22 months to the day. That’s how long it took.
1 year, 9 months. 15,336 hours. 920,160 minutes. 55,209,600 seconds.
A long freakin’ time. And it felt like it, too.
During that time I went through countless minor depressions, a couple of big ones, constant worry, sleepless nights, a diabetes diagnosis, hundreds of disappointing job-related emails, two kegs of beer, about a bottle and a half of 18 year old scotch and bought a dog.
On October 1st, the first day of the twenty-second month of uninterrupted unemployment and about 43 days after I applied, I got hired. It was also the first day of the government shutdown, so imagine my surprise when I got a call from a government employee telling me that I had been tentatively selected for a government job. (Turns out that the agency for which I will be working is funded differently and wasn’t affected by the shutdown. Who knew?)
I tried to remain calm when I got the call and answer the person’s questions accurately without sounding as though I was about to explode, even though I was. “Yes. My full name is Daniel James Wolfe. Yes. No. Yes. Yes, I accept the offer. I’m on my way to Ohio. Do I need to turn around and come back? No? Ok, then. Yes. I’ll expect your email and respond right away. Of course. Thank you so much! I look forward to being part of the team.”
Well, I’ll be damned.
Then I got back on the road continuing my trip home to Ohio trying to concentrate on the road but so horribly/wonderfully distracted by the news that I could think of nothing else. I really think I was in shock. No exaggeration. I didn’t believe it.
Before too long, I decided that I was so distracted and probably a road hazard, in my case an unguided 70-mile-per-hour Prius Missile. (Kind of like a Tomahawk Cruise Missile, but WAY more eco friendly.)
I was hungry anyway, so I pulled off and stumbled across a buffet restaurant next to a reasonably priced (read cheap) Holiday Inn Express. I had an early dinner and then decided I wasn’t getting back on the road so I checked in to a hotel room with a Jacuzzi tub and decided to treat myself to a nice long bubbly soak and an early bedtime.
First thing upon entering the room was to boot the MacBook Pro and get connected. Worst hotel Wi-Fi EVER! They should have gotten a nastygram from me, but hey, I just got a job! I didn’t care.
I set my computer up and my first thought after the Jacuzzi tub loosened my muscles and my upper bicuspids was “Time to do job applications.” As they say, old habits die hard.
Ha! Not tonight, bitches!
But of course, the “what if’s” got me and all I could think about was “What if this falls through? I’d better keep up my routine just in case. I mean, it ain’t real until the first paycheck arrives.
New e-mail notification. It’s from the aforementioned government worker (A VERY professional and pleasant woman, by the way, lest you think I’m disparaging a faceless, nameless person. I’m just respecting her privacy.) It’s the “official” tentative selection notification with a form to fill out and return.
Ok, now this felt a little more official and a little more real. After all, I now had something in black and white that confirmed the earlier phone call. I reviewed the form and returned it as fast as I could, not worrying about appearing too eager even though I was. (In my haste, I discovered a day later that I had made an error and had to send in a corrected form. Honesty is the best policy and all that, right?)
Another email from my new best friend, the nice government employee saying that she’d received the email and the completed form and that the security manager would be in touch.
I slept like the dead that night.
I woke up the next morning with the usual sad sigh that I had been sighing for the previous 639 days. It took a few groggy minutes, but I eventually realized that I didn’t have to do that any more – at least tentatively. I got up, showered, took advantage of the free and relatively flavorless breakfast in the lobby of the hotel and proceeded toward Ohio where I subsequently arrived and began writing this note.
Trying to keep the faith over 638 days of being told “no” is a difficult task. Perhaps my years of auditioning as an actor in Hollywood and being rejected literally hundreds of times helped to handle the sheer volume of job rejection notices I’ve received. I think that’s part of it. But much of it came from the support of family, friends and others who kept telling me it was just a matter of time. They all helped me to keep the faith and to keep plugging away at it.
I also was required to take two job search seminars from the Virginia Department of Employment Services. What I expected to be a bureaucratic bunch of bull turned out to be extremely valuable and marked the turning point in bettering my chances of success. One other big lesson from all this: Bureaucracies aren’t all bad and sometimes the people who work in big bureaucracies DO care. I offer a big thank you to the people at the Alexandria office and to one of their instructors in particular. I wish I had her name handy, but unfortunately I don’t. Her advice was invaluable in turning things around for me.
One person, though, was most directly affected by all of this and I want to be specific and thank my son, Andy. Andy had his appendix out a few weeks back, and as I was traveling up to Alaska to visit him during his recovery, I got the call for the job interview for this job about which I’m writing. I rescheduled my return trip to accommodate the interview (at considerable expense) but that meant I still had to create a 5-7 minute presentation for the interview. I had to do that while I was in Alaska and away from all of my archives on CD. Preparing that presentation took a substantial amount of time away from Andy and he was kind enough and understanding enough to say “Call me when you’re done with your presentation and we’ll get together then.” He was very gracious in giving me ample time to square it away.
And to Beth Geyer, my significant other, who waded through all my old archive data CD’s, put them one by one in a computer in Virginia and waited patiently so that I could download from Alaska all the stuff I needed for the presentation. You also share in the success of the presentation and in the positive outcome of the interview.
And to my former employer and friend Ron Newlan, who was gracious enough to give me a great recommendation when contacted for a reference by the selecting authority. Couldn’t have done it without you!
To both Beth and Andy, thank you! I love you both and would not be writing this without you.
To all of you I leaned on for support, thank you!
So hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go – at least tentatively. But it’s looking good.
Day 640 is no longer day 640. It’s day one.
1. This is a Wallaby Darned: