Day 100: Did I Learn Anything?

It is reductive to sum up a complex experience with a tidy list of ten lessons learned.  Whatever.  I’m doing it anyway.  Here’s what I learned about looking for a job, or, at least, what I think I learned.

  1.  It is not fair.  On DAY 25 I wasn’t even offered an interview for a little part-time job.  I was extremely well-qualified for the position, so that did not seem fair to me.  On DAY 29 I read about how it is easier for men to come by professional success than it is for women.  That, too, seems very unfair.  But on DAY 88 I was struck by the fact that things would have been even harder for me had I been black.  So, yes, looking for a job is unfair, but there is usually someone else who has things worse than you do.
  2. It is hard.  Sometimes you feel frustrated because you apply for a position that has already been filled, as I discovered on DAY 10.  Sometimes you feel embarrassed because you don’t want to tell people you aren’t working, which is what happened to me on DAY 20.  On DAY 33 I was miserable because one of the places that said they wanted to interview me was taking forever to get back to me with an interview date.  But then DAY 34 rolled around, they got back to me, and I watched a movie about French cooking and learned that “adversity is the spice of life.”  Speaking of delicious food and Europe, the Swedes break up the difficulty of their workday with a midmorning coffee and pastry.  As I learned on DAY 6, this is a great strategy for job-seekers as well.
  3. It is unpredictable.  The biggest surprise of my job hunt came on DAY 55 when I received an offer for the position that I had previously been rejected from.  I still can’t believe it happened, because it was the last thing I ever saw coming.  This wasn’t the only surprise, though, since I was also pretty surprised on DAY 26 when, after not getting any requests for interviews for 25 days straight, I suddenly received two in one morning.
  4. You need persistence.  One of the truisms I clung to throughout this project is something I learned on DAY 16: you cannot control the outcome of your actions, but you can control your actions.  You cannot control whether or not someone hires you, but you can control the number of jobs you apply for.  So persist in applying.  Persistence applies to other challenges too, as I noted on DAY 95.  For awhile this spring I had a very painful foot injury, but recently all my icing and stretching has paid off, and it is feeling much better.
  5. You need to know your own power.  Being unemployed can make you feel powerless, but it is important to know your own power because that will make you behave in a more proactive manner.  I learned this on DAY 24.  The point was reinforced to me on DAY 27 when I read about how posture (specifically a more upright, confident, powerful posture) can affect the way you talk about yourself in a job interview.  Don’t let feeling crappy about yourself change the way you present yourself to the world.
  6. You need to say “no” sometimes.  Some workplaces are not that great.  It could be because they are unprofessional or don’t pay well, a situation I came across on Day 42 and DAY 43.  It could also just be that the job isn’t right for you right now, which is how I felt about the job I interviewed for on DAY 28.
  7. You need to apply for the jobs you want.  On DAY 44 I applied for a job that I thought was totally out of my league.  Then, to my great surprise, I heard back from those people on DAY 69, and they wanted to interview me.  By then I had accepted another job, but the lesson is still the same.  If you want a job, apply for it, even if you think you aren’t good enough.
  8. Unemployment can be a period of personal growth.  This lesson was pointed out to me by another blogger, Aimless Panther, on DAY 41.  It’s easy to think that being unemployed means you aren’t moving forward with life, but that isn’t necessarily the case.  I was able to do some interesting things while unemployed, like study ceramics, as I did from DAY 60 to DAY  77.  I’m stating the obvious here, but you can’t do twelve hours of ceramics on a weekday when you have a regular job.  Take advantage of your free time when you are unemployed.
  9. People will help you.  So, so, so many people helped me.  I don’t even know where to start on this one.  The recruiting firm I discovered on DAY 7 was a great aid to me, as were all the people who endorsed me. On days when I was nervous or things looked bleak, like DAY 21, you guys, my readers, swooped in with supportive words.   When I was getting ready to move, some of you, like wanderlust809, gave me fantastic advice about moving.  Mr. Rogers would be really proud.
  10. Always say “thank you.”  Writing friendly little thank you notes after interviews is both mannerly and a way to impress your interviewers, as I wrote about on DAY 47.  Perhaps more importantly, saying thank you is also a great way to remind yourself of all the ways people are helping and of all the things you have to be grateful for.  That’s why, after I received a job offer, on DAY 58 this 100-day project became a gratitude project.

