My employment history (is a bonafide trail of tears)

This is day three of a thirty day writing challenge, at the conclusion of which I’ll self-publish my efforts on Amazon. Read the second post here. Or start at the beginning.

OK, so here’s my employment history. All of it that I can remember. Like with girlfriends, I’ve had so many jobs that I forget about some of them sometimes. A girl I dated a few times whenever that Adam Sandler movie Big Daddy came out, I can’t recall her name for the life of me, but she was cool. But this is not about girlfriends. This is about jobs. I could definitely write a book on how to fail at relationships though. Hm…

I actually made this list in mid-2016, and never dreamed of sharing it. I made the list for myself. To find patterns. To search for reasons that it’s so hard for me to work. I don’t know if I really figured anything out from this list, not yet. But it’s all part of the puzzle of my life.

Some of this is pretty messed up. I am certain that this is a flowchart for my mental illness as much of an employment history. If you’re reading this and you’re a psychologist, and you have any profound insights to offer, call me. I mean, I can’t pay much. Because I’m unemployable. For reasons that will be obvious momentarily.

So let’s get started.

1996. Gordon Food Service, a bulk food store. I was a stocker. I was lazy and fragile and lost. I was fifteen. My shifts seemed to last forever and my legs hurt, so at least a few times everyday I locked myself in the bathroom and laid on the floor. Once an assistant manager stopped me from running the floor cleaner and said, “When you do a half-assed job, you’ll get half-assed results.” I didn’t even know I was doing a half-assed job until he said that. I’ll never forget those words. They hit me deeply.

I did not quit GFS and they did not formally terminate me. They phased me off the schedule and kept telling me to check back next week. Eventually, I stopped checking, and never heard from them again.

1997. I think. Maybe ’98. Hollywood Video. One of my many employers that has died while I continue to live. I did OK there. I fit in. Became a shift leader at age seventeen. Yeah, I got to be one of those annoying teenagers in power. I thought I was hot shit. It was fun. I worked there longer than most jobs. I wasn’t lazy. I don’t think I was, anyway. Maybe a little.

Here’s where it goes badly. I haven’t even told anyone this. Maybe ever. And now I’m writing it for anyone to see; it’s a weird thing. When I was a teenager, I told a lot of big lies. Crazy ones that no one should believe. I’d get so wrapped up in my strange lies that I believed them sometimes though.

While I worked at Hollywood Video, I got lost in a lie about a girl I invented named Emily. A girl with green hair. And a butt that looked nice in cut-off jean shorts. But her and her butt weren’t real. But as the story went, I told tales of a girl named Emily who was pregnant with my child (in reality, I was a virgin). And she found out she had HIV, and wanted me to get tested. So I pretended I went for an HIV test, and told my parents and friends and boss that I was HIV positive and that I was going to be a father. Oh, and something about California? My fabricated baby mama wanted me to move to California. Or something. It doesn’t matter. I’ve said too much.

I got myself really worked up about all that. And quit my job. To move to California, I guess. I never moved to California. They re-hired me later. Then I quit again and I don’t even remember why. Amazingly, they re-hired me again a couple years later. That time, I quit because I was lazy.

2000ish. Mr. Taco. I was a taco meat cook for a week in between stints at Hollywood Video. I was clumsy and made lots of messes, and felt gross. Then one day I slipped and fell on my ass in the freezer. My boss was afraid I was going to sue. I didn’t sue. But after I left that shift, they never heard from me again. That was the first time I was paralyzed by anxiety in regards to work. I couldn’t make myself go to work, and I couldn’t make myself call. I just sat there in my room and did nothing, wishing it would all go away.

2001. Blockbuster Video. The previous jobs and most of what’s next took place in Michigan. Blockbuster was in Texas. I moved to Texas in 2001 after my parents divorced, and stayed for a year. The first job I had in Texas was at Blockbuster Video.

It seemed like it was working out OK, for a couple months. Then came a day when I just knew I was in an awful mood. I remember telling a coworker, I just dare someone to give me a reason to quit today. So, I guess I was looking for a reason. And I found one.

