Back on the Wrong Kind of Treadmill

If I’d found time to write this post a week ago, it would have been a bit different.

A week ago, I was disappointed and frustrated and scared.  I still am, really.

You see, for the last six months, I’ve been working at a job.  It was a temp job, with definite prospects of becoming permanent.  They needed to fill the position permanently, after all.  So I applied.  Why not me?  For the last six months I’ve worked hard and I’ve worked well – or so they told me.  More than one co-worker and superior expressed the hope that I would stay.  Some even actively campaigned for me.  I’d learned the procedures, the connections, where to find everything – I’d learned the job.  I’d passed that tipping point where the effort of training me had paid off in usefulness.

But last week, I learned that the company had decided to hire someone with more experience in the field.

That’s the problem with working at a truly huge company: people who could just say “you’re hired” elsewhere have limited input.  They’re just bigger gears in the machine, not the people pulling the levers.

I put on a brave face, but I was crushed.  Like I said: disappointed and frustrated and scared.  Not because I wanted that job so much, though it was no worse than most and better than many, and I’d come to like my co-workers quite a bit.

(And if the neighborhood sucked, at least the absence of decent eateries helped me stay on my diet.)

No, I was disappointed and frustrated and scared because I’m about ten years too old for this shit.

When I was fresh out of college, I worked a series of menial jobs to keep myself fed and sheltered.  It sucked, and I envied the lucky ones whose careers had already started, but most of my friends and classmates were going through the same thing.  I was still confident that I would find my Real Job soon enough.  A permanent job, with benefits, as was the birthright of any college graduate who wanted one.  Nine years ago, I thought I’d found that Real Job…but then 2008 happened.  Three years of temping later, I once again thought I’d found my Real Job, but was laid off again in little over a year.

It’s been almost two years of temping since then.  I’ve officially spent more of my working life as a temp than a “real” employee, and I’m starting to wonder if a Real Job exists.  Since the Crash, I’ve watched the number of Real Jobs steadily decrease, to be replaced by a disposable underclass of permatemps, and I’m terrified of joining that underclass.

If I’d written this post last week, my emotion wouldn’t be terror but despair.  After six months of proving myself an able co-worker and earning the esteem of my peers, I was still out the door (give or take a few weeks to train my replacement) in favor of someone who was better on paper.  Surely I was consigned to the underclass already.

But yesterday I went to not one interview, but two.  One at an agency, one at an actual employer, both for Real Jobs.  Both seem promising…but then, so have others before, and nothing was ever heard from them again.  I don’t quite dare to let myself hope.

I know I’m one of the lucky ones.  Objectively, I really am.  But when the end that seemed to be in sight has proven to be a mirage, and you’re back to the old familiar cycle, and you’re slowly coming to the horrifying conclusion that there may be no end, and you’re just so tired…it’s hard to count your blessings.

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2 Comments

Filed under My Life

2 responses to “Back on the Wrong Kind of Treadmill

  1. Good luck, and I hear you.
    Even when I have a ‘real job’, it is not a real job. I always have an end date, even if there is the possibility of renewal. A few years ago I passed on an ‘Epically Bad’ 401k (the one and only I’ve ever had access to) because I thought I’d have a better one in the future. That was probably naive of me to think.
    We are moving to a ‘gig economy’ and it’s pretty thoroughly terrible.

    • Thanks. It is terrible, and I don’t think it’s sustainable, but the people responsible will be the last ones to get hurt when it fails.

      As for being naive, well…naive is relative. Until recently, we had every reason to expect better.

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