Thursday, 22 May 2008


I actually dislike sitting in Starbucks to write my blog entries, and the other sundry of smaller things I end up doing. I could stay at home and do this without the obligation of paying for a caffeinated beverage. But there is something moderately liberating about feeling like I am actually doing something. I could spend the entirety of the day at home, unemployed, wallowing in my distress. Instead I am professionally dressed, interacting with society, with the full blown appearance of someone who is doing something…not someone who is wallowing in her unemployment. Plus I like coffee.

While here, I drink those “skinny” drinks that Starbucks has so dutifully endorsed. You know what I’m talking about - those beverages that are marketed specifically for the insecure individual, who is struggling with his/her weight and esteem. Truthfully these drinks probably don’t make a lick of difference, and are probably far worse than indulging in a full-calorie Coke. But the mind is fickle. We believe what makes us feel good. Today I have accompanied my Skinny Vanilla Latte with a Soy Banana Muffin (notice the capitalization?). Soy and banana must make it healthy! The pound of sugar on top…maybe not.

Maybe my life is fuller with Starbucks. For instance, the advice on the back of my coffee cup is deeply profound…utterly life changing: "The most important thing in life is to stop saying “I wish” and start saying “I will.” Consider nothing impossible and then treat possibilities as probabilities.”
Apparently these words were conjured up by David Copperfield. Why does a magician have a profound quote? Why not the Average Joe? Regardless, this was worth the trip to have my life changed by my coffee cup. And trust me, I presently have the time to ponder and implement that advice. Unfortunately “I will” takes money. Ahhh well…maybe the next coffee cup will be more feasible.

Alright, I’m running out of things to say about my unemployment, but really have nothing better to do that blog about something. Actually I am procrastinating a much larger independent project. I am not great with independent projects…because I procrastinate. While in university I procrastinated about any school-related work. During those periods, I could find tons of interesting things to do – I vacuumed, cleaned the toilet, emptied dresser drawers (cleaning was a vice), and blogged. There is a reason that my travel blog is titled “The Procrastinator’s Travel Haven”. When university ended, I started procrastinating about my procrastination blog. My inspiration for getting things done is about as useful as my body’s ability to metabolize food – my metabolism is lethargic and nearly nonexistent – so is my attention span for independent projects. But alas, it is time for me to shift gears, and start working on something a bit more productive. Until tomorrow…when I need to procrastinate again. Maybe my Travel Haven will eventually make it back in to my rounds of procrastination vices.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

The Gamble

I don’t gamble – never really have. It’s not just because I can’t afford it (usually money problems are an inspiration for gambling, are they not?) but it has more to do with the fact that I find it completely illogical. No…let me revise that…I find it completely illogical because it is logical. How so? Well, when you understand the true nature of statistics, and the likelihood of actually winning at endeavors that involve money, the logic behind playing the odds is highly illogical. Make sense? If you sit back and muse over the surpluses that casinos and lotteries corporations experience, you will start to see my logic. Larger-than-life Las Vegas would not be larger-than-life if it were not for the fact that the odds favour the house. And let’s say that you did “hit it big”, would your winnings really counterbalance the amount that you spent in getting to that win? Oh yes, anomalies do happen. People win the first time they play the lottery and on the first quarter in the slot machine. But what are the odds of that happening? Is it worth the gamble?

Ok, so I have on occasion played the 6/49, and tossed the odd quarter into a slot machine. I don’t win. Never have. The odds against winning are actually increased when I am the one gambling. So the end result…I just don’t do it anymore. But don’t worry – I have found a sundry of creative alternative ways to loose my money.

So while I may not formally gamble, there are tons of daily gambles that we all take. For instance…I show dogs competitively. No, let me rephrase that too…I show a dog competitively, though I train more than one dog. I have one dog that I’m willing to gamble with – and one that I know better than to gamble with. But even my safe bet is far from being a safe bet at times. We’ve blown as many runs as we’ve passed. Maybe more. But I gamble on it, and unfortunately sometimes the house wins.

Right now I am contemplating the biggest gamble that I could possibly take at this moment…yes…maybe bigger than England, because it requires me to essentially start from scratch, and at a fairly substantial cost (see, I do find creative ways to loose my money!). Before I continue let me tell you a quick story…Several years ago I talked to a random individual, who had recently graduated from university. She was laying in debt at around the $60,000 mark…and was heading to Africa on vacation. Naturally, I was curious about the debt versus the travel…
“How can you afford to go?” I asked captivated (mainly because I was trying to figure out how to balance my own debt with travelling).
“Well….when you are $60,000 in debt, what’s another $10,000?”
Logic. I understood it.

Likely I met this person in a “coffeeshop” in Amsterdam.

You will read a lot about my debt load – I can view it with humour, and will often joke about it (generally to alleviate my stress) but truthfully I find it less than humourous. It’s ironic in a lot of ways. At 18 I was investing money from my part-time jobs, and was set for a financially secure future. Then 4 years of university lapsed into 9…and then I discovered that international travel was far more interesting than financial security and mutual funds. Eventually I quit investing, deciding that experiencing life was a better investment than the alternative. I realized that life is short, and really…who wants to accrue a fortune, but never take the time to experience what this world has to offer? I want to die knowing that I lived. And lived I have. Call this depressing, or what have you, but that’s my reality. My mother calls me a fatalist…my accountant (yes I have one of those) is hard pressed to understand it…but its logic, and I stay true to it.
A lot people will disagree with my decisions, and rightly so. Most people want material objects, a big house and sexy vehicle. But…food for thought: I’ve spent a fairly substantial amount of time studying archaeology – time at the 10,000 year scale…when you study increments of 10,000 years, you realize that the 80 years that you are [hopefully] given on this Earth is relatively paltry. 80 years is a mere a blip on the radar. We aren’t all going to leave a substantial mark – not all of us go down in history. Most of us do not become Plato, Socrates, Christopher Columbus, or Hippocrates. We don’t coin new terminologies, discover new planets, or discover a vaccine for Polio. We live, and that’s it. Harsh, right? Keep this is mind too…when someone close to you suddenly ceases to exist, you become startlingly aware of your own mortality. Holy crap, you mean I’m not immortal? Nope. Sorry.

Since I’ve returned from England I have been considering what gamble I am going to take. Yes, I may return to England – ok, more than likely I will. Maybe sooner than expected. I have to, I need a job, there is a job there…yada yada…money, debt…you get it. I have an English work visa, I have time…I have no money – I’ll throw the dice again and see if this time I can beat the odds. Go to England entirely broke (again)…I’m stubborn, and I need to prove to myself that I can live in our Motherland without cracking up. And…I’m already this far in debt, what’s another *insert quantity here*. This is not really the gamble I am contemplating though – England is more of a certainty that I’m building up to.

The real gamble…education. HA..yeah…education. It’s a hard reality to suddenly know that you have made a lot of mistakes. But I have. Right now there is an easy option – go back to Louisiana and teach (which may not be as easy as I make it out to be, but I know Louisiana, and I know that I can get a job). Even if it isn’t Louisiana, I know that I can find a job in the US as a part of the VIF program. Unfortunately America is pretty rigourous about checking the financial background of potential squatters. There could be problems with this solution…

So the harder gamble that I am contemplating…several years ago I decided that I wanted to eventually work with humanity. Pretty broad, right? Ok…let me narrow it down for you…crimes against humanity, 3rd World development, AIDS in the 3rd World, etc. And I can work my anthropological training into this. *whew!* but it’s still not enough. The problem with living in a small community is not knowing how to do what it is that you want to do – Tbay is pretty limited in scope…so I shelved my ideas. But recent events in my life have made me realize that I need to be happy with what I’m doing. I’m not one of those people who can get up every day, wear a fake smile, and go blissfully to the job I hate. I had been prepared to wait before investing in my career “dream” – mainly until I paid off my debt. Now I realize that I could be waiting a loooooooooooong time. So…here’s what I need: to finish my undergraduate thesis (*expletive*), take the programs abroad to boost my CV and employability, and take the national and international courses that will get me into graduate school….and then actually get my *ss into grad school. Oh…realization comes at cost this time...but if I’m this far in debt….

Now that I have the realization, herein lies the problem…take the gamble on my future, spend the money (increase my debt load) and hope that it pays off? I’m taking a course on 3rd World politics in June to help ease myself back into school. It’ll be a noncommittal start to the process…if I hate it, I can change my mind at a limited cost, and of course there will still be a hiatus during which I return to England. Oh..and regarding England – the incentive in my return is the possibility of a volunteer opportunity in Africa, which falls in line with what I want to do. So…England it has to be. Ultimately it is time for me to forget the logic and play the odds – I think I can beat the house…and if not, at least I lived, right? ;)

Friday, 16 May 2008

More Coffee &[un] Employment

I have returned to the coffee shop setting to write my newest entry. I am comfortable in this setting…joined by other individuals, who, like myself, seem unconcerned that it is the middle of the afternoon on a weekday. When you are employed it never occurs to you just how many other individuals find themselves on the other side of the line. Now this isn’t to say that this overcrowded coffeehouse is filled with the unemployed – but seriously – it is the middle of the afternoon, and countless others have the same blank expression that I have taken to expressing.

