Work

I have been unemployed an entire year. More of you count the months post surgery in 18/19. The financial burden is beyond stressful but I had committed to myself I would get through to January before making drastic changes.

While the job market opened up again in my industry in late August, I have had virtually no luck. I have had a lot of interviews but they tend to stall. Some go so well I can’t believe I never hear back from the company. Recruiters are rude and don’t answer emails once you are off their radar. I always ask for feedback when I follow up and I never get it. Not once.

I interview very well. My resume and LinkedIn look great. I know how to search for jobs. I have an underlying suspicion that during my nervous breakdown in 2018 between Tony and the job – I also created a bad reputation for myself. I’m unsure about this but people talk and I was not myself or at my best in 2018. People who know me prior to that last role always recommend me into their companies – and I always get the interviews that go well – and then, they just stop. No follow up from the recruiter (internal recruiters) or the people I spent time interviewing with. Nothing. Silence. I have convinced myself there is something out there I don’t know about regarding my reputation. I just can’t fathom how this keeps happening over and over for roles I am more than qualified for.

In addition, I never thought my experience and title would work so hard against me. I keep bumping up “overqualified” which I also believe is code for ageism, particularly in my industry. When I apply for any role behind one level down from where I was, the companies insist I am overqualified and wouldn’t be happy with the job. They don’t understand why I would take such a low level job.

I have exhausted all opportunities and companies on the East Coast that would be in my wheelhouse. I have applied and interviewed for roles with salaries at a level I haven’t seen since my late 20s/ early 30s. I am willing to take any role that gets me working again in an effort to keep my home for another year so my youngest can graduate high school. I am not fussed about title or level but I do have a minimum salary, which frankly, is a steal. I am willing to relocate.

Nothing is coming up. So many people think it’s easy enough to find jobs at the salary level I could accept – they know me and think it’s impossible “someone” wouldn’t want to hire me. I become frustrated almost instantly when someone tries to talk to me about alternative careers and how to go about getting into them. I have found there seem to be two camps of people. The first is people who have never left their industry, have a career in a very flexible discipline (education for instance) or have never been an executive. The second are the entrepreneurs who have always been the kind of person to chase something and make it happen and have a talent for being able to be successful because of a good decision earlier in their life (for example someone with an engineering or financial degree who leaves their original corporate job to start their own business – again, a flexible discipline). My background is very specific. Sure I have tons of skills that can work in other industries, but you need to know someone to open those doors and have them take a chance on you when you have no direct career correlation.

In other words, it’s bullshit to switch careers at 53 without the right educational foundation or some SPECIFIC skill set that can cross disciplines. I have tried multiple times and failed – even within my own industry. The one shot I had was because a friend opened a door for me and her boss was very engaged with me and willing to take a leap of faith (and then, covid). My entire network (personal and professional) doesn’t seem to have any contacts to help me. I’ve even networked in my fitness community and, while I had offers of help, none amounted to more than suggestions on how to approach a job search.

I’m tired of hearing from people with advice on how to change careers at my age. Yes, I know it’s possible but you need time and money to train and educate yourself for a major career overhaul and I am out of both. I do not have enough specific transferable skills. I cannot seem to get in front of anyone to convince them I could do a job where I don’t have the specific career grooming. One of my greatest skills is my ability to speak and hold an audience – once I learn a product I can master the rest. I’m not talking sales, I would be a horrible sales person, think more along the lines of product development. I know how to build product from the ground up and I believe the product itself shouldn’t matter – but companies do. And so many people are unemployed that the talent pool is massive.

Late September into early October I engaged with 3 large companies on the West Coast. One disappeared and fell off the radar and I don’t know why. One wasn’t ready to move forward due to their own reorganization. And one offered me a job. The one that offered me a job was at the lowest level and salary of which I’ve interviewed for and is clear across the country. Nothing about this role is ideal. But I accepted it and sit on a plane to go visit a city I’ve never been to.

I had no choice. I needed income and I need to be working. Right now the role is virtual so it buys me time. The people are just so lovely and wonderful but I never see myself being satisfied with the company and location. Had this same role been in any other East coast or even Midwest city, I would be probably in a totally different frame of mind.

The stress of being unemployed and then in accepting this role has created the worst migraines. I don’t like to play games – these are good people. I’m sure I can do well with the role (for fucks sake I should be able to do with my eyes closed). I want to do a good job, that’s just my DNA.

