What It’s Like Being an Unemployed Professional

People ask me what it’s like, being unemployed this long. Certainly it’s not easy, but everyone gets that. Every day is a repeat of the last: get up late (because I’m a night owl), wake up by reading my email, catch up on Twitter and Facebook, and then look at jobs for a while, maybe an hour or so. At this point, I’ve got my lists—daily, weekly, monthly—that I check. I keep records of what I’ve checked when. I have a system, and it’s well-tuned.

But that leaves me with a lot of spare time on my hands. If I’m spending two or three hours on jobs—and that’s what I spend on a busy day when there are three or four things worth applying to at new companies and/or at companies that allow cover letters—that still leaves a lot of time for everything else. This explains why I spent a year as an undergraduate last year working on a mathematics degree that I don’t think that I’ll get though I’m just six classes away; it also explains why I’m in graduate school for engineering management now. I need something to do with my time other than sit in coffeeshops and read, which is something I do enough of as it is.

I’ve tried to find some part-time work, but I’m vastly overqualified for most of it to the point that no one wants to talk to me. I’ve gone to bartending school, but breaking in around here hasn’t happened for me yet. I’m continuing to try.

As for breaking in: I live in this paradox: I will finally get a job, but it won’t be whatever one that I’m applying to now. I’ve believed in jobs that seemed like sure things to the point that I quit looking for a couple of weeks while I waited to hear. And I waited. When I got the “no”, it was pretty devastating. The next one was, too. So was the one after that. After that third big, draining one, I’ve learned that I have to live the paradox.

I went on what I think was a great interview last Tuesday, but I refuse to spend a lot of time thinking about what it would like to have that job, what I would do, how I would dig myself out financially once I had it, how I would have to drop my concert choir … you see, I have thought about it, but I try to not dream of it. It’s where I have to live.

It’s not any fun, but I’m still in my house, my car’s paid off, I’m losing weight, I’m in graduate school, etc. It could be much worse.

30-in-90: Help Me Kick Myself in the Ass

I just weighed myself: 381.2 lbs. That’s a lot of weight. In October 2010, it was 443. In January of 2010, when I first started making a concerted effort to lose weight, I was probably 455-460. The truth is, I was so heavy that most scales wouldn’t weigh me. I was also big enough that getting out of the car would cause me to honk the horn unless I turned the wheel 90 degrees with the engine off. Simply put, I was on my way to being dead by 45.

But I pulled back from that, obviously. My goal right now for 45 is being alive and done with three graduate degrees [MSE in Engineering Management, Ph.D. in Engineering Management, MSE in Aerospace Engineering]. That would be a nice thing.

But I can’t do that at 381.2 lbs, either. If I stay at that weight for that long—and I’ve been in this neighborhood for most of the last eight years, more or less—my quality of life is going to be for shit. [Not that it’s great right now.]

Here’s where you come in, other than to wince a little bit at all these numbers. I am an externally motivated person in a lot of realms. It’s just the way that my personality works. This is one of them. It is not easy to put those numbers up, even when you can infer that I’ve lost 75-80 pounds in the last 22 months. What I haven’t told you is that I’ve been stuck in this range since April, and that I’ve lost and gained back 10 pounds since May—and actually, I gained back most of the way to 390 and have lost back to where I am now in the last two weeks. ((Being sick helped; I’ve dropped five pounds in a few days.))

Simply put, I’m stuck, and I want your help in getting un-stuck.

My goal—nay, my mission—is to lose 30 pounds in the next 90 days. That’s totally doable, it’s medically safe, and it would be fun. I haven’t been at 350 since I was 25 or so. Yes, I want to go much further, as 225 is my target, but a little kickstart now would help.

How can you help? Simple.

I will weigh myself every few days, but if you want a status check, you email me, text me, tweet me (@gfmorris), or post on my Facebook timeline. The next opportunity that I get, I’ll go home, weigh myself, and report back on Facebook and Twitter—provided that I haven’t already weighed that day already. I’m your little monkey boy. [Okay, I’m your overweight ape.]