When my coffeehouse sojourns began in Banbury, I never had to deal with the phenomenon of a packed establishment. Gloria Jeans’ was newly opened, and though it was drawing a crowd, it wasn’t drawing a Starbucks crowd. Leanne could blog, ponder and procrastinate in peace. Now that I’m back in TBay, I am relegated to Starbucks – larger than life and ultra-commercialistic. Can you explain to me why Starbucks is actually in my Microsoft Office spellchecker? But listen, I’m not here to complain about commercialism today. No…I can rant on that topic at another time.

Unemployed. I have gone through periods of unemployment – and yet never have been fully unemployed…I have always had the option of returning to my job at a local school – though limited in hours and scope, it was a highly coveted job. Yet after eight years, I am tired of returning – it is time to create the ultimate uncertainty, break away the safety net, and just stop. I enjoyed it while it lasted, but it is time to move on. Right….the safety net…Leanne likes having a safety net – safety nets generally pay real money. Apparently Leanne doesn’t need real money – Monopoly money will suffice.

Being unemployed isn’t the cakewalk that it seems. Sure, I can technically sleep in, stay up late, and live life according to my own schedule. Lord knows I love to live according to my own schedule! But I’m in debt…3rd-World-country-type debt. I have bills that rival the financial needs of a family that practices the rhythm-method of contraception (understand?!?!). Life isn’t great. Every 3 weeks I have heart palpitations wondering how I’m going to make it to the end of the year – or even to the next month. Daily I ponder moving to a South Pacific Island, changing my identity, and living out my days as an expat. Expats are generally rich, but you get the point.

So you think to yourself – just get a job! And I’m trying, really I am. But the problem with heading back to TBay, is that I have returned to a city that is sinking. Now, contrary to what local politicians and city officials will have you believe, the regional job situation is in dire straights. As luck would have it, these same individuals have decided that Call Centres are the best investment for continued job security. Oh yes, the call centre….home to the persistent and highly annoying telemarketer. I have nothing against telemarketers, and can empathize with them entirely. But it takes a special type of person to make a career out of that profession. I am not sure what the average job span is for someone in a call centre, but I lasted 3 weeks. Or was it two? Regardless…I refuse to return to a call centre.

TBay offers countless opportunities for part-time-minimum-wage employment. Basically it is like a hotbed for cr*p jobs. Two days ago I dropped off my resume to a local business. The manager jeered me…my education…my past work experiences…I don’t like being jeered. Unfortunately it is not the first time I have had my education put down – managers just don’t like to see degreed people working at their establishments, and I get that. But I still refuse to remove my degrees. But...It was the first time I had my work experience criticized. I have been on contract for six years, and naturally I have to change jobs when a contract ends. I have held some contracts multiple times, but apparently this does not matter. Needless to say the manager in question, wondered why so many people in this city “job jump”. I smiled at her, and shrugged my shoulders. I stifled the answer I could have given her: “Why do employers expect workers to be loyal to part-time minimum wage cr*p jobs, with no hope of improvement?” I realize that every individual who is employed should be grateful to their employment but…all it takes is an additional dollar an hour or 10 more hours a week…and bang…job jump!

Ok...I'll admit here that I like contracts because I have a short attention span...and if I hate the job, I know there is an end in sight. Enough said.

I have already ranted on education. I have one. It’s not helping me. And like I have already said, I am not removing it from my resume. I do not believe that having an education is a necessity, but I can’t change the fact that I have one. I spent far too much time earning that education to willingly remove it from my credentials. I will suffer unemployment to preserve my pride. Yes, I regret going to school, and now I will suffer the consequences of that decision. Think I am exaggerating? Talk to the majority of individuals graduating with university degrees – ask what they are doing with that degree. Ask your local checkout clerk at Walmart, bagger at Safeway, cashier at Zellers – ask about their credentials. You might be surprised. The solution to the basic degree is the Masters Degree. Now I am forced to take a financial gamble (but that’s a whole other blog).

So while I again ponder the feasibility of returning my university education, I am stuck in unemployment. I realize that I need to get over my ego, and accept that I might have to work at McDonald’s, but I will hold out as long as I possibly can. When all else fails I will return to England – maybe sooner than I had anticipated. Trust me, I am tempted to get back on a plane and head to Clapham Junction. But I know I am not alone. I look around Starbucks right now, and am still perplexed why so many people can be sitting here in the middle of the afternoon. It can’t just be me.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Hmm....and they said life is easy...

