This is it

I am no longer a productive member of society.  I’ve always been on the fringes as it was.   Friday was the last day of only the third permanent job I’ve held in 17 years.  A good friend once described me as a drag on the economy, educated (though not overly)  and underemployed.

I’ve lived mainly as a temp most of that time, refusing to take full time positions even when offered out of a stubborn idea of maintaining a sense of freedom.I still went to work every day just like everyone else, but I could leave anytime I wished.   I wasn’t stuck to two weeks of vacation per year.  And for awhile,  it worked.   For several years running,  I never worked more than nine months out of the year.  I lived cheaply,  I traveled,  I moved cities, traveled and moved cities again.  It was the late 90s and it seemed then that if you had a degree and wanted to work,  you could find work.  Companies were happy to have a responsible college educated person come in for short term stuff.  My main job skill may have been that they knew I’d show up every day.  I really thought I could go on doing this indefinitely.  I didn’t think about being a 39-year-old temp someday. Something would work out because it would.   I’d be published and make money that way.  I’d write about travel.   Then the economy changed and I picked the wrong city at the wrong time, and ran through my savings.   I have no special skills so when the market flooded with office drones my value dropped.   I retreated to Chicago,  I met S.  One day my roommate asked me why I temp’d and I gave him my standard answer about it offering freedom to travel, and he asked me then why didn’t I ever seem to travel? I didn’t have an answer. I probably barely used even the two weeks vacation a full-time job would have offered.

S and I moved to San Francisco and I temp’d my way through. I was content. I was where I wanted to live.  I took more time off, trips with S and backpacking in the Sierra Nevada.  I still had no plan for the future,  but at least I was doing something.

But temps don’t get promotions, so to paraphrase a movie, I watched as I kept getting older and my coworkers stayed the same age.

I started to put together a plan,  and was making some progress when S’s company went bankrupt,  and we ended up in Manhattan.

I temp’d at a place that eventually offered me a full-time position, and this time I took it.  I saw the sense in paid vacation and benefits, at least for the time being, until we moved back to San Francisco.  The pay was ok,  I liked my coworkers,  and I could walk there. I could take unpaid vacation and longer trips.  Four and a half years I went in Monday to Friday.  It was unchallenging and it was nice going to the same place, knowing what I was doing, instead of learning a new job and new people every week or even few days. Sometimes I felt uneasy. I used to be comfortable with change; moving around, getting myself from place to place, financial uncertainty.  I worried I was losing or had already lost the ability to adapt on the fly.

I hadn’t done a big trip for a decade, so that kind of travel had long ceased to be my reality and was only an idea of what I imagined I wanted my life to be, what it had been. I was like a high school sports star forever replaying the big game in my head.

I got uncomfortable with being comfortable. That’s the best reason I can come up with for why I’m doing this. I don’t think it’s about finding myself or seeing things even.  It’s about making myself uncomfortable.  I wonder if I’m still a competent person or has unchallenging work and an easeful life left me incompetent, unadaptable. I wonder if I can still do things. I’m afraid to do this and I’m afraid not to.  I’m terrified.

I get that it’s a privilege that not everyone can have,  this choosing to make oneself uncomfortable. I’m lucky.

I’m not leaving myself an out, rapidly ripping myself out of my comfort, getting in a tube that is  dropping me thousands of miles away in a strange place,  then no choice but to make my way back watching those same  thousands of miles pass slowly,  gradually until I’m home again. Travel as an act, a commitment,  something to be done. An adaption.

Jack Kerouac wrote near the beginning of Big Sur “One fast move or I’m gone.”

So I’m moving.

One thought on “This is it”

  1. Hi Jimmy, it’s Aunty Patte checking in and letting you know that i’ll be checking on your blog every so often . I,m going on my girls get away vacation to Va. in 10 days but will catch up when I get back. So far your adventure seems quite interesting . Stay safe and may God watch over you. Vaya con Dios my wonderful nephew! Love, Aunty Patte

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