Here’s how I exact my pound of flesh: I’m going to ignore you if you don’t pledge to give money to the American Heart Association on December 31st, the 90th day of this exercise. I hope to be to 351.2 by mid-December, but I’ll go until I get there. If I make the weight, you have to give money. Cool?

Why the AHA? Well, both of my parents have had cardiac problems in the last year, and I had a ventricular septal defect as a child and am on my weigh (heh) to a heart attack of my own if I don’t change course. This is a charity that means something to me, so I’m throwing it out there. ((If you remember me asking on Twitter a few weeks ago for a local charity, it was for this cause. I scrapped it in favor of AHA.))

You can make a comment here, on Facebook, or on the Twitters and I’ll make a spreadsheet. More pledges will make me work harder, and you get the tax break when I make the weight.

We cool?

Good Things for April 2012

01. Set up a lot of tickler reminders in OmniFocus, which is quickly becoming the only way I remember to do anything.
02. Read a lot of Pride and Prejudice. My distractibility made my progress smaller than the time I allotted should have shown.
03. I started off the day with a good night of sleep that didn’t drag on past 0900. This is so rare with my night owl tendencies.
04. A nice glass of Scotch warmed conversation with Stephen and Misty.
05. I got an extension on a project ((Because our instructor hadn’t returned the email sent on the 3rd asking for help.)) and didn’t have to skip my prob/stats class.
06. I had a nice phone interview with a local company that has a distributed team—hence the call.
07. Lazy Saturday, but I fired out a bunch of cover letters and got to hang out with Andrew for a while. Grand!
08. My Easter sucked, but at least I got this stupid program done.
09. Talked to Joel and Daniel about how best to handle this chargerhockeyheroes.com deal.
10. Got back a good grade in the class I’m ace-ing and figured out what the grades probably will be in the class that I’m not.
11. Got the truth from a friend.
12. Boston Bruins Playoff Hockey!
13. Bought some land and watched some hockey.
14. Lenny’s with Andrew for the second Saturday in a row.
15. Wrote about hockey, and I’m reasonably satisfied with what I wrote.
16. I found out just how much my doctor trusts me ((a lot)), and the Bruins won in regulation, keeping me from the stress of playoff overtime for the first time this series.
17. Celebrated the semester being so close to ending.
18. Hadn’t been to the hockey office in a while. Good times.
19. My friend Emily offered to circulate my résumé.
20. Hockey banquet!
21. Sold the truck; it was time. Lenny’s with Andrew. A couple good phone conversations with Mom.
22. Bruins force Game Seven!
23. Lots of caffeine, a good programming session, and talks with good people.
24. Classes are over! Just finals left.
25. My dad survived his heart attack.
26. My CS exam was easy, and I’m done with that wretched class.
27. Listened to a good podcast by Nick Flora about Andrew Osenga’s next album while driving to come to West Tennessee.
28. Got the chair lift locking mechanism fixed after it broke.
29. Got to say some (hopefully) supportive words to someone who needs some.
30. Between selling the truck and my tax refunds, my car loan balance is just under $1100. It will be paid off this summer!

No Seven-Year Itch

Seven years ago today, I bought a townhouse I still live in. It’s been a place to lay my head, watch TV (mainly hockey), read, and think. It’s not perfect. It’s not well-kept. It’s mine, though.

If I live here another ten months, I’ll have lived in that house longer than anywhere else; the current title-holder is a two-story in a 1970s-era subdivision in a little place called Beavercreek, Ohio. If I make it to mid-August, I’ll have called the metropolitan Huntsville area home for fifteen years; this is the longest I’ve lived anywhere in my entire life. If I somehow make it to 2015, I’ll have lived half my life in Huntsville, but I hope to not be in this house by then, for I hope to be married (yes, finally) and have sold my house. I want to have the next house be “our house”. This is “my house” for as long as I can stay here.

Needless to say, the unsettled state of my last two years has all of this in doubt. There are some glimmers of hope to stay here, and I work every day to remain a Huntsvillian. I am not guaranteed this, though, and so I wanted to write of my little mile marker today. In a period of extreme uneasiness, it’s a welcome sight every time I pull in the driveway.

