Wanted: Tidings of comfort and joy

Generally, I try not to get too personal and/or negative on this blog. After all, an entertainment blog should be, well, entertaining. But this has been a rather rough year, and I have few non-online friends in whom I can confide. So please let me get this out of my system, and I won’t bring it up again.

(If it’s too close to the holidays to endure such cynicism, I understand. Come back next time when I get back to writing movie reviews.)

The strangeness of this year began on April 1. In the autumn of 2018, the company for which I worked was bought out by a hedge fund. Layoffs were expected and were duly carried out just after Christmas. Everyone left standing ducked their heads and hoped they wouldn’t be noticed.

On March 29, another round of 90 layoffs was announced. I happened to be out of the office that day, but I didn’t even concern myself with it. Quantity- and quality-wise, I’d had my department’s highest numbers for the past year.

When I came back to work on April 1, I was re-introduced to the concept that nobody is indispensable. I was told that I’d be allowed to work at that office for another 45 days, and that I would receive a fair severance package (which I did). After that, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Back in January, my supervisor had vaguely remarked that, once the dust from the buyout had settled, the department heads would see what their next step for me job-wise would be. I knew they weren’t planning to name me CEO, but I didn’t think they’d dump me outright either.

Since then, for the past seven months, it has been a whirlwind job hunt for me, none of which has resulted in my getting a new vocation. I have loathed job interviews ever since I joined the work force, and the process hasn’t gotten any better over the years.

I liken job interviews to dating. On that basis, the quick failures are the best. If you know on your first date (or an initial job interview) that you are not getting anywhere, you can quickly cut your losses and move on. It’s when a ray of hope glares brightly in your face that things start to get antsy. Here’s the process:

First, a recruiter calls you out of nowhere to say that they saw your resume online and you would be PERFECT! for the job they’re offering. From there, perhaps, you do a phone interview with a supervisor (the equivalent of speed-dating?). If they still like you, they might arrange for a video interview, either with you alone or along with a dozen other people. (Save time! Impersonally interview 12 applicants at once!).

After that, deathly silence. Those interviewers and recruiters who had swarmed all over you suddenly find other phone calls to answer when you try to reach them about the status of your interview. If you’re lucky, within a few days, you’ll receive a phone call or email stating that they “enjoyed” meeting and talking to you, but in the end you just “didn’t fit their criteria.” (It took three conversations with me for them to figure that out??)

(My best advice in these instances: Move on as quickly as possible. When my dates or interviews went beyond Step 1 but never resulted in success, too often I played the losing scenario over and over in my head. How could they reject me? We spent so much time together and got along so well!)

I am certain that my primary roadblock to employment is something I cannot do anything about. I am 58 years old. I freely admit, no employer has ever given me any direct indication that they did not want to hire me primarily because of my age. But in at least some cases, you have to think: If I was an employer choosing between some 20-something with great looks and energy and some world-weary, middle-aged guy, who would I go with?

(And I don’t mind saying, that’s a very short-sighted viewpoint. Office workers, show of hands: How many new employees have you trained for a couple of weeks or so, only to have the newbie quit the job in mid-training because they had found a better offer? Maybe your supervisors should consider hiring an older worker who offers stability [I worked at my last job for over seven years] and has enough experience that you don’t have to spend a fortune training him.)

Well, that’s the “job” part of my rant. Want to hear some more?

It looks as though I have chronic fatigue syndrome.

About three months ago, I gradually started getting headaches — nothing migraine-like, but nothing ordinary, either. It sounds silly, but these headaches move to different parts of my head every day. I have also felt stiffness and pain in my upper arms and shoulders.

Worst of all is my unending tendency towards drowsiness. Several times a day, I find myself nodding forward and having to stop myself from falling asleep on the spot. The only times I don’t have spontaneous drowsiness are when I go to bed at night, after which I regularly wake up an hour or two after dozing off.

Like most people, when these symptoms became almost routine, I started zipping through the Internet to see what criteria they met. I’m no M.D., but all of these maladies are listed as signs of chronic fatigue syndrome. The ironic part is that I cannot get officially diagnosed for quite a while, as these symptoms must have been in place for at least six months.

About the only bright side of this “syndrome” is that it is taken place while I’m unemployed, so at least my soreness and sleepiness aren’t causing any jeopardy on my job.

Yes, you can go ahead and tell me that CFS is not acknowledged as a genuine sickness by many doctors. Or you can joke, as British comedian Ricky Gervais did, that CFS is simply an excuse that lazy people use to call in sick from work. But if, heaven forbid, you ever experience the endless disorientation that I’ve been having from CFS, you’ll take this malady very seriously.

So that’s been my year. Thankfully, I have a loving wife and kids who are sympathetic to me, and we are doing okay enough to get by. There are a lot of people this year who are far worse off than I am, so yeah, I suppose I shouldn’t be so self-pitying. And yet I often recall a line from The Diary of Anne Frank, where even optimistic Anne gets fed up with her circumstances and declares, “What’s the good of thinking of misery when you’re already miserable? That’s stupid!”

I hold out hope that I will overcome this “enforced retirement” somewhere in the near future. Until then, I feel as though I’m having the least festive holiday season that I’ve had in a long time.

Best wishes to all.


3 thoughts on “Wanted: Tidings of comfort and joy

  1. I am REALLY sorry to read about the stuff you have been going through! Being unemployed is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone! I hate job interviews, too! I really hope you are able to find something soon.

    I work as a sleep technologist. I wanted to ask if you’ve had a sleep study. We see many people who have been misdiagnosed with CFS. In a lot of cases, sleep apnea can be the cause of the daytime sleepiness and fatigue. Some of the symptoms of sleep apnea are dozing off during the day, waking up every two hours during the night, and snoring. As someone who has sleep apnea, I wanted to offer that up as a possibility. I hope they are able to find the root of the problem.

    Hope things get better for you in the coming weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate your concern. But I can assure you that it has nothing to with sleep apnea. I got tested for that and have been using a CPAP machine each night for 13 years. Ironically, I wake up in the middle of the night the way I used to with the apnea, even when the machine is attached to me.

      Thanks again for your kind words. I’ll muddle through this, as the song says.

      Liked by 1 person

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