I am also heavily influenced by what other people think of me. In my head “look how far she’s fallen” keeps repeating itself. I know none of that should matter, the people I love are just happy I found a job finally. I don’t want to move to this place across the country. If I leave my kids I may never see them unless I travel back and the salary they are paying me won’t allow for that more than once or twice a year. I am sick with grief over thinking about selling a home I’ve lived in my entire life and upending my kids. They don’t even have a full home to go to since their Dad lives in his mother’s basement and the upstairs home only has 2 bedrooms that won’t fit 3 adult kids.

I realize this is a rant but I get angry when I think about my entire career going to waste like this. I did what I had to do by taking this role. I will continue to do what I need to do to remain employed. I’m just miserable. And if I have to actually sell my home and move, I worry if I’m just heading myself right back into another break with reality.

Heading towards something new

I wrote this from the train headed towards Scott. It’s a long train ride, almost 5 hours. I would be happier if I didn’t have a migraine.

I have vacillated a bit over what I’m feeling. I want to believe I’m excited to see him but it doesn’t quite feel like excitement. At least, not the kind I’m used to. This isn’t white hot burning butterflies out of control excitement. This is new. I honestly don’t know what to call it. It’s a good feeling. Sort of like knowing what a good meal is going to taste like, comforting.

I am looking forward to being with him for an extended amount of time. I have no doubt we will have fun. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be comfortable. I don’t worry that he will pressure me to behave or do anything I don’t want to do, he won’t even have an expectation. Or, perhaps if he does, he probably won’t let it show. His entire goal will be my pleasure and comfort over the next week.

You heard that right – one week. I knew I was going to need to see Scott on his home turf to begin to understand if this relationship would have legs. I knew we needed some time that wasn’t feeling like vacation time. The opportunity presented itself and I took it.

We will be spending a few days at his home and then a few days in Washington DC. We are running The Virtual Chicago half marathon together on Saturday. This is a good example of how far he’s willing to go for me – the half marathon was something I wanted to do for myself because I needed some focus to pull myself up from a spiraling depression. When he heard I was doing it, he wanted to join me. He is a sincere athlete and will have to hold way back to run with me, but it’s all he wants to do – to do this together and share the experience. I admit, when he said he wanted to do it with me I was really pleased. Then he suggested we run it around the National Mall in DC and, while I’m terrified to run outside (because I just don’t), I love the idea of being somewhere so iconic to mark my first half and being with someone who is going to derive as much joy (and pain) from the experience as I will.

I wish I was the kind of hyper excited I used to get before seeing Tony or Bobby. I wish I felt those butterflies. Once in a while there is a little twinge of something, I wouldn’t call it the butterflies, but it is something. I know without a doubt I will be happy around him – the question remains: is that enough for me? Is it enough for anyone? I just don’t know.

I still consider the fact we are from different socioeconomic classes. I’ve been doing a LOT of reading about that and it’s well written about that it’s a pretty difficult struggle for most couple to overcome this kind of hurdle. I knew I wasn’t imagining things when I feel this way. Socioeconomic diversity is a real thing and a thing that can cause either partner to be unhappy for different reasons. The only way I am going to determine if this is a real-world challenge or a just an in-my-head challenge is to spend time with Scott, especially on his home turf.

I will also be meeting his 24 year old daughter. She is the light in his life and he’s so excited for me to meet her. She’s so happy for him that she’s excited to meet me as well. I think it’s strange and sweet all at the same time. It will be a first for me. They have a very tight relationship. She is lacking a mother figure and I think he sees what kind of influence I could be on his daughter. I don’t feel pressure right now because I don’t know what I want in this relationship other than for us both to enjoy one another.

He went crazy cleaning his house and food shopping for me. His daughter has cats and boy do I hate cats – so there was a big effort in his part to remove all signs of cat hair from the place. I am terrified of all cats so I hope his daughter doesn’t think it’s “cute” to let the cats out of the basement. That won’t go over well for anyone. When someone comes to my home, of course I prepare in much the same way but I have a feeling my home starts in a bit more organized place than his does. He’s been a bachelor for a few years and I know he doesn’t like it. He often hints how he doesn’t bother with things at home because he just assumes his “woman” is going to want to change things. In a way, he’s quite compliant to the traditional roles of man/woman in a relationship which is, in its own way, charming. I like this, it works well for me. He will always care for me.