Good Things in March 2012

01. I made lots of progress on the next programming assignment. I may even finish it by the end of the weekend, and it’s not due until Thursday. Who is this person doing my academic work?
02. I survived the tornado event.
03. Stephen and I talked about lots of things while we watched Duke stink up the joint against Carolina.
04. Friends helped me out of a spiraling mood.
05. Chance meeting with Katherine. Good to catch up. Also got some stuff out the door on a job opportunity with GE Aviation.
06. Program’s done two days in advance. (Say what?) I was the recipient of honesty and the chance to spread some hope. Tough roads are best traveled in teams.
07. I got to have dinner with Jeff!
08. Isolated opportunities at GE Aviation and fired off fantastic cover letters.
09. More cover-letter-writing and job-submitting. Great time with Andrew and Lee at the coffeeshop.
10. Helped Rick build an outdoor play set for his kids, except it’s not done. Oops.
11. Men’s basketball won. Survive and advance.
12. I wrote a kick-ass cover letter to a Teledyne Technologies company on the other side of the estuary from Liverpool. Who knows?
13. I realized what had been going on with me physically and took steps to correct it.
14. I had good times with people (Kelsey, Stephanie, Lucas, Lee, Andrew) and a good phone call with my parents that offset a crappy day otherwise.
15. Ten hours of sleep, and then cupcake and pie with Andrew and Lee.
16. Set Mom up with her first Mac!
17. Just a nice, quiet day with my parents.
18. Radiohead made my drive home tolerable. I also realized on the trip that they’re now, by all measures, my favorite band. Sorry, Wilco.
19. Bruins rout, Celtics win, good day of reading, nice episode of How I Met Your Mother.
20. Just a nice, quiet day at the house. Got a lot of reading done.
21. I thought my WRX’s air conditioning had conked out, but all it took was a full power/option cycle and I had cool air again. I was dreading another big bill on that car.
22. Crisis averted.
23. I was having a bad day—a long, bad day—but a really hot shower made it tolerable. Mental note made.
24. Rainy day. Coffee. Pride and Prejudice.
25. Traded texts with Laura.
26. I thought I’d have to have a dental crown installed, but all I needed was a filling. Less pain for my mouth and my bank account.
27. Solved my mother’s computer problems via Screen Sharing.
28. I talked with Dana for an hour.
29. Med tweak.
30. I felt a lot more like myself. I also got to talk to Stephanie some, which I didn’t expect.
31. Bruins won.

Good Things for February 2012

I need to get back into this.

01. Spent a nice evening with a friend, and I wasn’t overly upset when a job opening at my old company ended up getting cancelled. I had appropriately managed my expectations, which is good. I did not do so with either of the last two job opportunities, which was to my detriment. Hooray for learning.
02. I finished my programming assignment with time to spare. I should have given myself more time, but I improvised.
03. Full day. I think the highlight is a good meeting with my psychiatrist, followed by S1E02 of Downton Abbey. I’m in. [If UAH hadn’t blown a three-goal lead against Maine, that would be #1 with a bullet.]
04. Got a number of things done in the kitchen to get myself some more pantry space.
05. My back was balky again, so I watched four episodes of Downton Abbey along with the Super Bowl, which didn’t really hold my interest.
06. I got caught up on my reading for my Probability class ((which is to say that I started on it today)) in advance of Thursday’s test. It took me five hours. My back does not like me right now.
07. I survived a day on 4.5 hours’ sleep. My chiropractor cleared my back problem in a painful-but-necessary adjustment. My probability prof slipped Thursday’s exam a week. All in all, a good day.
08. Downton Abbey, five episodes’ worth.
09. I got a UAH Student ID and a nice UAH Chargers coffee cup at the bookstore at the same time I got my mom a hat. She wanted a floppy canvas hat like I have, and she’d said that it would be okay for it to have UAH on it.
10. Time with my mother is always good.
11. I set up Mom’s Kindle. This is the first time she’s really been able to read much since her stroke over a decade ago.
12. My drive home was quite beautiful, even if it did lead to me wondering how much longer it would be home.
13. Good therapy appointment. Couple of interesting jobs applied to.
14. I took a great, much-needed nap. I slept the right length of time, and I felt as I needed to when it was over.
15. I powered through my studying for Thursday’s probability exam. I got to talk to Lucas for a while.
16. I got my programming assignment done quickly, although one went awry.
17. I got a lot of job applications out there, and I published a piece I’d been working on about Downton Abbey.
18. Waterdeep private concert!
19. The Downton Abbey Christmas special aired in the States, bringing us up to speed with our British cousins. I teared up again, and I’m okay with that.
20. Jobhunting!
21. I started working on a little Web project, and then I got to hang out with Stephen and Misty.
22. The Bruins won.
23. I feel like I did well on my programming test.
24. Home hockey! Hopefully this is not my last Friday night UAH hockey in Huntsville for the foreseeable future.
25. Weird morning, but good afternoon, highlighted by a solid, if losing, effort from the boys.
26. I figured out Blu-Ray ripping on my Mac. Yay me!
27. How I Met Your Mother was enjoyable.
28. I got a 98 on said programming test.
29. Leap Day!

