5:45 – 7:15 and then my science test from 7:30 pm – 8:50, but I’m hoping that filling up my day with employment issues will distract my despair, like waving a shiny string in front of a cat to keep it away from a wounded mouse.