We started talking about love languages but didn’t get too far other than retaking the quiz and sharing results. I was surprised that acts of service wasn’t his first or second love language as he often comments about the lack of what others have done before me. His top love language is quality time followed by physical touch and then acts of service. Interestingly enough, words of affirmation fell off the top of my list for the first time ever. I suspect this is because I’ve learned to affirm myself in so many ways. I realize I don’t need as much from a partner though I still love to hear it. Also, Scott says so much positive affirmation for me that I find it a little unbelievable. I can’t recall if Tony did it this much or not. I don’t think so. I actually wish he would pull back on the compliments a little so that they felt a little more true. My face, hair, outfit or whatever can’t be perfect every single time but that’s pretty much what he says if I so much as self-flagellate. My traditional go to moniker is usually “handsome” when I’m attracted to someone and I find myself holding this back with him and I feel pretty crappy about it. It doesn’t ring true to me. Little things like this tend to occupy my thoughts when I’m away from him. I’m really trying not to let them consume my thoughts.

In between this nonsense I am happy to be heading his way. As I get closer I am starting to feel a little excitement and I know when I see the happiness on his face I will respond in kind. I know we will have fun, laugh, be silly and enjoy one another. I feel like we can be friends together. I know this is all a great start.

I am so confused …. (part 3)

I think I got most of it all down and out now.

There are more good qualities than challenges with Scott if I was counting. I’m just not sure how the weighted average works out.

After we went away for the weekend and I agonized for a while as well as solicited advice from friends. I dug deep into what I was feeling and tried to explore why I was so predisposed to these thoughts and feelings. I came up with some answers and on some I’m still empty handed.

And it may surprise some of you …. but I firmly decided I was going to give it a go with Scott.

I just needed to wrap my mind around it. I was clear of the potential pitfalls but all of my friends, and I do mean all, unanimously voted for Scott. They know all of the struggles I’ve had and continue to go through and just felt that I deserved someone who adored me with no questions asked. And he does. He really takes me for who I am. Perhaps if there was one quality above all that I treasured in Tony it was this one. Scott has exactly the same quality.

He takes me for who I am knowing I struggle with his job/income and the stereotypes assigned to government work. He doesn’t know about the attraction piece, though we have talked about the disparity in class briefly. He acknowledges we started in very different places and have had significantly different life experiences. He treats me as if I am a prize that he never thought he would win and often seems to be in awe of me.

He has already told me he would move heaven and earth for me if I would just let him.

Scott is a good man. He tells me he has a mean streak that he doesn’t like about himself and I see that coming out as arrogance right now, but I believe him when he tells me, I just haven’t seen it. I can tell his defenses are down around me and I am allowing mine to begin to come down as well. Once I make up my mind about something, I go all in.

I do worry that I’m not always so nice and I can be a bitter pill to take. He seems good at deflecting this quality in me and it tends to have me loosen my reigns – which is very unusual for me. He doesn’t dig in in opposition to me but instead tries to offer alternative viewpoints without pressing me. My need to be right all the time is much less aggressive with Scott and this is unique. A little example of this is when we were walking along on our way to lunch on our weekend away, I stopped suddenly and said “we are going the wrong way!” He said he was pretty sure we were not. As per my usual always-right self I declared “I really think it’s the wrong way!” He asked me to trust him and I looked at him and rather than insist yet again, I just said “ok.” The funny thing was it stopped him in his tracks and he worried that now I would give it to him if he was wrong. I promised him I wouldn’t, that I did trust him and even if he was wrong it was just a little walk on a beautiful day and didn’t really matter. I meant it too. I handed over the reins. I let go. And, of course, he was right. He was also very relieved which was quite funny.

That was the first time I really put my trust in him. The next time was the long ride home in my car. He drove and I was able to fall asleep for a little bit. That’s a sure sign of trust with me. He told me much later how happy this made him because his x-wife and his x-affair partner both hated his driving. I know these are two very little things, but they are important to me. When I don’t need to be in control and I can let go I am happier. I know this for a fact after Bobby and Tony, but it takes a special person to get me to change my behavior. I don’t give up being right all that easily.