On that note, I’d like to offer my final THANK YOU to the readers of this blog.  You guys are the best.  Thank you for encouraging me, celebrating with me, giving me advice, and generally hearing me out.  These little internet communities are strange things, but even though I don’t know most of you in real life, you have nevertheless made a difference in my real life.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.



Day 99: Albatross

I used to wonder where the phrase “albatross around my neck” came from.  I knew the meaning of the phrase (to carry a shameful burden), but I didn’t know where the phrase originated.  In fact, I didn’t even know what an albatross was.  I just knew that carrying one sounded awful, and so the phrase resonated with me.

Enter…  the internet!  Google, with its indefatigable ability to answer such questions, informs me that the phrase comes from a poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Coleridge.  An albatross is a bird signifying good luck, and, in this poem by Coleridge, a bird follows a ship.  All those aboard interpret it as a sign of good luck to come until, fatefully, the mariner shoots the albatross.

Not long after the shooting of the albatross, a southern wind blows the ship into uncharted waters.  Blaming the mariner for bringing about their bad luck, the crew makes him wear the dead albatross around his neck.  They see him as having brought about a curse.

Why is this story on my mind?  I was thinking about how it feels to be looking for a job.  It feels like a massive burden, like an “albatross around my neck.”  Now that I know where the phrase comes from, I think that looking for a job is perhaps not quite as bad as having an albatross around one’s neck.  But, you know, it is not completely different!  You feel like all your good luck has left, and you feel like it is somehow your fault.

One of the weird parts of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is that the crew actually dies and then comes back to life.  Seriously.  It’s really creepy.  The mariner is looking at all these dead men on the ship and feeling the need to repent, which he does, and then the albatross falls off his neck and everyone comes back to life.  Bizarre, right?  With the crew (and some spirits?) helping him, the mariner finally steers the ship back home

The story ends unhappily, though, because the mariner has to spend the rest of his life telling the story, a cautionary tale, to everyone he meets.

What is my cautionary tale?  What did I learn from this 100-day project?  That, I think, will be tomorrow’s post.

For now, I should end by saying that today’s thank you goes to someone who recommended a podcast to me.


Day 98: Eight-Legged Menace

Today I sent an email to an old friend who I thought might be able to help me with something related to my new job.  She wrote back right away saying that she was happy to help.  Today’s thank you, naturally, goes to her.

One of the less endearing aspects of my new apartment is the spiders.  There are quite a lot of them, especially in the bathroom.  I’m not someone who finds this frightening, but I am someone who finds it gross.  Today I went through the whole house killing spiders and knocking down spider webs.  When the spiders see their webs being destroyed, they skitter away on their thin little legs.  Sometimes they try to run up the wall, but more often they just fly away over the surface of the floor.  Ugh.  What a nasty chore.  My hope is that by being thorough in my attack on the webs, I’ve ensured that the spiders will not come back.  I don’t want to have to use chemicals to eradicate them, but I will if it comes to that.

With only two days left in this project, I’m starting to look forward to the end.  I’ve enjoyed my 100-day project, but I’m also ready to move on.  I started this blog with such a specific purpose, but, now, almost 100 days later, things have changed quite a bit.  There are new challenges to face, and I want to shift my attention to them.

For two more days…



Day 97: Round and Round

Today’s thank you goes to a friend who posted a link to an article about cognitive science, linguistics, and the rise of Donald Trump on Facebook.  I found it genuinely useful, so I said thank you.

It is Saturday, and I managed to get myself over to a ceramics studio and throw a pot on the wheel.  It is important, I think, to do these fun things even when I’m busy with bigger, more stressful responsibilities.  Working on pottery is actually very soothing.  It’s like any repetitive movement – rocking in a rocking chair, knitting, etc.  Those activities all make you feel pretty chill.

There were thunderstorms again today, and I am beginning to wonder if they are a frequent occurrence in this part of the country.  I don’t mind them, but I’m not used to getting them so often.



Day 96: Where’s My Kitsch?

Only three things broke during my move to New Hampshire: my ceramic parrot lamp, my monkey tail coat hook, and my turquoise piggy bank.  Is the universe telling me to move on from my kitschy animal phase of home decorating?  I don’t know, but there is a new package of super glue on my table, and I fully intend to glue the monkey tail coat hook back together.

