A Turn of the Tides

Today is the last day of my first week on my new job.

I.  Am.  Exhausted.

My commute ranges anywhere from 50 to 100 minutes, each way, depending on the day, the traffic and the route I take.  I’m not complaining, mind you, I’m tremendously grateful.  It’s a good job, with a lot of opportunity for growth and advancement and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  I’m just really tired.

I have less than one month’s expenses left in my savings account and I was moments away from making the dreaded call to my sister to find out if it was still an option for me to move to New York to live with her and her husband, four kids (a fifth on the way), their cat and miniature pony, when I got the call for this job.  It’s the job I referred to in my recent post.  The one I didn’t get.  It seems their first candidate, for whatever reason, didn’t pan out.

Last week, I went shopping to buy appropriate work clothes.  I plan to get promoted sooner rather than later so I’m implementing the “dress for the job you want, not the job you’ve got” philosophy.  And since I didn’t have to wear dress clothes in my last job, it’s been well over a year since I’ve dressed for work (other than the white-dress-shirt-and-black-slacks penguin suit I wear when I’m bartending).

I haven’t gotten up this early on a consistent basis, in a very long time, and tomorrow I have to get up early again, though a little less early.  I’ll probably get to “sleep in” until 7:00. I’m bartending (and lead/sign-in person) tomorrow morning at the Cal football game and I have to be there at 9:00 in the morning.  Tomorrow night I have a date.  That’s a whole different post for another time.  And then Sunday I have an outing with Lil’B.

Who needs rest anyway?

Mr. On Time Strikes Again

I’m terribly behind in my blog reading and just stumbled upon a prompt from WordPress’ Daily Post from 27 days ago. It’s about unintentional flubs that cause laughter.

Not many people know what spoonerisms are. Simply, spoonerism is when you take two words and swap the first letters. For (a bad) example, butterfly becomes flutterby. (Bad example because it’s technically one word. Whatever. You get the idea.)

When I was in my early teens, my little conservative, Christian family fell into a habit of spoonerizing, a lot. One evening we were all at home in the living room. I think we were about to leave to go out for dinner. My mother was in the process if scolding my eldest sibling for something. I have no idea what. In those days he did a lot to warrant such reprimands.

After my mother made some statement about his behavior, said sibling argued, “you make it sound like I’m a (insert complaint here.)”

“Well, if the shoe fits,” my mother replied.

Without missing a beat, my goodie-two-shoes sister, who had been trying to focus on homework throughout the exchange, without looking up from her textbook said, “or if the foo shits.”

No sooner had the words left her lips, before her head popped up, her jaw dropped, and her face was bright red. Given that she was not prone to such language to begin with, and the amount of spoonerizing that had been going on in the house already, she did not get into any trouble for this apparent slip. This did, however, let the wind out of my mothers sails, and the scolding session was over.

I wonder if the eldest sibling ever thanked my sister.

Because You Gotta Have Faith

I didn’t get a job that I interviewed (twice) for last week.  I’m really disappointed.  I really wanted that job and I was really optimistic about it after my interviews.  I texted my mother to tell her I didn’t get it, because I knew she was wondering.  She called me back to tell me, “don’t despair over it, honey. God has a job for you.”  She proceeded to tell me how I just have to be faithful and trust that God has the job for me.  Oh and that I should be going to church (like there’s a comfortable church that would have me) and that I should be giving 10% of the money I can’t afford to spare to that church, because apparently, even though I was taught growing up, that God wants to bless me financially and that He can do anything, the only limit to that awesome, unlimited power is His ability to bless me financially without provocation.  Apparently, that’s just not possible.

For the record, I do not believe that.  I believe wholeheartedly that God can and will bless me.  I believe wholeheartedly that God does have a job for me.  And I believe He will provide for me.  I’m just not 100% convinced He will provide for me in a way that I feel good about.  I don’t believe for a minute that I will be homeless.  I know that I have friends and family who will take me in if push comes to shove.  I know that I will not have to be the troll under the bridge (and by the way, BayAarea?  Count them…  The bridges, not the trolls.)  I’m even relatively confident that I will find a job that will prevent my utter financial collapse, before I have to move out of my apartment.

