Friday, December 25, 2015

Back in the saddle again

There's this scene from M*A*S*H where Frank Burns, after not seeing Margaret Houlihan for some time, thinks he's going to see her and puts on cologne while clucking to the tune of 'Back in the saddle again.' "Buck buck, buck buck buck, buck buck."

I kinda feel that way at the moment, not from a romantic perspective, but from a formerly homeless, formerly paying outrageous amounts to live in a motel, to a finding a place to live and having things go in a positive manner for the first time in ages, since the end of August 2015.

I have not only found a place to live with a co-worker in Jacksonville, but he has a car he wants to sell me. That car is far from perfect, but if I can get it running, it may be a lifesaver.

Also, for the first time since the end of August, I'm posting long overdue videos made in July and August, and made my first Warcraft video since then, because I now have access to my desktop computer that I built (and recorded building) back in July.

I'm far from settled, still physically exhausted and mentally questionable to a certain degree, but I think the tide has turned.

At any rate, things are looking up, and on Christmas day no less. I guess Christmas miracles do happen.

Hope your holiday is as hopeful as mine!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Bright Side - Part 2

I've seen it coming since before Thanksgiving. A not so gentle, yet not very detailed hint from my supervisor that not all is well. It had nothing to do with me personally. It was a business decision because Boston costs too much in salary.

The hint was: Would I be willing to move back to Raleigh if the opportunity came? I was puzzled for the first minute after that question, then I was asked if I understood the implications. Then it dawned on me.

I couldn't grasp it at first because when I took the job I was told there was a 3-year contract. I would be secure in Boston at least that long.

While I hesitate to call it a lie, something obviously happened to change minds. Here's what I think happened: The whole idea for having people in Boston taking calls, rather than being in a call center somewhere else was to have people ready to move to the second level of support. That seemed to work at first, as one of our own moved to level 2. I applied for the same position, but I knew the other guy had a few things over me (experience was not one of them). I was patient. See my patience blog for more on that.

Then another opening came and I applied. I found that the job description had changed so that it explicitly said call center experience did not apply to the requirements. I knew then that I might never get that level 2 job, yet I applied a couple of times after that. I never did get the position.

Which leads me to my theory: Since none of the last few Level 2 people has come from the Boston crew - the B team as we were called - I suspect that was used as an excuse to stop the 'waste' of resources paying people to take calls there.

The end result was that the jobs will cease in Boston effective next week.

I did call this blog the Bright Side. And there was a bright side for me, But for every bright side, there's a dark. I'm losing co-workers I'm naming as friends. They helped me out financially when I needed it, and suggested places to live when I was looking so hard.

The timing also is poor. It's almost Christmas. I've been laid off/fired before at this time of year. It sucks. I can't emphasize that enough.

There's another less than bright side for me: I'm being forced to leave my daughter behind - again. I'd just been getting used to seeing her on a regular basis. I enjoyed that. I gave serious consideration to declining the offer to transfer just because of her.

But two things are in the way: First, I'm still technically homeless. Losing income will drive me back nto the shelter as winter begins. I can't really call that a bad thing, but it makes things horribly difficult, and they're already difficult as it is. I explored the possibility of getting work here, and found most of the work is contract, 3-6 months at best, and paying less than I had been making. And finding that work would be difficult in the shelter as I'd have nowhere to put my meager belongings. Even if I bought a suit, where would I put it day-to-day? I'd have to rent a storage facility, yadda yadda.

In the end, it was too difficult a challenge from someone so tired of the struggle. I thought about their offer for 2 hours after I got it, and made the decision.

I'm moving to Jacksonville Florida. I'm making $10,000/year less. I'm getting a small amount to move. It's less than I asked for. I don't really have a choice.

But it's cheaper to live in Jacksonville, and I should be able to find a decent one-bedroom apartment for what I'll be making. That's better than I could do in Boston.

And that is the silver lining. The bright side is I'll find a place to live. That's the bottom line for me.

But I do not forgive for this, and I'll never forget.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

You Say Be Patient - But I Do Not Think You Know What It Means

I have lived 54 years and 358 days. That's since I came out of the womb, so I 'lived' 9 months more than that. Well, depending on your point of view, I, as a soul within my body, probably lived a little less. But I digress, possibly a subject for a future blog.

In my 54+ years, I believe I have been extraordinarily patient. Oh sure, as a small child I probably pulled a few tantrums if I didn't get my way. But once I got used to that idea that not everything would go my way, I settled in and waited. I remember asking my sister to play with me, and she said 'in a minute.' Time didn't mean much to me at that age, but the bottom line was: if I wanted to play, I had to wait. I don't remember if she actually played with me, but given my record over the years, probably not. Most likely something else happened that took my mind away from playing, or, my imagination kicked in and I played with myself - not in a dirty way. Shame on you.