In all seriousness, I’m really enjoying decorating.  I ordered some (tasteful, I think) leaf print curtains for the living room.  In keeping with the green theme I established on Days 90, 91, and 92, the curtains have about six different shades of green in them.  The coat hook that I’m going to salvage is actually green too.

I was in Vermont last week and was reminded that green is actually in the name of the state.  Ver + Mont = Green + Mountain.  I’m just over the border in New Hampshire myself, but it does seem that green is the predominant color around here, too.  I suspect this winter it will be hard to find, but, for now, it’s a lush, verdant world I’m in.

Today’s thank you goes to someone who talked me through getting a piece of machinery fixed.  Not a fun task, but it was nice of him to help.



Day 95: Go Slowly

I had a foot injury recently, one which I’d been icing and stretching religiously with the hope that it would heal.  Today I went for a short, slow jog, and (to my delight) it is feeling better.

One of the lessons of the 100-day project, at least for me, has been the lesson of patience.  Things can and do change, but rarely at the speed we’d like to see them change.  More often, change is gradual to the point of looking like a standstill.

The willingness to do small things with the belief that their cumulative effect will eventually be large is essential.  And it kinda sucks.  Like most people, I like seeing big effects right away.  But sometimes I can’t make the big changes happen right away, so I have to plug away at the small stuff – keep stretching, icing, and waiting until the foot heals.  Keep applying for jobs until someone hires me.  Keep saying thank you because at least one of those thank yous will land in the ear of someone who really needs to hear it.

Today’s thank you goes to someone who complimented a photo of me.


Day 94: Try Not to Cry

The dust in my apartment is still a problem.  I don’t think it would bother most people at this point, but I’m sensitive to that sort of thing.  I probably look like I’ve been crying every time I step out of my apartment because my eyes are that pink and watery.

There’s plenty to cry about these days, though.  This isn’t a politics blog, nor will it become one, but I am pretty dismayed by the state of the Republican Party.  I’m not really a Republican anyway, but in 2012 I thought Mitt Romney was an OK candidate.  I didn’t vote for him, but I thought he would done well enough as president.  This year I just don’t feel the same level of ease.  When I think about the possibility that the Republican candidate (I will not speak his name) might win this year…  Well, it’s hard not to start crying.

I’ll register to vote in New Hampshire in the next week.  That is a small thing, but I will do it.  It’s important not to overlook small opportunities to make a difference.

Today’s thank you goes to a person in a toll booth near Manchester.


Day 93: Until the Dust Settles

I unpacked a lot of boxes today, and some of them were dusty.  I also unrolled a rug, which was very dusty.  My eyes are now a special shade of red-pink.  I’m sure it won’t be long before everything will be unpacked and the dust will have settled, but, until then, I’ll be the one with the puffy red eyes and constant sneeze.

The apartment is still a mess, but it is beginning to feel like a home.  Small things sometimes make a big difference when you are trying to create that sense of warmth and familiarity in a space.  I think getting all the books in the bookcases made a big difference today.

Today’s thank you goes to my mom, who bought me a lovely warm jacket for the chilly New Hampshire fall still to come.


Day 92: Greeeeeennnn

The apartment decorating continues!  The newest thing is plants.  Five plants!  A Chinese evergreen, two types of succulents, a rushfoil, and something unusual with very pale green leaves.  I love them all, and they go nicely with the pale green walls.

Today’s thank you goes to the lady at the Wal-Mart garden center who helped me save sixty cents on a tomato.  Is that a small gesture?  Yes, it is.  But it counts.



Day 91: green, green, green, green, green

The green paint marathon continued today.  It looks gorgeous!  I’m so happy with the color I chose.  I think the reflected light bouncing off the walls is similar to the light in a greenhouse.

The vast quantity of green paint is kind of sickening though.  Little bits of it have dried on my fingernails, my elbows, and even my hair.  Even when I scrub, it’s difficult to get it all off.

Tomorrow I don’t have any training, and the painting is done, so I’ll finally be able to start putting furniture in all the rooms.  Doing that will obviously make me feel more at home.

Today’s thank you goes to the guy at the little diner who let me come in for dinner at 7:54, even though they close at 8:00.