It’s just that, well, I’ve been through a lot.  I’ve made considerable efforts toward that job.  I’ve applied for things that I didn’t want to do, knowing that I was surely qualified.  I’ve applied for jobs as file clerks.  I’ve applied for jobs as grocery store Cashiers.  I’ve applied to staffing agencies which, in the past, were completely reliable to get me working, even if it wasn’t for enough money.  I’ve applied to COUNTLESS jobs that are exactly in my wheel house, right up my alley, catered to my unique set of qualifications.  I’ve been ignored and turned down at nearly every turn.  I’ve had a handful of telephone interviews, each of which went wonderfully and ended with assurances that I would be called in for face to face interviews, only to have the person never contact me again.  I’ve had an even smaller handful of face to face interviews, each of which ended with me feeling utterly confident about my chances, even if I wasn’t 100% sure it was the best fit for me.

And then last week happened.  I had two interviews, first with the hiring manager, then with his manager, for a job that was perfect for me.  Possibly a little beneath my abilities, but something I could build on, with a company at which I could confidently build a reliable career, lots of opportunities for advancement.  I was told repeatedly that there was no doubt I was qualified for the job.  No question that I would be able to fulfill the responsibilities of the role with ease.  I was told that I was excellently qualified…  and that, in truth, that was the only thing that might work against me.  I’m “overqualified”.  I’ve heard it more times than I can count.  I’m too qualified for a Facilities Coordinator position.  And you know what?  That’s true.  I am.  The problem is, I’m not quite qualified for the next step up.  I’m ready to take that next step, but nobody wants to hire me for that step, because I’m missing a few key components that I ought to have.  I get that.  I understand it, and that’s why I’m willing to start in a Coordinator position, so I can get my foot in a door, and work my way up to what I’m really ready for.  But if everybody thinks I’m “overqualified” and doesn’t want to hire me for that reason, what the hell am I supposed to do?

My mother went on and on about how God has a plan and there’s a job out there just for me, and I shouldn’t worry because it’ll happen.  The fact is, I’ve been hearing those messages my whole life.  I’ve been taught not to speak negatively because “words have power”.  So I don’t.  I don’t tell my friends how I’m running out of money, and I’m scared that I can’t afford to continue to live in my apartment and how if I don’t find a job soon, I might  have to move out of state and live with one family member or another, who doesn’t accept my sexual orientation and who doesn’t want to (or can’t afford to) support me, not that they should have to, and that I can’t even make any assurances to anyone that I will work and pay my own expenses while living with them, because if I can’t even get a fucking grocery store cashier job, what can I possibly hope to expect?

I get it.  You don’t walk around moping and spilling your guts to anyone and everyone who will listen about how horrible your situation is and how dire things are and how scared you are because there is NO livable solution that involves moving away, because you don’t want to be spewing all that negativity into the ether, or the universe, or whatever you believe in, because again, apparently, God can only bless you and provide for your needs, if you’re speaking positively about it, because God’s will and power is inhibited by negativity…  apparently.  (Except it’s not.)  The problem is, if you never tell anyone the truth of your situation, then no one knows you need help.  No one, who might be inclined to offer assistance if they know you need it, can do so, because they don’t know you need it.

Thinking strictly about my current financial obligations I have about a month and a half to two months worth of money left, assuming I’m very careful and don’t spend any more than I must.  That does not account for giving my fabulous landlady 30 days notice if I have to move out, and it does not account for moving expenses if I have to move away and it does not account for having money in the bank when I get wherever I’m going, because I can’t face the idea of moving and I’m holding out hope for something to come together at the last minute and save me from that devastation of having to move.  (Honestly, I’d rather die.)

But at some point, you have to speak the truth.  You have to tell someone what your circumstances are so that people understand what you’re dealing with.  Is it really necessary to give the person a sermon about faith and positivity in that moment?  Can’t we just let the person vent their frustrations and understand, sympathize, without making them feel guilty for “not being faithful”?