It was a really busy evening, lots of customers, a line to the back of the store. And some lady tried to start her own line. Then she asked why nobody was helping her. I told her she needed to get in line. She said she’d been in line for twenty minutes. I told her she had not been in line. She’d just been standing there by herself. I think I was collected until then, but then she asked for my name. By this point she was standing right in front of me and I was wearing a name tag. I couldn’t handle it. I took my name tag off and threw it at her. It would be amazing if she still has it.

That was the end of my time at Blockbuster Video.

2001. Fort Worth Zoo. Oh, man. Imagine being 300+ pounds, mostly sedentary, and suddenly getting a job that requires walking like a whole bunch of miles a day. That was me at Fort Worth Zoo. I called in like every other day for my first two weeks, because I literally could not get out of bed the day after a shift until my body had done some serious adapting. After surviving that initial trial, it was an all right job. Made good friends. One day Uma Thurman came to the zoo and I followed her around for a while. That was cool. I took home a plastic spork and an unused mayo packet she had in the zoo cafeteria. But my girlfriend threw it away.

In 2002, I quit. No-call/no-show probably. Things had gotten out of control in Texas. Bad stuff. I came back to Michigan.

2002. Team Telecom. I was a telemarketer for two days. I cold-called people and asked them questions about politics. People I called hated me. I hated myself. Two days was enough.

2002. Burger King. Two days, very long shifts. No-call/no-show.

2003. Subway. This was the first job I probably wouldn’t have quit. But I got fired.

It wasn’t that I enjoyed the work. I am slow and clumsy with food preparation. What I enjoyed was that I fit in, felt like part of a family. I wanted to work because I wanted to be with my family. And make money. To support a budding drug habit. A drug habit that would lead to me sleeping in for fifteen hours and getting fired from my family. Oops.

2004. Kelly Services. I worked on a month-long contract with a plastic mold injection plant. I inspected plastic parts. That went on car interiors and things. I was horrible at it, due to focus problems and boredom.They didn’t renew my contract because I let a lot of bad parts pass. Because I was sleeping on my feet. Like a horse.

2004. McDonalds. I worked maintenance. It actually was kind of fun. I’d unload the truck in the early morning with another guy, and we had a blast. We made terrible McDonalds puns while we worked. We basically just put Mc in front of everything we said. And somehow, it kept us sane, even though we were crying inside.

I was also working at Hot Topic at the same time. I liked the idea of that job more, because I could go to work high and nobody noticed or cared. I ended up leaving McDonalds to focus on Hot Topic. And well…

2004. Hot Topic. My boss was a nincompoop. I mean, he basically just wanted everyone to be his best friend and come to the parties at his house. I didn’t make it to the parties, and found myself losing hours and feeling pushed out of the loop. One day I was covering a shift for a friend. When my boss realized I was working and not the other guy, he was visibly disappointed. Ain’t got no time for that. I walked out into the mall on break, then realized I was walking to the parking lot, and to my car. Then, I drove home, and didn’t have a job anymore.

One more thing about Hot Topic, because this is unreal. The day I applied for that job, had taken some dextromethorphan earlier. I was inside Hot Topic, filling out the application, when the dxm onset began. On the final page of the application, there was a large space dedicated to writing whatever I wanted about why they should hire me. I was in a rush to finish because I was starting to sweat bullets and everything was going blurry, so I jotted down something about how I was desperate for work and might kill myself if I don’t get a job soon. I don’t remember what else I wrote, but it was sad. And I know the writing was almost illegible because my dxm handwriting looked like extraterrestrial hieroglyphics. But they called me back. And hired me. And then didn’t like me because I didn’t go to their parties. I find the whole thing hilarious.

2005. Pizza Hut. I was a delivery driver, and I loved it. Lots of time to myself, at my own pace. The staff at that Pizza Hut was insane. People got drunk and high on their shifts, regularly and without hiding it. Coworkers would offer me booze and pot before I took out deliveries. It’s only amazing and funny, because nobody ever got hurt. I got fired from that job for the same reason as Subway, because I slept way too long after using drugs. That Pizza Hut didn’t stay in business for much longer. I wonder why.

2006. Pizza Hut. In a different city, and as a cook, not a driver. Look, I don’t like to cook, okay? I don’t want to make your damn food. I’m slow and clumsy with my hands. After one day, I no-call/no-showed.