I have, what I believe is an uncanny ability to withdraw. My mother used to call say 'Don't go Walter Mitty on me' or something to that effect. I actually liked that movie - the original, not the remake. I could relate to Walter. When things got dull or I had to wait for something, I withdrew into my own little world. Literally. What bugs me about that is why I didn't write things down from the beginning. Maybe the thoughts were too private. Maybe I thought others would kid me about it. Yeah, that's probably it. I've always had a keen sense of what others thought of me.

But the point is, I'm patient. That's something that's being tried at the moment, so I wanted to dip into exactly what I've been patient about over the years.

The old saying 'Good things come to those that wait' has hit me at times, missed a lot more. When it came to girls I could never make the first move, and that's true even today. Even when I did get a date, something usually did or didn't happen to keep the romance flowing. A lot of that was lack of experience. A lot of that was that it takes time to get to know me, and it always seemed like I waited too long to open up, or something happened to tear us apart, like the girl moving away, or me moving away.

Let's put it this way: I admired girls from afar. It might have been creepy from a certain standpoint, but it was just me being me. I offer no ill will toward anyone - with the exception of bullies. I'll admit I got into fights as a kid because I saw or was dealt injustice and I bottled it up until I exploded. I can honestly say no one was seriously harmed in my fights, and I often got the worst of it: Glasses thrown off, a sweater ripped, etc.

But the simple fact was: I was too shy for my own good. That goes beyond being introverted.

I did have one meaningful relationship in my life, in college. She came to me. It produced a daughter. I won't go into details, but the relationship ended. The breakup sorely tested my patience. I couldn't finish my Bachelor's Degree because of the loss of that relationship. It had too profound an affect on me.

So without more than an Associate's degree, I spent years wandering. I went from job to job, from place to place, leaving a job when it was the right time for me, then getting a different job.

I have been a contract programmer for a small company, a file clerk for an insurance company, a slot technician in Las Vegas (after taking an electronics course at a small 'college'), a store clerk in Springfield Mass., a computer operator for a couple of different firms, a salesperson for Radio Shack, an usher for the Colorado Rockies, Broncos, Nuggets and Avalanche, a data entry operator for a Ma Bell company, a COBOL programmer for the same company, all in the space of 15 years.

The list goes on, but the point is I was trying to find what I was good at that I enjoyed. At the same time I was observing different cultures, right here in the Good Ol' USA. I was noticing changes in accents, mannerisms that varied from region to region and how people dressed and generally acted around each other.

I didn't know I was a writer until 1996, when a story came to me so strongly that I felt the need to put pen to paper for the first time. Maybe I'd been preparing myself all those years. I don't know. They say artists have to suffer for their work. What if you don't know you're an artist? I thought I was just a poor loner who was doomed to wander for the rest of his life.

Don't get me wrong. I'm good at a lot of things. Even though I hate anything having to do with phones, I have a pleasant speaking voice and demeanor. So customer service and now technical support were my calling after 2000.

And, of course, computers themselves call out to me. I'm an introverted nerd/geek who can sit for hours in front of a computer, either playing games or typing in general. I've built several of my own computer systems, even thought about going into business custom-building computers - called 'Foxbuilt Computers.' Like all of my other endeavors, it never materialized, but that has never stopped ideas from coming into my head.

Which leads us back to being patient. In all the different jobs I've done, all the different people I've met, I have yet to feel like I've accomplished my given task.

Of course the problem there is I don't know what the given task is. I've written about this before, and it's a major principle of 'Regrets,' and of the song I wrote, aptly named: 'The Job's Not Done.' My song 'Free' speaks of a restless soul, trying to break free.

Yet here I am, sitting in front of my computer, typing this blog, seemingly no closer to my unstated goals than ever.

And here then, is the story of my life: I have been waiting, patiently for the thing I'm supposed to accomplish to happen.

You might say: "But Michael, that's your problem all along. You're not ambitious enough or straightforward enough do be much good to anyone."

To which I might say: "To thine own self be true." I may not be an ambitious money-grubber, willing to walk over anyone in my path. Let's take the 'may' out of that. That's not who I am. I've had the feeling that I've trodden this path before, lived another life before, and I'm willing to bet that I waited for something then too, because the job I'm tasked to do is likely one that will take more than one lifetime.

So if you call yourself patient because you waited in a line for a half-hour, please bear me in mind, who has been patient for lifetimes.