Friday, July 1, 2016

Of Providence and Sparrows

It has been a week since my job veered away from me. There is a long weekend before I can become an official adjunct at the same place. It all feels like a century has whirled by since the time I was a full time employee, safe beneath a spreading shade of that status. I have been still, stunned, but the world around me has been spinning at twice its speed, and yet, I have perceived it like never before; that amazement is the reason why this week feels like a hundred years have passed.

Hemingway claims that courage is grace under pressure. I love imagining scenarios, and before last week, I had always imagined that I would be collected, graceful, and dignified, should a lay-off ever happen to me. This imagined self was more like a penny-dreadful heroine than a normal person. I would make cosmic, grand gestures and exit so that no one ever forgets and I'd leave behind a world that is more grey. However, no such thing happened when I was actually laid off. I don't remember much of it, mainly the disbelief, punctuated with spasms of devastation and panic. And I am going back next week, which makes me a little more nervous than I'd like to admit.

And then there was the desperate scrounging. I know that logically, I should have taken this week off, gone hiking, found a lake to build a cabin by, examined my place in the larger universe. I did no such thing; instead, I raced down cyber highways in search of a perfect place to apply for a job. I explored e-alleyways and e-market-squares alike, as though I were one of those Pac-Man mouth-figures of ancient video games, hungry for every imagined and real position, casting a ravenous eye on every ad that popped up, wondering at the full-time jobs that had birthed it. I wanted to strew the best pieces of myself all over the world, so that a job, just casually passing by, might notice something shiny and pick it, me up. I'd fallen off a carousel; it seemed unfair that I could still hear its music and watch the riders laugh.

I had many well-wishers at this time. People had many bits of advice: I should move to California, to Florence, to London (I can't! I live with cats!); I should completely reinvent myself and use my retirement nest egg to begin a business of my own (I can't! What if I run it to the ground?); and my favorite, I should write a best-seller, a la J. K. Rowling! The last one affected me enough to send me scuttling down the internet and I wasted a whole half hour Googling literary agents before giving myself a stern talking to, to get-a-grip-for-gods'-sake!

Finally, there is this incomprehension, this inability to do or grasp . Everywhere I e-went, I could see busy, busy words fluttering, about the best business practices, the latest skills and where to get them, how innovative motivation defeated the status quo,  what people felt about their full-time jobs, what these full-time jobs felt about the people working them, erudite reaction pieces to current events, everywhere, employers, employees and jobs, trending, tweeting. I often felt dizzy and cold as my fingers, helpless in their feverish scrolling scrambled around, trying to find a perch. It is no wonder that things that flit and flutter are not granted the quiet of long lives.

A lot of people have told me that this lay-off could be a blessing in disguise. If it is, it is well-disguised. I grant that it might be my myopia, but I can discern no special Providence in this flight of sparrows.

If I were writing a short story around what is happening to me, it'd be a caricature, and had I the skill, I'd illustrate it with single-dimensional stick figures, like paper dolls, blank on the back. Unfortunately, the desperation and rejection are all too real. I do see genuine sympathy and concern in the eyes of my family and friends, but like the rest of humanity, I would prefer to see admiration and envy instead.

Of course, I know that this season of my discontent will pass, like the monsoon. However, before it does, I seek the solace of the written word, to validate this spell I am living through. I take heart and think of the fairy tale of Brier Rose, or Sleeping Beauty: the stew remains unseasoned, the chicken un-plucked, the flies un-swatted for a hundred years as the princess sleeps; however, she does awake, and with a slap, a cluck, a splash, life returns.

This post goes out in hopes that this bleak century may be dreamed away, and that thorns and briers remember to bloom into flowers. After all, I must believe what I preach: life is exactly like a fairy tale!

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