Thursday, August 25, 2011

Diggin' a Hole (Only To Fill It Back Up Again)

Greetings, Fellow Strugglers!

Well, just under a year ago I began the painstaking process of self-discovery to determine what I'm supposed to be when I grow up. And I don't want to hear anyone out there scream "writer!" because that particular pursuit has vanished from my rose-colored line of sight since I discovered that the pay appears to be worse then that of "Gravedigger". 

Actually, I've been told that if get in with the Union of Needletrades, Aerospace Workers and Gravediggers you can actually make mad money, yo.

Now, for the purpose of total disclosure, one of my main motivators for going on this little odyssey of self exploration was the possibility of being partially funded to go back to school.  This was sold to me when I was informed that I might be able to have my books and tuition partially covered and also receive a weekly living expenses stipend while I studied.

Thinking that this was a too-good-to-be-true possibility I tackled the prospect of self-discovery with gusto.  I began with a Career Matchmaker quiz which told me what I already knew: that I was best suited for creative pursuits involving such pie-in-the-sky occupations as cartoonist or film editor.  Although I was told at the time by my career councilor that I "shouldn't take any career path off the table", I could sense that she was thinking: "Well, you're gonna be a whole lungful of trouble, aint'cha?"
I then went through the academic calendar and put every single program offered by the college into three distinct categories:
  1. "I really wanna do it...please, please, please!"    This would include such lofty pursuits as Screen
    Arts, Recording Arts or Radio/T.V. Arts.  Please note the omnipresent, telling and somewhat lamentable presence of the word "arts" in all three options.
  2. "Well, okay, I suppose I could do it.  Ummm...wheee?"  These are things that I could tolerate doing if the sponsorship had been sweet enough.  Some examples of this included IT, Occupational Health and Safety and Human Resource *YAWN*...Management.
  3. Then there were the  "I'd Rather Staples My Knutz To A Log and Be Forced To Catch Anvils" options: Business Administration, Aircraft Maintenance, Chartered Accountant and/or Suicide Watch Candidate.
As soon as I presented my proactive and diligent efforts to my career councilor, everything in Category One was summarily jettisoned.  Was this done to be cruel or mean?  No, it was done with a healthy dose of reality in mind.  She knew that, despite my interest and aptitude for creative pursuits, the provincial government would only sponsor me for a program that involved cramming octagonal-shaped pegs into round, but in-demand, holes.  In other words, they wanted a "sure investment".   

Initially, this was very depressing for me, but I've been around long enough to know the score: People say that art makes the world go around but those same people never seem to be willing to help out the artists.

This led to considerable paralysis.  With my obvious choices all thrown out like so much baby bathwater, what would I settle for?  Thus began a long and protracted process of deciding between a pack of equally unappealing options.  Kinda like the last election.

I was so apathetic about what remained that I had to attend several "Test Drives" and Info Sessions to try and prospect for a nugget of interest.  The IT exploration revealed great students, faculty, and training methods but I couldn't help but feel as if my time spent there really wasn't representative of how my day-to-day academic experience would be like.  I knew that I'd enjoy the Web Page design portion of the training but pretty much loathe everything else, especially Programming, which I liken to looking for haystack needles for a living.   

As if to fortify my own shaky sense of self, I did a second, even more detailed, Career Aptitude Survey.  Once again I got frustratingly airy-fairy results like "Commercial Artist", "Librarian"  and "Writer/Editor".  Wow, really 'effin helpful, guys.  But according to THE IMMUTABLE LAWS OF THE FRIGGIN' UNIVERSE, none of those paths were apparently a feasible option.

I'm was so confused by that point that I registered for a General Information Session at the college.  As it turned out, this seminar was designed for the the average Grade School kid who's response to "What do you want to be when you grow up?" changes from year to year based on what T.V. show is most popular.  What I really needed was the "Coming to Grips With Reality" seminar.

And then I made the worst mistake ever: I actually let someone give me a modicum of hope.  I met with a councilor at the community college and he told me that I should pursue Screen Arts because it's clearly what I really want to do.

"What I'm concerned about," he said, "Is that if you don't do this now, you'll just find yourself in the same position in another ten years from now."

After telling me that he's certain people have been approved for government sponsorship for such diverse and "creative" pursuits as Culinary Arts, I went back to my application advisers and passed on what I'd been told.  It didn't take them very long to beat that spark of hope out of my head:

"The application package must clearly likely you are to find employment upon completion of the training. That works against screen arts. The local film and TV industry was hit very hard by the recession and, coupled with the recently announced cancellation of the provincial rebates for film projects, there are very few opportunities in this field (as an aside, Culinary Arts, while a creative program, does qualify graduates for a specific type of employment)."      

