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Thursday, September 23, 2004
This post positively reeks of sincerity
OK, it's diatribe time.
Some people have mid-life crisis once in their lives. I'm on my twenty-seventh. Four of those occurred in one day in 2002. This latest was spurred by a trip to the dentist. Consider the following conversation:
DENTIST: "So are you going to school?"
ME: "That's what I want to be doing. I'm still working at ______."
DENTIST: "Oh, well, but you probably have a lot of friends in the same boat."
ME (thinking): "Well, two of them are in law school. Another turned down Harvard for the University of Michigan. Several other people I know are working as political journalists and attended the Republican National Convention. Someone I went to school with spent a year dodging suicide bombers in the Middle East and now works for the New York Times. These days he uses his press credentials to sneak into SNL wrap parties."
ME (what I actually said): "Umm, yeah. Sure."
I graduated from college in 2001 and have been bumbling around the real world ever since. I've submitted applications for countless internships in the media, I tried to join the Peace Core in 2002, I spent a month recklessly pursuing work as an English teacher overseas, I worked as a hotel clerk in Yellowstone for six weeks and even applied for a job at internet porn company in Tigard. I've tried my hand at many ridiculous but inevitably rewarding career paths and I've either been turned down for or have bungled every single one. In a cabinet I have a growing collection of about 75 rejection letters but I've been turned down for the well over 400 jobs I've applied for since August of 2001.
Yeah, so what? The economy has been fledgling, especially in Portland, since the turn of the century and there are countless people out there in situations that make my own seem like the ultimate American dream success story. My job pays well enough, I can afford to purchase my weight in Indiana Jones collectible glasses and take the occasional trip overseas. So what's the problem?
I'm two years into a career in a call center. Enough said?
My average work day is ten-hours long and consists of me contending with bored senior citizens and Welfare cheats eager to use me as a scratching post for their frustrations. They call me names and gripe endlessly about my company along with
everything from the rising cost of prescription drugs to the high-pitched voice of the current announcer on the Price is Right ("he sounds like a girl, a girl!"). I deal with things that make just about anyone wince before laughing hysterically at the absurdity. Annually, I receive a pay raise of around 30 cents. My job is a joke. Unfortunately, it's not a very funny one...at least for me it isn't and now it's starting too look like I'm going to be stuck here for life.
Most people would rank working in a call center between "janitor at a dog track" and "retail clerk at Baby Gap". No one wants to work in a place like this, no matter how adequately it pays. If you actually got a look at what I may an hour you'd probably lower it several rungs from "adequate" to "pathetic." I'd rather do something I enjoy and get paid next to nothing for it than continue talking on the phone to sociopaths. This isn't what I wasted four years and $20K of my own money to achieve. Worse yet, with each passing day my options are becoming increasingly more limited.
If I stay in my current position indefinitely, I'll never be able to afford my own home, purchase a computer that doesn't take 15 minutes to start-up or replace my vehicle, parts of which is currently being held together with electrical tape. This would all be a much easier pill to swallow if everyone around me weren't beating the odds and steadily working their towards doing what they love and making a decent salary doing it.
So what does this have to do with this blog? Well, it's days may be short. It may not look like it but I'm currently investing a positively stupid amount of time each week into this thing, both at work and at home. These blurbs about national politics and reviews of Beastie Boys concerts take a good deal of time to write and no one even reads them. This could be time better spent looking for another job, trying to find a way to con my way back into college or clawing my way off the phones and up the corporate ladder. Goofing around on blogger.com isn't going to earn me a promotion anytime soon. If I'm destined to a career working in a place I despise, wouldn't my free time be better spent drinking heavily or going into a videogame coma every night instead of slaving over 4,000-word articles about Nike fun-runs?
Somewhere along the line this thing changed from a way to kill time at work to something 10-25% serious. I became convinced that Welcome to Blog might work as business card that could land me a job somewhere, anywhere in the media. Surely someone out there would notice the 500+ original photos on this site, my feeble attempts at writing leisure articles and offer me a gig of some sort. After all, it's worked for others. The Willamette Week review in July only cemented this naive assumption.
In August I received a series of incredibly painful rejection letters and, given my style of writing, I deserved them. It's pretty obvious, at this point, that I'll never be paid to scribble, take pictures, talk on the radio or even take calls for personal ads. Conventional tactics like applying for internships, beating paths and submitting story ideas hasn't worked and neither has this route. I can't even land a volunteer time slot on KPSU.
Blogs aren't a dime a dozen, they're not even a peso a dozen. There are even dogs out there with them and most of those dogs are better at this than I am. Now that b!x, the author of the Portland Communique, is two short months away from hanging up his hat, it's finally beginning to dawn on me that trying to use blogging as a stepping stone to a career in the media is a complete waste of time. If he can't pay his bills with his devotion to serious journalism and regional politics, I don't stand a chance with my stories overloaded with first-person narrative and anecdotal digressions. Whatever it takes to make it in this business, I don't have it (it's a combination of talent, experience, networking and an understanding of how the industry works, right?)
Long-shot daydreams aside, this isn't the only reason why I do this. It's a happy little labor or love and I enjoy sharing ridiculous stories from around town and pictures of overseas condom shops (why can't I score the job I want? Hmmm...).
If Welcome to Blog's days are numbered, it'll make to it to at least the first day of 2005. I've got about a dozen feature-length stories in the pipeline that I'm not about to let fester on my hard drive. It would be a shame to come this far and not devote a 2000-word article to Seattle's futuristic public toilets, or another to the panda robots at the Tokyo Tower.
This isn't the end but it's not even the beginning of the end but it's starting to smell like the beginning of the end.
Now, if you got through all of that, you deserve a prize. Here's a link to a picture of rubber duckies dressed like pirates.