The Blue View by BoxJam

As I write this, Life Assessment Day (also here) is fast approaching. I also don't have a job.

Life Assessment Day, among other things, involves creating/updating a list of ten things one most wants to do before they die. You don't need a yearly day, of course – I encourage you to sit and come up with the ten things you most want to accomplish in this mortal coil. It's exhilarating.

Does 'get a job' go to the top of things I most want in life before I die?

It sure is an immediate, almost dire, need, right now, but I just don't want to put it there. I've never been laid off restructured out of a job ('restructured' is the double-speak my outplacement firm insist I use) before. This list has always been fun for me. It's always been a chance to get away from my regular life, and look at the big picture. The big, fun, it's-good-to-be-alive picture. Putting 'find a damned job' on there would suck.

Still, though, the job hunt, necessarily, has to be number one on the priority list. My outplacement service has lots of made-up crap statistics, like "75% of jobs are gotten through networking" (another "statistic" they've fed me is that "today's college grads will have eight different careers during their working life" — not jobs – careers — thank you, Kresgin Stats Inc.), so I'm supposed to be spending my time schmoozing up old pals. The nibbles I've gotten, incidentally, have been limited so far to one through a headhunter, and two through Monster).

Let's look at some big picture stuff from my existing list – live long enough to meet my grandchildren. Fly in space (one of those flights in an atmosphere-skirting high-altitude plane, where you can see the earth below you as a ball, counts). Own a vacation property. Leave some lasting example of my creative work (publish a book or sell a script or something). (tentative) Find a damned job.

As Gordon and Susan used to say, one of these things is not like the others. What's the difference? My job is a maintenance task. My job is not one of the things I want to do more than anything else before I die. I wish it were – if I were starting out again, I'd find a job that I wanted to do more than most other things in the world. However, my family is expecting the kind of salary to which they've become accustomed, and starting a new career wouldn't cut it, money-wise.

Don't get me wrong. I like writing software – especially if there's interesting math involved. Writing stochastic models, doing other Operations Research problems, and making code that does spherical trig is interesting. It's not what I would pick if money were not an issue, though, and besides, right now I'll take any software job. If I find a job that is just a thousand ways to put data into a database, and a thousand ways to get it back out, I'll take it.

So it's a priority, but not a reason to be alive. Being out of work has helped me better see the difference as I come to Life Assessment Day this year. Finding a job that fits right can be part of getting to the 10 things I most want out of life, but the job itself is not one of the things. In fact, a couple of other items on the list may go, as I see the list in this new light – does the vacation property belong on there? I don't know. Maybe it makes me an asshole. I'm still thinking on that one.

Get a job goes on the high-priority maintenance list. Using phrases like utilize my skill set and this field of industry excites me are tools, but the top 10 list is there to help me remember they're not what I really want – software is cool, but the important thing is that I've made it 38 years and I still manage to not believe the lie.

BoxJam is a contributing columnist for Comixpedia.

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