My Reading in 2011

It had been several years since I was a consistent reader. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the main one was my inability to focus on reading for any length of time. When I got out of practice, I quit altogether. Once an avid reader, I didn’t read a book in 2010 at all.

Come 2011, I turned a corner. Once I finished my time working for the University, I needed something to do. I leaped headlong into reading, spending time in coffeeshops to get me out of the house and around people. When I wasn’t talking a barista’s ear off, I ran crazy with the reading, finishing 15 books with three carrying over into 2012. It’s not the reading rate that I’d like, but 15 books in five months works for me after none at all in 2010. Some thoughts about the books:

Continue reading My Reading in 2011

Good Things in October

Trying for three in a row here…

Oct 01 My birthday! [I was sick.]
Oct 02 My migraine went away after several hours of sleep.
Oct 03 I think I did well on my exam. I’m still kinda sick, but wooo.
Oct 04 I defended Twitter in a class full of college kids. That still feels wrong.
Oct 05 I aced the exam. I made a couple minor mistakes, but he had 109 possible points for a grade of 100, and I didn’t use up all nine. It’s like I remember how to do this.
Oct 06 The NHL is back, and Brad and I launched The Shanahammer.
Oct 07 Lunch with the Kings!
Oct 08 I got my new shoes! They help fight my over-pronation. Now I just need some orthotics and I’ll really be set.
Oct 09 It was Christiana’s birthday, and I got to talk to her for a few minutes on the phone.
Oct 10 I read 42% of the new Michael Lewis book, Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World.
Oct 11 I found out that someone I see fairly regularly in the coffee shop also goes to my church. [It’s a big church.]
Oct 12 iOS 5 release day! [Let’s not talk about my attempts to migrate my Macs to iCloud.]
Oct 13 I had a good day today after a couple of really bad ones.
Oct 14 I had another good job interview today.
Oct 15 I turned in a class assignment the minute that it was due in the online system. Aw yeah.
Oct 16 I watched The Amazing Race.
Oct 17 Got to work with Keifel and his boy about coming to UAH, had a nice walk on campus, got the math homework done early, and had a nice conversation with a pretty girl. More like today, please.
Oct 18 I had a nice conversation with my therapist about things that I do not discuss outside that room. 🙂
Oct 19 Kari and I firmed up plans for me to write one letter a day to one of 30 people for November. It’s going to be quite the project.
Oct 20 My tech writing professor was understanding when I emailed in sick to class.
Oct 21 Good coffee, good conversation, hockey tie.
Oct 22 Good coffee, good conversation, good hockey on TV.
Oct 23 I had a good phone conversation with my mother. We talk pretty much every day now.
Oct 24 I got to provide audio for a national radio broadcast after my alma mater’s hockey program was executed.
Oct 25 I pulled together a list of people to whom I will write letters for National Blog Posting Month. I need to keep grinding on the outline, but I have my 30.
Oct 26 Waterdeep. WAAAAATERDEEEEP. Worth my drive, and worth giving up my Avett Brothers ticket. Sweet River Roll, all over me.
Oct 27 I finally got to sleep at 5am.
Oct 28 I learned something. I didn’t want to learn what it was like, though.
Oct 29 Bojangle’s is open all day for breakfast. Let’s just say that it was early afternoon.
Oct 30 I got to spend time with Lucas and Kelsey for the first time in a while.
Oct 31 I finished work on my writing project for November, which will involve writing things around here everyday while having nothing to do with the writing of a novel.