So let's say it is 10 years was longer, but let's go with it is 10 years ago, and I am sitting in a dingy highschool classroom, listening to a teacher fill my head with some story about the necessity of choosing a career, going to university, etc. Apparently it is possible to get a really good job with a university education. Apparently there is some kind of prestige in having an education. Apparently you won't have to work at McDonald's. Wow. Sounds good. I am a completely impressionable teenager - I had heard this song and dance before - my parents had told me the same story on numerous occasions. Now I'm sitting here in class, and someone with more authority and knowledge than my parents (I'm a teenager, remember?) is confirming their propaganda. Must be true. Decide to explore it on my own. lets stay in the past for a minute....freshman year of university...I'm young, still impressionable...naive...oh-so-naive. The course catalogue is filled with unique and interesting classes. I have no clue what I'm doing, or what the world expects from me. I choose a major. I dislike it. I choose a new major. I change it again. Its all about having a university education, right? I mean, it doesn't really matter what the degree is actually in, does it? Its the education that matters, nothing else? As long as I love what I'm studying - that is the key? At least, that is what I have been lead to believe.

Ok...time leap...2008. I have a university education...a fairly substantial one, in fact. I have spent the better part of a decade getting that education. And what can I say about that decade? It was stressful, fund-draining and a time management nightmare (between work and school) but filled with drunken escapades, random encounters, sporadic and spontaneous travel, and friendships fueled by likemindedness and intoxication. I can sit back now and look back fondly at those times. They were great - minus the stress and vomitting. I can't really complain about the student life. You commit to your education, but nothing else. You never truly commit to your employment when you are a fulltime student....I have worked 2-3 jobs at a time, and still kept my education as a priority. But seriously...spring break comes, there is a mention of Cancun, and suddenly you find yourself in a tequila-induced coma on a white sand beach in Mexico - and it is during those times that present and future employment become virtually nonexistent thoughts.

After a decade in school, it is easy to see how someone might have trouble readjusting to the "real world". that! How can someone readjust to the "real world" when they have only ever known a world filled with school work and deadlines? It is a bit overwhelming to suddenly find one's self outside of academia. But I am. What now? where have I been leading with this? University was a great experience. But in terms of experiences it was also the most useless thing that I could have possibly done. It sounded good - "get an education, get a high paying job" - but then reality sets in after graduation....what exactly is employable about 85% of the classes that I have taken (and paid to take!)? I am in severe educational debt...but am so beyond unemployable that it is actually somewhat scary. I don't have a trade...I have no skills (apparently being able to study well and write a paper are not skills that most employers require). I have an HBA...a B.Ed...a BSc (hopefully soon to be an HBSc)...and no job. Yes, I could teach. But has burned me out of wanting to do prep work every single night. So much for teaching. Where is that great job that university supposedly guaranteed?

The odd thing about commercialism is that you can return a sweater (let's say the sweater cost $25) if you don't like it, or if it doesn't meet your needs. Granted there is generally a time limit, but it is returnable. Now...a sweater is the most mundane item - it doesn't really impact your life, influence your livelihood (unless you designed it) or anything of that nature. But you have the option of an undo. Now let's look at university - the average university education runs around $40,000? Between tuition and text books, supplies, $40,000 - many of us come out of university riddled with that debt. My university education isn't working for me. I don't like it. It doesn't meet my needs. Can I return it? No. I'm stuck with it. Now granted, you can't return knowledge - something about intellectual property, yada yada. But I would be more than willing to return the initials behind my name.

So let's go back 10 years again...I took the other fork in the road...didn't go to university. Where would I be now? I don't know. But I'm beginning to think that I would be in a better place. I might have entered the workforce straightaway, learned employable skills, or even gotten a trade. By 2008 I might have been more valuable than minimum wage and parttime employment. But wait - I can't even say that I am as valuable as minimum wage, because dammit...those degrees are on my resume - and who wants to hire an educated person for a minimum wage job? The answer: "remove the degrees, and you will find work. " "But...I spent a lot of money to get those degrees"...oh well...

Life is made up of experiences. Some of them are wonderful and beneficial. Some of them are just plain difficult and expensive. University was all of that. But what has it left me? If I stay in my hometown, my education is wasted...and that's the reality. What now? I don't know. But I'm going back to school in June - which absolutely contradicts everything up until this point....but this time I will return with the hope that one day, something can come of my education. I'm realizing too - I had it right the first time around, and now I need to fix that. Maybe I am as naive as I was 10 years ago, but I'd like to think that is not the case. And it can't be, right?