Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Nasty Fractions

I wish I'd never learned about rounding up fractions to obtain a whole number. It just bothers me. My digital thermometers report the temperature to 1/10th of a degree. It makes me sound geeky when I tell someone our low yesterday morning was 34.5° instead of just saying 35. Sometimes I round down just for added emphasis. After all, 34° sounds so much more threatening to our tomato plants than 35°.

An infatuation with fractions has always caused me to play silly games with my age. Each year on October 22, I usually tell myself I'm x.5 years old. Last October 22 I was 47.5 and of course I start rounding up at that point. I'm so used to thinking of myself as 48 that when my birthday rolls around next Tuesday, I have to pinch myself to remember than I'm not turning 49 -- that this is the real 48, not the 47.5 version. And in a way, it becomes a relief. "Oh, I'm still only 48. Whew!"

I remember when I turned 20 I told myself I was one-quarter of the way to being 80. At 25 I was a quarter of a century old, and halfway to 50. It sounded detestable. In retrospect, things weren't so bad. At 45 I was halfway to 90. Or looked at another way, I'm probably more than halfway to being dead. At this point it's time stop with the fraction games, or maybe throw them into reverse: next week I'll only be twice as old as I was at 24. Now, doesn't that sound better?

There's something about mid- to late-40s that causes introspection and reflecting back on a life which could have been different. And making a lot of mistakes in my 40s certainly hasn't helped. I often remark that I wish I was 18 again and starting college. Or even being 30 again and going back to college. But honestly, I don't really want to go back. I'm just battering myself unnecessarily for the fact that I've been unemployed for almost four months and have been employed at seven different advertising agencies in the past 11 years. I was fired or laid off from three of them. Four, if you want to count me having to lay myself off from my own failed agency. That's a 57.1% fired and/or laid off rate.

Four of the agencies are no longer in business. Five, if you want to count my own agency which is technically functional but in no way able to sustain me, for a failure rate of 71.4%. That leaves two agencies from my history which are still fully functional: the one which laid me off in December, and one where I worked at the beginning of this decade and then quit to take a better deal.

Realizing that the latter was the only agency in my history which had never shut down, laid me off, or both, I decided perhaps I should consider applying for a job there. This was going through my mind last week. And then on Friday I got an email from one of my former co-workers there saying he had some news for me. This came out of the blue, unsolicited, so my first thought was that he was perhaps contacting me to see if I wanted to work there. The universe does work that way sometimes; it's a strange and fluid flow of thoughts, energies, and coincidences.

Unfortunately the news was that my friend had been laid off on Friday, along with 12 others. Hmmm. Not good. So I was a little bummed out and feeling back at square one again.

Then yesterday I received an email from another friend at an agency where I've never worked (imagine that!) asking me if I was still looking for employment. Yes indeed. He has given his two weeks' notice and, although the agency isn't planning to fill the position right away, he asked me to send my resume. It's amazing how these little glimmers of hope can perk us up. And unlike many of the other options I have, this one would be a good match. Not only would there be no relocation required (if the position is exactly what I've been doing for the past 8 years), but I'd be able to work from my home office. No rush hour commute; no weekly pumping of $60 into the gas tank.

Things are starting to come together and gel, if only slightly. While I often wish I'd applied myself in college and perhaps gotten an MBA, there are still no guarantees in life, particularly now in 2008 and beyond. And who am I kidding anyway? An MBA? Like I'd been happy putting on a white shirt and a tie every day for the past 25 years to go crunch numbers in an office?

The fact is, I enjoy crunching numbers -- to the fraction. I'm good at it. And I'm able to do it in my current line of work. No uniforms required. I am actually fortunate to have landed in a field of work where friendships and made and endure. It's a tight-knit group of people and we all seem to enjoy helping each other out when we can. This is not an industry in which burning bridges is a good idea.

2008 has taken a heavy toll on me though. I didn't plan to even look for work during the first 6 weeks of the year; I wanted to focus on finishing up a few projects around the house. I did not accomplish that. Each passing week got me into a bluer funk until March arrived with a bang -- when txrad spent 2 days in the hospital after a nasty fall, I wrecked my car, and spiraled into a state of depression so severe that the entire month is mostly a blur now.

Positive things are starting to happen again. Spring-like things. New growth, new opportunities. Getting the yard mowed after two years of neglect has had a wonderful impact on my outlook. Getting the garden ready for planting veggies gives me optimism. And within a week I'll be scheduling a contractor to have a new roof and new windows put on the house, both necessary and long overdue. And both very expensive.

Those two projects have had me feeling a lot of anxiety. It will require me tapping into every dime I socked away -- money I have been relying on to get me through prolonged unemployment if necessary. However, these improvements must not be viewed as squandering money, but investing in our house. Should the worst-case scenario prevail and we need to sell and move for whatever reason, that money could be recouped by a higher sales price on a home that is move-in ready with no pending repairs needed.

Finally, the time feels right and I am moving ahead with a feeling of certainty and confidence. And by unblocking myself and my environment to allow some movement and energy flow, I believe the employment picture will soon brighten as well. I welcome the stability. Being in a state of limbo and uncertainly is fun, but only for awhile; 28.8% of my year is quite enough.

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