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August 26, 2002
Roots and Plans and Commitments: Oh My
According to one statistic I've seen online, in today's job market it will take, on average, seven to eight months to find a new job. Unless you have a really cheap hobby that utterly fascinates you, that's a long time.
The waiting and hoping is turning out to be a secondary concern in my ongoing search for gainful employment. Yes, having possibilities dangle in front of me only to be dashed is disheartening, and has put me in a foul mood more than once. It's hard not to become excited at new job opportunities, even if you only get as far as sending your résumé in. I'm particularly bad for anticipation, and have been known to check out real estate prices for cities that I haven't even so much as received a phone call from yet. It's a dangerous thing to do, as you subject yourself to an emotional roller coaster ride over and over again, but without hope, where's the motivation to do anything?
The biggest drawback my wife and I have found thus far is our inability to make plans. I'm not saying that we lack the ability to sit down and say "We will do this activity on this day," and mark it on a calendar somewhere. That I could probably deal with. No, our problem is much more insidious than that.
One example would be planning this upcoming Christmas. We have extended family on both our sides and having the newest addition, we're in high demand for holiday visiting. Grandparents want to get their fix, great-grandparents want their time too, and of course aunts and uncles and cousins-once-removed and great aunts and great uncles get involved too. Don't get me wrong, I love having a close-knit family, but sometimes planning three or four visits inside a very busy two-week window can cause me to want a bit more rum in my eggnog, if you know what I mean.
As with other such mammoth logistical undertakings, it requires advanced planning. Sadly, this means we talk about where we're going to be for Christmas starting in August, and getting into nitty-gritty details by October. It can be taxing. However, this year there are no less than two crucial assumptions that we can no longer work with that complicate things to no end. First, is vacation time.
Vacation time is something us North American workers don't get a lot of, unless we've put in 10 or 20 years with one employer. That's becoming more and more a rarity, but that's another article. My problem isn't that I don't have lots of vacation time, but no employer to give it to me. I could be employed anytime between now and eternity. Additionally, the employer I end up under may either be quite generous with vacation time (as was one previous employer) or they could be stingy bastards and dole it out in thin smatterings (as with one more recent employer). The long and short of it is that I don't know if I'll be employed at Christmas, and if I am, how much time I'll have off over and above the statutory holidays.
That problem is a drop in the bucket compared to this next one. Simply put, I have absolutely no idea where I'll be living next month, let alone at Christmas. During the first few months of my job search I optimistically searched for jobs almost exclusively locally, thinking that there is no good reason to look somewhere that would force us to move. Once that naïve dream was shattered, the assumption that we'd still be in this house a few years down the road evaporated. You can see how that could interfere with making plans, right?
My wife is having the hardest time with this particular facet of our situation. She has just started getting involved with our church, working on a supply basis for a couple local businesses, and volunteering with another local organization. We are also involved with a local parenting group in a neighbouring community, and hoping to start another locally. In addition to having our friends close and families relatively nearby (pun not intended), we're now developing substantial roots in this community. If we are to see those roots grow at all, we have to make plans and commitments that could take us as far as a year down the road. It's foreseeable, however, that in another month or less I could have a new position in any town or city across Canada, and possibly even in the United States. What on earth are we supposed to do?
I think my wife is taking the right approach. For a while we were both waffling and trying to commit to as little as possible that hinges on us being where we are. That was a considerable mental strain, so we're trying to go about life as usual, assuming that we're here and going to stay here. This has allowed us to at least go on with living our lives, although with each new commitment there's always the fine print, "My husband is between jobs right now and we are looking in other cities..."
It's even starting to pervade our home life. If you have kids, or young relatives, you know that toddlers are named fairly aptly. They toddle everywhere and anywhere, and sometimes at not inconsiderable speeds. My daughter is like that, especially when we're in the backyard. The laneway between our house and our neighbour's is filled with gravel, which she has an endless supply of curiosity for. Then there's the cedar hedge behind us, the multitudes of small trees just at her height in just about every yard, and of course the few dogs that the neighbours have. With so many backyards adjoining and no fencing on any of them yet, it's a recipe for a parent hunched over quickly following a small energetic person racing off to see whatever it is that just caught their eye in any yard but their own. In other words, we want a fence.
No problem, install a fence, right? Well... maybe. We figured that we could put up with not having a fence for a while until we knew where we'd be. If we were going to stay, a fence could be built. If we were looking for a new home in a different community, we could either look for something pre-fenced or have one installed before we even move. Either way, we didn't want to commit the time, money, and labour of building a fence for someone we didn't know.
That was a few months ago, and after numerous repetitions of chase-the-toddler, we're getting sick of it. Now we're finally thinking of just going ahead and just installing something. If we're here to enjoy it, so much the better. If not, we'll simply add materials plus labour on to the asking price of the house, add "fully fenced yard" to the description, and be done with it. So why am I complaining? It took us months to get to this point - I could have had a fence installed and have avoided many wayward dog turds and AWOL toddlers to boot. You read it here first, folks - I'm blaming neighbouring dogs defecating on my lawn on my unemployment.
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