Good Things in September 2011

So, let’s build on doing this last month.

Sep 01: Got classwork turned in early for once, then the second consecutive bull-shooting exercise with Lucas. Good times. Three is a trendline.
Sep 02: Got to spend time with the parental unit.
Sep 03: After a crippling bout of insomnia, I got to spend time geeking out about awesome things my grandfather had saved in his basement. It is now time to move all of that work to a new home, and it will be mine.
Sep 04: I’d not had coffee with Amy and Jeff for some time. It was good to be with them for a spell. The rest of my day: so close.
Sep 05: I went on a quest for decaf 5-Hour Energy. While unsuccessful, I had a good time. I also read a lot of Jane Eyre.
Sep 06: I got interviewed by WAAY 31 / FOX 54 about Save UAH Hockey. I’m hoping that this post remains hopeful by Sep 30.
Sep 07: I did a lot of crazy writing today, but my email interview with USCHO about Save UAH Hockey takes the cake. I was pretty pissed off when I wrote that. Matt asked some good, leading questions and I charged right the fuck through the door.
Sep 08: To quote Lucas: “Thursday nights are my sabbath.” Amen.
Sep 09: I got to talk to Kelsey for a good solid hour before HOPSpitality. I like that girl; I like her more than I like Nick. 😉
Sep 10: I honestly spent most of Saturday basking in the glow of Friday night. Also, I wore this one pair of jeans for the first time since 2009.
Sep 11: I didn’t tweet about 9/11, nor did I watch anything on TV about it. I think that it’s good to remember, but I think that it’s bad to wallow.
Sep 12: I had a lot of good realizations about the goofy things that roll around inside my head.
Sep 13: Put together a good class deliverable on resumes [heh] and got to talk to Kelsey for a while.
Sep 14: I cleared all the major hurdles left to getting to a surgery date. I should have it for sure on Thursday.
Sep 15: I got some good information on the surgery stuff that will help me make a good decision.
Sep 16: First day of a set build of a spaceship for Andrew Osenga. It was fun even if I was late due to being sick in the morning.
Sep 17: Second day of the build, and we got done quickly, and then I found out that Patrick’s great great-uncle once nearly killed my great-great grandfather. I mean, I knew the story about train robber Rube Barrow nearly killing S.F. Pennington, but it was very weird to find out that he was one of Patrick’s ancestors. It was a bizarrely awesome revelation at dinner.
Sep 18: Good breakfast with the boys [bye Josh! Enjoy South America!] and Susan. I drove home and then proceeded to crash hard.
Sep 19: An unknown person gave me a three-figure Amazon gift card. I have picked up a Kindle with it. I’m still flabbergasted.
Sep 20: The return of 3rd Base Grill trivia! Our terribly-named team came in second, which made me happy. Also, I had a good job interview. 😉
Sep 21: I got a call for the 2nd interview. I love it when employers move quickly.
Sep 22: A solid second round of interviews! On a just-as-important level, things were made right and my sanity was restored.
Sep 23: Hockey night in Huntsville! Confirmation that the interviews went well! Time with friends! LOUD NOISES!
Sep 24: Being sick meant I got to catch up some more on my sleep.
Sep 25: Asked and answered. Getting beaten by a 7-year-old in Battleship was pretty fun.
Sep 26: Shared struggle is always worthwhile.
Sep 27: I kept my feet moving, which was enough for the day.
Sep 28: Hockey 101 at the UC was a fun event.
Sep 29: I got us a four-day extension on a school deadline. I also started praying about forgiveness in one area of my life that’s going to take some time.
Sep 30: Being sick with a cold means I got a lot of sleep in.