2006. Spencer Gifts. This is another job I had no intention of leaving. I was sober at the time, getting my life together. I saw myself staying there for years and advancing with the company. They hired me seasonally, and kept me after the holidays. Then, they were about to promote me, but Human Resources terminated me instead, because of misdemeanors on my criminal record. The thing is, I’d been honest about all that on my initial application, and anytime anyone asked. I felt incredibly shafted. And henceforth, my short career of dealing with moms angrily returning their teenage girls’ dildos was over.

2007. Subway. Round two as a sandwich artist. I didn’t fit in at all, very out of place, and once in a while you get a customer that needs you to use calculus to figure out his preferred mayonnaise and mustard ratio, and it has to be smeared on the cheese just right, or you may as well just start over or rethink your entire life. Fuck that guy.

I quit this job, but actually called in to let them know. What a concept. I lied though, and said the reason was because I had another job lined up.

2007. Jimmy Johns. I worked with a whole bunch of douche bags kids, but I loved my job, because I was a driver and got to be out of the store frequently. Tips were great.

But the douche bags.

And I mean, I was a douche bag too, just in a different way. I was starting to drugs again after a year of sobriety. Such a bad choice for a delivery driver. I got in like three accidents within a couple months, and my boss actually did fight to keep me around, though I’m not sure why because we were like oil and water.

Then I had a really bad day, when I could not find the office that I was supposed to deliver to. The roads were icy, visibility was awful. It was a busy time and the store needed me to go back to take out more deliveries, and I felt overwhelmed and tired of the dynamic at work.

So, I went back to the store. Didn’t say a word. Lobbed my cartop sign on the counter. Headed back towards the door.

“You’re fired!” my boss yelled as I walked out.

2011. Taco Bell. Two days. I broke a whole lot of taco shells.

2011. Stream Global Services. I did technical support in a call center, for a major video game console. Sometimes people would call and the first thing they’d ask was, “So are you in India?”… “Do I sound Indian?” … “No.” … “OK…” I only worked there a couple months. It paid really well and was full time. I found it very stressful, intense, and fast-paced. And my life at the time was a high pressure situation. All the pressure broke me. I used up all my paid sick days and then no-call/no-showed.

2011. Gamestop. Getting this job was a dream come true. Well, a dream I had when I was a teenager. I used to be obsessed with video games. I wanted to work at Gamestop ever since it was originally Funcoland. In 2011 when Gamestop hired me, I knew next to nothing about games anymore. It was weird, finally getting a job there, and not having product knowledge. Coworkers asked me what games I was into, and I mumbled about not playing games anymore, and mentioned some favorites from the 1990’s. They looked at me like I was a leper.

Gamestop was in the mall. On my second day, I went to the mall an hour or so before my shift. I sat on a bench. And I really didn’t want to go to work. And I hated myself and didn’t understand myself for it. The following hour was a slow motion train wreck. I argued with myself. Told myself there was NO way I was flaking out on the job. But I did flake out. At the end of that hour, I hopped on a bus instead of going to work.

2012–2015. Lansing Community College Writing Center. I was basically a writing tutor. My time there was amazing. No one knew me as a slacker who had walked out on so many jobs and failed so many times. They did not know me as a drug user, or a chronic liar, or someone who does a half-assed job and gets half-assed results. For a few years, the past didn’t matter. I was moving forward. I was new. People saw me for what I was and the work I was producing in the moment. It was beautiful. For a while, I was passionate, ambitious, prolific, and appreciated. I fit in. I excelled. But as I said in the previous chapter, I lost my focus, got restless, felt like I wasn’t going anywhere.

It still makes me want to cry when I think of what losing that job represents. The relationships, and the momentum. I’d never had anything better, and now it seems so far away, almost like it never happened. But I know it happened. My heart remembers.

I think maybe now, I’d rather feel like I was going nowhere in such a wonderful atmosphere, than to feel how I’ve ended up. How I am now. How I was in the years before. Yeah, I’d rather go nowhere in a place like that, where I belonged, with people who really loved me, than to ever endure the loneliness of losing everything and everyone. It’s unbearable, and now I can see I wasn’t actually going nowhere. It was just my perception. My delusion.

