Thursday, February 10, 2011

A lesson learned.

As I walk through the door at my new job, I am greeted by one of more than fifty new faces that I have met this week.  Children, parents, fellow teachers, and new supervisors are all jostling for space in my crowded memory bank.  I still haven't been able to completely let go of the sting of being rejected by my former boss and coworkers.  With all of these people and feelings crowding my brain, is it any wonder that I have begun to question my own sense of self?

After all, I had settled nicely into the prospect of writing my own schedule after about one and one-half weeks of unemployment.  I would fill at least the first two hours of any day with applications, job searching, networking, and the like.  An hour or so would be dedicated to errands and chores.  But then--the next hours, those were the golden hours where I completed several pet projects that have been percolating for years.  After several very stressful months, the freedom to spend time doing the things that I love to do most was a revelation. Several of my best girls and I set out to make Julia Child's famed (and notoriously finicky) Souffle' du Fromage with hand-gathered duck eggs.  I finally took the time to climb and photograph a decaying relic of Durham's industrial past.  The projects themselves were trivial--but the distance and sense of self that they afforded me were anything but.

And so, while this started as a blog about becoming unexpectedly unemployed, it is going to continue as a way to document all of the goals and projects that I have rattling around in my head, begging for release.  I pledge to never again put myself in the position where I am solely defined by my job.  I pledge to live as full, and as crazy, of a life as possible. 

  • The first project?  Starting to draw and paint again, and finally achieving a long-term goal of mine to get a gallery show of my very own.  On that end, I would like to begin a collaborative project painting.  I'll start a painting (acrylic on primed, 18"x24" canvas) and will mail it to the first person on the list.
  • The recipient will then add their own flourishes onto the canvas, and then mails it to the next address on the list.
  • Each artist photographs the canvas upon completion of their addition to the painting, then sends the pictures to amandamshaffer -at- gmail -dot- com.
  • The final artist to add to the collaboration will mail the completed painting back to me when they're finished.
  • Each artist is responsible for the cost of mailing the canvas to the next recipient.
Interested in participating?   Comment here or email me at the address above.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A funny thing happened on my way to a breakdown...

I begin this entry by stating that I have found a new job, a job that is a better fit for me in many ways, and have been toying with the idea of removing this blog in its entirety as a mere dalliance of my short-lived unemployment.

But to remove this, to pretend it never existed, would be to deny one of the most important lessons that I've learned during this unexpected turn of events.

After the initial shock of my job loss wore off and the metaphorical dust settled, I was able to look clearly at my own personal situation for the first time in months.  As my longtime friends showed up on my doorstep with crazily entertaining projects, chocolate, flowers, and their own love and support, the sting of being rejected by a small group of women at my former employer began to recede more and more.  After months of pushing my own creative impulses to the side for lack of time, I was able to get out and take photos around Durham that had been mere concepts.  I was able to tackle projects that I had talked about for a long time but could never find the time to properly execute.  The time that I spent without work forced me to remember all of the ways that we humans define ourselves outside of our professions.  As a result, I feel more in tune with me than I have in a while.  So, although the initial experience of getting fired was unpleasant, the results of the experience were overwhelmingly positive.

A note to my former employer:  here is the reason that I have "Na Pukaua" etched onto the back of my neck in an elegant, tattooed script.  I *am* a fighter, and nothing will stop me from achieving my goals.  Thank you so much for the reminder of my own resilience.
Here are some of the projects that I've worked on during the past two weeks:

Photos of downtown Durham taken from an abandoned Norfolk Southern railway trestle that I pass under on my way to the gym everyday:

Homemade Cranberry/Orange Zest Pop-Tarts (recipe from Whisk Kid):

Making my own cheese at home:

And accomplishing a long-time goal of mine, making my own croissants from scratch:

Friday, January 28, 2011

How did I get here?

A question that so many people are asking themselves right now--how did I get here? Many that I know are under-employed, unemployed, or have been asked to take massive pay cuts despite the fact that they've dedicated more than a decade to their employer.

Nine days ago, I joined those ranks.

While I'm still trying to wrap my head around the circumstances of my job separation, it doesn't really matter how or why I lost my job. My state of residency is an "at-will" state; that is, an employer can legally terminate an employee at any time for any reason. I may never truly know, or be able to come to terms with, why my former employer chose to surprise me on January 18 with a bag of my belongings thrown into my building's driveway.

In these first nine days, I have applied to over fifty jobs, been to four interviews, and have spent at least two hours daily scouring craigslist, Monster, the federal/state/county government job sites, and a score of other job resources. My blood pressure has almost doubled. My health insurance runs out on Monday. Struggling to fill the hours in between what seems to be an increasingly futile job search has become my unwanted vocation.

And so, I turn to writing as a solace. Determined to create a positive situation out of the proverbial lemons, I am vowing to use this time to renew old connections and create new ones. Time will be spent on all of the projects that I have wanted to accomplish over the years but have never finished or documented.

Let the games begin.