Ol Blue Eyes

I’ve essentially been unemployed since last October.  I work two very part-time jobs bartending with catering companies, but I never earn a lot with those jobs.  It’s never enough to off set the unemployment money I’ve been collecting, it just makes that money stretch a little farther than it otherwise would.

Sleeping Beauty. Mischa Asleep on my lap… Just where he believed he belonged.

My last cat, Mischa, died in October 2012.  It was really hard on me and it took a long time for me to even be interested in animals.  When I went to visit my sister and her family in April, 2013, I never once touched their very sweet and tolerant cat.  This fact occurred to me only as I was on the plane flying home from my week-long visit.  It was not like me not to want to touch and pet the cat as she passed by.

At some point during the year or so that followed, my pain at the loss of my best friend of over twenty years lessened and I began to consider having a new animal in my life.  I was somewhat torn, however.  I’ve always been a cat person.  I really like them and I find them to be quite enjoyable.  I feel that anyone who says that cats are assholes (and I’ve heard lots of people say that), simply do not understand cats personalities.  Mischa was a fairly good mix of independent and loving.  Like all cats, he groomed himself.  I didn’t need to bathe him.  When he was hungry he helped himself to his food bowl.  When he was thirsty he got himself a drink.  When it was time to potty, he took care of his own business with no assistance from me.  My only responsibilities were to replenish his food and water bowls every morning and keep the litter box sifted.

But I like dogs too.  Call me a cliché if you like, but I like Chihuahuas.  I have a small apartment, so if I was going to have a dog, I was going to have to have a small one.  Chihuahuas fit nicely in a lap while watching TV, they don’t try to bowl you over the minute you walk in the door, and they’re easy to pick up and carry around when the situation warrants it.

The problem is, Dogs require a lot of attention and work.  They need to be bathed periodically.  They need to be walked several times daily and often at inconvenient times.  And they must be entertained, all. the. time.  I liked the idea of having a dog.  We had a family dog when I was a teenager.  Well, I say she was a family dog.  She was supposed to be a family dog.  She ended up being my sister’s dog.  Dogs are like that.  They pick one person and the rest of the family can hang for all they care.  (Really all animals are like that, but whatever.)  Life with this dog was much simpler.  Since my sister was her person, my sister “got” to do all the baths.  Feeding and watering was a quick twice-daily activity once before school and once at dinner time.  We lived in a suburban area, in a house with a back yard.  When it was time for the dog to take care of her business, we just let her out the back door and that was that.

But see, I live in a more urban environment without a fenced-in yard to just let a critter run around in.  Walking a dog, for me, would involve roaming the neighborhood side walks, carrying a plastic baggy to retrieve said business.  I’m not a morning person, and when I’m working full-time, I’m often rushing to get out the door and get to work “on time”.  I’m also a night owl who has a bad habit of staying up too late to “just finish one more show in my DVR backlog” and then wanting to go right to bed.  Much of the time I have to really force myself just to brush my teeth and put in my retainers.  Having a dog would mean having to go for a walk before I leave for work, no matter how late I’m running.  It would mean having to go for a walk before I can go to bed, no matter how late I’ve stayed up, or how tired I am.  So I was on the fence.

The only things I knew for sure were that I was not going to have another male animal, and I was not going to get another pet until I had a full-time job.

On Sunday, June 1st, at 9:40 am I received a text from my downstairs neighbor.

Found a stray kitten in the back yard.  Can’t keep him.  Interested in checking him out?

HIM.

I had no intention of taking in a new pet.  I still don’t have a full-time job.  I don’t need the expense of getting a new kitten all up to date with medical stuff.  I was in the process of saying as much in a reply text when this came through.

Frankie's First Portrait

My neighbor is evil.