Goddammit, why couldn't I have been born a left brain person?  

With all of my vested interest now abandoned I continued to sort through the remaining options like a pile of overripe bananas.  This involved another Test Drive for Health Information Management and then Environmental Engineering Technician (Water).  The first made me alternately queasy and itchy and the second made a fuse burn out in my noodle.  With both of those eliminated I decided to do a Q&A session with one of the Screen Arts instructors, just to satisfy my masochistic streak.  And hey, what a shocker, it seemed right up my alley.

But after being assured for the umpteenth time that I wouldn't receive a single red cent of funding for such an endeavor I turned back to my consolation prize:  IT.  After I declared this as my official selection I began to cobble together the application form back in the month of June.  Knowing that the government would never make the process easy, I certainly expected my fair share of red tape.  What I didn't expect was how intrusive, pushy and downright annoying the submission effort became.

First off, I was expected to cold call local business in the IT field and ask their HR department stunningly nosy questions such as: 
  1. Does this job require a Criminal Record Check?  Driver's abstract?  Access to a vehicle?  Do you have to be Bonded? James Bonded?    
  2. Have you hired people in this occupation in the past two years and will you be hiring people in the next two years?  Really use those psychic powers!
  3. Do employees generally start out permanent, casual, term, seasonal, part time or detained illegally in the storage closets?
  4. What post-secondary training is necessary to gain employment in this occupation?  Will my mail-order certificate from the South Idaho School of Computerization and Cosmostology be good enough? 
  5. What opportunities for advancement are there?  How long does it take to get a key to the executive bathroom?
Now, can you imagine working in a busy HR department and some jerkstore calls up and starts asking all of these irritating questions?  Well, I'm here to tell ya, folks, it went over about as well as limited engagement for Michael Richards at the Apollo Theater.  

Nevertheless, I checked my self-respect at the door, filled out the 'effin thing and presented it to my councilor. He looked over the section which detailed the income of my infinitely better half.

"OoooooOoo," he said, like an administrative Merv Griffin.  "Just to let you know up front, whenever I've seen that annual income figure exceed a certain benchmark it usually means a lower result for funding."

I sat there for a bit and blinked out a Morse code message for confusion.  
"Um...really? much lower?"

"Well, y'know, we'll just submit it and see.  Oh, and another thing working against you is the fact that you already have a university degree."  

At which point I thought to myself: 'Y'know, I'm willing to wager dollars to donuts that this whole process is gonna be a complete and total waste of time.'

And sure enough, just last week I got a call and was told that the only thing they'd cover is a percentage of my tuition.  No books or living expenses would be covered.  And the unspoken reason for the low offer: my fiance would be expected to pay for all of our mutual living expenses as I went to school to study something I barely have any interest in.  

Well, I didn't start on this little venture to put any additional financial burden on her.  It's not her fault that I had this mid-life crisis (but she is somewhat relieved that it doesn't involve a small collection of Porsche's ). 

Which brings to me to an amusing side rant: why is it that you cease to exist as an autonomous human being and become a two-person collective the second you declare that you're in a relationship with someone?  Bull-s#!%, I tells ya.         

Now, you'd think I'd be pissed off, but I'm actually kinda relieved.  I'd been railroaded into picking IT as a career path, but above and beyond the web page design aspect, I really didn't give a crap about it.  Now, don't get me wrong, if they'd offered to pay me to take it I would have been all over it like a fat kid on an Eggo.  

But do you know the really sick part?  If they'd offered me the same deal to do Screen Arts, I'd be sharpening my pencils, polishing my apples and packing my Empire Strikes Back lunchbox in anticipation of my first day Back 2 Skool.

Instead now I'm faced with the prospects of working again at a call center.  Hopefully I can find one a shade or two above "24-7 PC Tech"  so I won't be forced to call you, Kind Reader just to tell you that "there's something wrong with your computer Window." 

EPIC:  Will I be the caller or the call-ee in this scenario over the next few months?


1 comment:

Broomsticks and cauldrons said...

Ah decisions, decisions. I understand your turmoil. A call center is the worst place to work. But trust me, life could be worse. You could have ended up like me. It is too gory and horrific for me to go into that much detail. Suffice to say, living on a pension that would starve a gnat is sad. I can barely pay for food or earn enough before they claw it all back.
I have to write and rarely make an income at that either. Yet I persist as the faint light that tantalizes me 24/7 is always at the end of the dim endless dark murky tunnel.
Good Luck