Sometimes, I wish I could go back. Make it right. But I burned a bridge with the one employer I’ve ever had that actively tried to rebuild the burning bridge beneath my feet. But then I burned the rebuilt bridge too. Some of the things I said and did in 2015 can’t be taken back. I know you don’t really know what I mean, yet. There are layers to this that will come out in proceeding chapters.

All throughout the preceding work history, there were some attempts to make my own way without having a job. Some more realistic than others. Most didn’t stand a chance.

Like how in 2002 I joined an electronic cyberband called Anorkia. By cyberband, I mean the band members lived all over the place and we used the Internet to send each other music files. Then, one of us would mix them together and we’d have songs. I was the lead vocalist. I guess Anorkia never officially died, but it never succeeded either. It never could have. We didn’t make the right kind of music to be popular, and weren’t good enough to shine in the underground. I think some of what we made is good, at least shows potential. And we improved over time. But we never found an audience. Getting people’s attention was hard, getting people to listen. And the people who did listen didn’t say very much. So I assume we just weren’t that good.

But in 2002, I thought I was going to be a rockstar. I truly fucking believed it. I acted like one. I wore the clothes and did the drugs. I promoted my work the best I could. But looking back, it’s almost funny I actually thought I could make a living that way. Retrospect is very no-nonsense. And unforgiving.

Before Anorkia, I wanted to start a video game magazine. I was super-inspired by the magazines I read when I was a kid, like Electronic Gaming Monthly and especially Game Players. Game Players was hilarious. Those journalists were rockstars to me. And I wanted to be them. I wanted to make the world laugh by writing about what I was passionate about.

The magazine I wanted to start was called Game Elite. I conceived it when I was seriously about eight. I tried to do it until my early 20’s before I gave up. Game Elite reached its adolescence and quick death as the Internet became popular. I abandoned the idea of a print magazine and focused on building a website. Nobody was showing up. Nobody was reading it. In the end, nobody cared except me and maybe a handful of other people who definitely didn’t care as much as I did. I was tired of lugging that dream around for over ten years and not having the skills, or luck, or consistency, or whatever, to make it real.

So I went from being a failed gaming journalist to a failed rockstar. But at least in the case with Anorkia, the music still exists. I can reflect on it. I can appreciate it for what it was, and what it means to me. Game Elite, though, is wiped from the face of the earth like it never existed. And the truth is, if I could read now what I wrote back then, I’d probably realize all too painfully why Game Elite never took off. It was amateur hour, just like most things I’ve tried to do.

So passion isn’t what’s been missing. I’ve been able to find passion. For Game Elite, Anorkia, and then more recently some hopefully more realistic endeavors (that still failed or never got off the ground, yet). I can do passion. Maybe to a fault.

What’s missing is probably consistency and hard work. Laziness might be the plague of my life. Laziness and distraction. Distraction is the worst. By distraction, I mean it’s ultra-hard for me to focus on one thing for a long time. Or a short time. Even committing to writing a chapter every day for thirty days for this book, part of me laughs at myself mockingly, feeling sure I won’t stay focused and committed for that long. Commitment. That’s another thing. I have commitment issues. For sure.

But I have to do better. There’s really no option. I’ve reached a point in which I cannot tolerate my own mediocrity. Like, at all. I can’t stand disgusting myself anymore. I can’t stand every day blurring together, and being too afraid of going out into the world and making things happen. Being too fearful of failure, and rejection, and people not liking me; so afraid that I don’t go anywhere or do anything or meet anyone or let myself love or be loved.

That is unacceptable, intolerable, and not the way things are going to be.

I’ve been incapacitated all year. Through 2016. And I’ve asked myself: what can I do? What am I capable of? If I can’t go out and work, then what CAN I do? What’s one thing I can do to make a change?

What I’ve found is that what I can do right now, is write. If that’s all I can do, it’s still something. It’s movement. It’s motion. And if I can be in motion, even the slightest motion, I stand a chance of figuring things out. Moving on. Doing something. Being something.

So, I’m writing. Like my life depends on it. And someday I’ll see how this led to something else, and maybe then I’ll write about that too. And so on, until my body gives up and goes back to dust.

I don’t know what’s next for my employment history. I don’t know what I could add to that list to make it any more embarrassing or ridiculous. Maybe the only way out is truly up.

I hope so. OK, actually I know so. Mere hope isn’t enough.