I went down to talk to her.  I wanted to know more about the situation.  I had actually heard kitten meows from my bathroom window and I really thought there were a couple of them out there.  It turned out what I was hearing was this poor little guy in their bathroom where they had closed him up to keep him away from their other two cats.  But here’s the thing, while I was in my neighbors bathroom with her and the kitten and talking about the situation, she kept calling him “Blue Eyes” for obvious reasons.  Every time she called him that, I thought of Frank Sinatra and his nick name “Ol Blue Eyes”.  Then I thought “Frank Sinatra would be a cute name for him.”

Here’s a little pro tip for you.  If you have no intention of adopting an animal, DON’T NAME IT.

Frank Sinatra Riggs

 

This is “Frank Sinatra”, but his friends call him “Frankie”.  Frankie is currently about ten weeks old, which according to most conversion charts is the equivalent of about three to three and a half years old.  In other words, he’s a bit of a holy terror right about now.  But he’s a pretty darn cute holy terror.

Short and Sweet

Bwahahahaha!  Yeah, right!  If you’ve been reading this blog long, you know “short and sweet” isn’t really my thing.  But I’ll try.  I don’t have a whole lot of time for this.  (You like how I waste precious moments of my time, explaining how I don’t have much time?)  Anywhoo…

I’ve been so busy, and there are so many things to catch up on that I hardly knew/know where to begin, and with limited time for writing, I’ve been unsure of what to say to convey my current circumstances with brevity.  Things are pretty stressful right now and I’ve needed to spend just about every available computer time minute looking for and applying to jobs.  I’m still not working full-time, nine months since I was unceremoniously “released” from my previous full-time job.  I can’t say that the nine months haven’t been nice, ’cause they have!  I’ve loved having so much free time to do whatever I wanted.  I’ve loved being able to go about my day free from pressure to keep a certain schedule, or satisfy someone else’s demands.  I’m starting to see why self employment might be so attractive to so many people, though, in many ways self-employed people work a lot harder than the rest of the employed population. But the fact is, my money is running out and if something doesn’t come together pretty damn quickly, I’m going to be forced into some really difficult choices, none of which are pleasant.  By the end of August, if I don’t have a new full-time job, I’m going to have no choice but to move out of my apartment.  On September 1, I will have lived here for seven years.  I’m ready for a change and I do actually want to move, but I want to move someplace of my own choosing, under my own steam and without pressure.

If I’m not gainfully employed by the end of August, I’ll have no choice but to either move in with a friend (my options are extremely limited) or move out-of-state and live with a family member.  And again, my options are limited and very unattractive.  Moving away from my current life is the worst thing that could possibly happen to me right now (or very nearly – God forbid I should be accused of exaggeration…).  I have a lot to lose right now, if I have to move away.

Next month will mark the fifth anniversary of my match/friendship with L’il B.  He is 12 years old now and things are getting really interesting.  We had a conversation earlier this week in which he learned that Big Brothers and Big Sisters only serves kids from 6 to 16 years old.  He asked me, “So when I’m 16 you won’t be my Big Brother any more?”  I said, “I told you a long time ago, I will be your Big Brother for as long as you will let me.  But no, we won’t be supported by the program any more.  We’ll just be friends.”  It was just a little “throwaway” question from him, but it was clear that our relationship means a lot to him and he was bothered by the thought of losing it.  This is one of the reasons that I do not want to move away right now. I made a commitment to this kid and I want, no, I NEED to see it through.  Yes, moving away because of financial ruin, is a far cry from just dropping him from my life, but it still matters to me.

 

I’ve met a really great guy.  We’ve been dating for about seven weeks now, and while it’s still new and I don’t know what’s happening, or going to happen, we’ve been having a really nice time getting to know each other and spending time together.  He seems to be really sweet and kind.  He’s very intelligent and independent.  He has strong morals and isn’t afraid to share and stand by them.  Oh, and he’s really attractive.  :)

Realistically speaking, it has only been seven weeks.  If our relationship were to end now, it would not be devastating.  I would survive and move on with my life.  BUT, I really like him a lot.  He seems to like me as well.  I have no sense of dishonesty in him.  Whether this relationship will turn to love remains to be seen, and it very well may not.  I could write a whole separate, rambling post about what love is, what it means to be in love, and how one knows when they are experiencing love.  I might sometime.  But for now, it’s enough to acknowledge that we are not in love, we just like each other, and are attracted to each other, and we’re each interested enough to continue to see each other and find out where that takes us.  The point, though, is that I’m interested enough, and like him enough, that I really do not want to have to move away and end this relationship right now.