I can’t change the job/income situation and have to work towards complete acceptance, and I am trying. I know I’m a snob when it comes to this and part of that is the by-product of living in a wealthy area. Going backwards in income was never a welcome thought before now. I am truly unsure where this lands for me so we will have to see. In an early relationship, this has no bearing so I’m letting it go.

I hold out hope that I will become more physically attracted to Scott. I can’t force this so it’s another thing I’m letting go of. Sex has improved. Our sexual cadence is much, much slower than when I’m very attracted to a man and he doesn’t push me. I only hope he doesn’t feel like I’m not attracted to him. I don’t want him to feel this from me.

After the weekend away and my subsequent decision to give it a real shot with Scott, he came to spend 3 days at my home. We went to a winery one day and the next day we did a bunch of nothing together. He was thrilled I watched football with him and asked a lot of questions about his favorite team (until I fell asleep on his chest!). I made him breakfast and lunch and I think he enjoyed being waited on a little. I don’t think he’s gotten very much positive attention in his life and I get the impression he’s always been the giver. I like to be able to do these small acts of service for Scott because I know how much he appreciates them. We had a fabulous dinner out over the weekend and there’s no shortage of laughter and easy flowing conversation. It really does feel natural with no pretense.

So that’s two long weekends in a month in which things consistently improve. I’d say that’s a win in itself. We text often every day now and talk most nights. A relationship is beginning to form in its own way.

New things I’ve begun to notice and I’m trying to work through:

If I like it, he wants to like it right away too. While this is great, I want someone who maintains their own identity. I decided to run a half marathon and he immediately chose to run it with me. I like a certain type of music and he wants to listen to it all the time with me. I like wine and he will drink it with me. I like shellfish and he will eat it with me. None of this is bad, I just don’t want him morphing into what he thinks is the perfect man for me simply to attract me.

He compliments me constantly. Nothing is ever wrong with me (except he thinks I’m snobby too, who wouldn’t). Again, not sure what I think about this. Of course I want to be all the things to him but it falls flat when every word out of his mouth is how beautiful and special and amazing I am. Again, not really a negative but for some reason it’s overkill?

The last piece: I notice he doesn’t really ask me a lot of open ended questions. He is very in tune to me and pays attention, but he doesn’t seem to try and get to know the way my mind works. Rather, he goes for the outward things like my favorite food, wine, exercise (he joined Peloton because of me) or music. These things he nails because he watches me closely. Tony dug around. He asked about my family, my past, my education, why I liked some things and not others, what I dreamed of, what my sorrows were. Scott seems to be focused on how to please me. He often notes that I ask him a lot of questions and some of them make him uncomfortable to be so vulnerable but he likes opening up to me. But he doesn’t really come up with his own questions. I’m not sure how much this matters right now, we all move at different speeds and Tony’s matched mine exactly in that respect. I think Scott wants to to reveal myself in my own time without his prompting. This has actually made me realize I may not tell him everything (I can actually thanks George for that lesson in fact). Maybe he doesn’t need to buy the cow just to get the milk. I’m not exactly sure what I think of this but there’s a part of me that’s glad he isn’t probing further since I’m not ready to be that far into relationship with him when I’m still tenuous in some respects.

Maybe my reticence is because I may still have walls up. Maybe it’s self-sabotage. I don’t really know. He wants to please me so badly it’s amazing to me, but maybe I don’t want to feel like I’m continuously taking advantage of his crush on me. I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I do feel a certain amount of reticence for an unclear reason.

Next week I will head down to his house for almost a week. With the distance between us (and the cost that brings) it forces longer visits and I think it’s worth seeing Scott in his own surroundings. He’s super excited I offered to come to him and wants me to meet his adult daughter. I have no doubt we will have a great time and I’m looking forward to having more continuous time with him. We will have a mini weekend getaway as well as we’ve decided to run our half marathon around the National Mall in DC. That was his idea and, as hard as it is to impress me, he really doesn’t fall short in this area.

Maybe my lesson is about finding balance. I’m certain there is a lesson in here with Scott. I’ve got a good thing I intend to let run it’s natural course with no preconceived notion of duration or “what’s next.” I’m opening myself up to this pretty great guy and seeing where it takes me.

So there it is, the whole Scott story in a big word dump.

I don’t know what’s next but I can tell you I’m looking forward to seeing him and spending an extended amount of time with him next week and I’m happy to take it slowly for once.