 

I have been interacting with a representative from a local staffing agency which I have worked with before and I am hopeful that sometime next week I’ll hear from that representative to either send me on some interviews, or set me up with an assignment (preferably long-term, temp-to-hire, or even direct hire) to do some customer service work.  It’s not exactly in my wheelhouse, and probably won’t pay as well as I’ve been hoping, but it is more than nothing, and more than unemployment which is pretty much all I have going on right now.  Things will be tight, but at least it would keep me afloat, and at this moment, that’s what’s most important.

What else?  What else?

Oh yeah!  There’s also this guy!

IMG_0054

Swimming in the Deep End

There were two significant events in my young life that lead to my fear of swimming.  Oddly, I only have specific memories of one, though I know the other to be true as well.

When I was in the neighborhood of three years old, my father and his wife took the three of us, my brother, sister and me, on a trip to the Northeast.  I can’t honestly say for certain now, whether we were in New York City or Atlantic City.  I feel as though we went to both places on this trip.  No matter.  I remember, surprisingly vividly, walking along the beach one evening.  It was dark, or nearly so.  We all had our shoes off and we walked in the surf, feeling the cold Atlantic waters pressing against our legs as they washed over our feet and rolled back out again.  I was small, as we tend to be at that age.  The waters came a little bit higher on me than on everyone else, and I remember feeling in equal amounts fear from the pounding pressure that knocked against me, pushing me out of my steps, and joy at the experience of being at the beach, near the ocean, wet feet squishing into the sand as we walked.  Given that I was smaller than everyone else, it was no surprise when the unexpectedly large wave came along and knocked me right to the ground.  Nor was it a surprise when the wave washed fully over me and began to drag me back out as it made its hasty retreat.  It seemed like an eternity passed to my young, scared, oxygen deprived mind.  But before I knew it, I felt a strong hand on my back followed by the force against my body as the waves continued to pull and the drenched t-shirt I was wearing became the handle by which my father pulled me back to shore, out of the water, and to safety.  Immediately, I was in tears and I was coughing and sputtering as I sobbed the words, “The ocean tried to kill me.”  (Yes, I’ve been prone to over-dramatization since I was a wee young lad.)  Of course there was some truth that claim.  As we all know, tides are unpredictable, and if my father hadn’t pulled me out of the waves when he did, I could easily have been dragged out to sea and might never have been seen alive again.

At some point probably not long after that experience, I was at my father’s apartment complex during one of our week-end visits.  Apparently, we were out by the pool in his complex (when I say “we” I’m not certain what that really means.  I do not know if my siblings were around.  I do not know if my father’s wife was around.  I do not even know why we were near the pool.), and somehow I fell into the water.  I could not have been more than four or five years old.  Once again, my father was right there, and immediately pulled me to safety.

By then the damage was done.  For many years, I was afraid of water.  Period.  I was even afraid of the water in the bathtub.  After some time, and some forced bathing requirements, my fears began to subside somewhat.  I stopped fearing the water entirely.  I came into possession of a life support vest and I spent some time in swimming pools.  Always with he life vest on.  Always staying on the shallow end.  I learned to like the water, the sensation of the liquid surrounding the body, offering some support, cooling the skin on a hot day.  But still, I always felt I was missing out on something.  Everyone else felt free to roam the pool.  They swam to the deep end.  They played games and ducked under the water.  They enjoyed themselves.  And all I could do was hang out in the shallow end, with my life vest giving me a wasted sense of security, and watch as everyone else had fun.

Over the years in my adult life, I’ve had conversations with people which have eventually lead to a revelation that I did not know how to swim.  People were always surprised and astounded that at my ripe old age of (whatever age it was at the time) I did not know how to swim.  Repeatedly, I’ve been told that I “need” to learn how to swim.  Yes, I live in California, and yes the beach is only a few miles away, but I don’t live there.  I live on dry ground.  Why did I need to learn to swim?  But they were right.

Last summer, I spent the Fourth of July at the house of a friend who lives in the central valley of Northern California.  The average temperature in the summer where he lives is about one meelleeon degrees (should be read in Doctor Evil’s voice with a pinky at the corner of your lips).  Pools are common back yard fixtures and welcomed!

It was while we were all hanging out in the pool, most of us sitting on the expansive steps, but a few lounging on floats, that I had a turning point.  I won’t bore you with too many unnecessary details (first time for everything) but at one point I made my way from the steps to one of the people on a float.  Just as I was reaching her location, I felt my right foot slide over the edge where the pool floor began its downward slant to the “deep end”, which I have since learned is only six feet.

I contained my anxiety and acted like everything was normal, but the truth is, as my foot slid over that edge, I felt my heart rate speed up and my chest tightened to the point of restricting my breath.  I was over come with fear at the prospect of getting into a section of the water in which I could not control my circumstances.  I finished my business and casually made my way back to the step where I stayed seated until we were ready to leave the pool and go inside.  I decided that weekend, it was time to do something about my weakness.

I couldn’t do it on my own though. I needed help.  I needed a guiding hand.  I needed someone who already knew how to swim, to help me learn to swim as well.  I perused the local community college course catalog and I found a beginning swimming class for adults.  Somewhat unexpectedly, I even recruited a friend to take the class with me.  It was nerve-wracking to be sure, but I learned to swim.  Of course the pool was only 4’6″ in the “deep end”, so it was comforting to know that anytime I was in trouble all I had to do was put my feet down and stand up…  Until the last week of the class when our instructor informed us that the pool we had been using for months was closed and we would be having class in what we all referred to as “the big pool”.  The big pool is where all the experienced swimmers swam.  The big pool is split into twelve lanes, not three.  The big pool is 6’9″ ON THE SHALLOW END.  It wasn’t easy climbing into that pool the first time, but I did it.  On the last night of class, our “final exam” was to jump from the diving board (roughly three feet from the surface of the water) into the pool, and swim to the side.  Once I was in and able to tread water and swim the length of the lane, it was not so bad.  I even jumped from the diving board…  once.  But getting into that water felt like I might as well be hurling myself off of a cliff.  For the first time in my life, I was in water I could not stand up in…  And I lived to tell the tale.

As children we have innumerable experiences that shape our lives.  We learn many lessons, both spoken and unspoken, deliberate and incidental.  In general, I feel that people do not give enough consideration to that fact, and because they don’t, children learn and internalize many things they would be better off never learning.

A while back, I wrote a post in which I admitted to a significant fear.  The fear was, in large part, due to lessons I learned as a young boy and on through my teenage years.  It’s the kind of fear that just compounds the longer it’s allowed to go unaddressed.  It’s the kind of thing which, if discussed with other people, would result in exclamations of “You’re 38 years old and you’ve never…”  “You need to…”  And I did need to.  But I lacked the skills and the resources to resolve the situation and over come the fear.  There were no courses in the community college course catalog for that particular skill.  I needed to be a bit more creative.  More recently, I wrote another, very cryptic post in which I alluded to seeking guidance and assistance in over-coming my fear.  And then I’ve been virtually silent since as I pondered my actions and deliberated the likely responses I would get in sharing those actions.  It was all I could think about, really.  What should I share?  How much should I share?  How specific should I be?  And as all those thoughts went round and round in my head over and over again, my fingers fell silent.  The blog was quiet.

For various reasons, I’ve decided not to share the details of my experience, at least not at this time.  Somethings might slip in here and there along the way.  I may come completely clean at some point in the future.  I may keep it all to myself for the rest of time.  But for now, all you need to know is that I found an instructor.  I went to class.  I over-came my fear of the water, and swam the length of the lanes.  I even jumped off the diving board and swam in the big pool…  And I lived to tell the tale.