Back to the real world

My first day at the new old job was last Friday. So far it’s been a happy start. I’m glad I’m easing back into things with only half a week’s worth of working hours. I’m glad I’m finally going to have an income that – while way below what someone with a university degree should earn, in my opinion – frees my parents of having to financially support me. That is big, you guys. I will barely make it each month; with student loans and health insurance eating up most of my salary, I won’t be able to put anything into savings or splurge on stuff for fun. But I will be off government welfare and off my parents’ backs. I’m working a grown-up job and supporting myself, and it was about time I made it here.

One of my first projects was to write copy for an ad campaign for one of the company’s partners, Deutsche Bahn (Germany’s railway). The ads will be placed on bus and subway stops in Germany’s major cities so I’ll likely be able to see my work realized right here in Cologne soon. I’m grateful that my supervisors have enough confidence in my work to let me dive right back in literally on my first day back. It’s exciting to work on projects like this behind a desk and then to get to see the results out in the world when you leave the office.

Downtown Cologne has me back. The office is just off of the city’s main square. I’ve missed being in the midst of all the noise and the people and the colors; the tourists, the traffic, the neon signs.

The subway has me back. Morning rush hour has me back. Downtown’s lunch places have me back.

The past six months have been such a colossal waste of time that I try not to think about it. I am exactly where I could’ve been last July, and yet I suppose I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.

In all honesty

I have always tricked the system, in a way. All throughout high school and uni, I got away with waiting until the circumstances took difficult decisions off my hands. Sitting things out, hoping for problems to solve themselves, relying on others to turn a blind eye, lying to supervisors. In my senior year I didn’t attend a single P.E. lesson (which are mandatory in Germany) which would have kept me from graduating but the teacher, not wanting to ruin my career path this early on in life, pretended I’d shown up often enough to receive a grade. My thesis supervisor at uni all but let me skip my oral thesis defense entirely because he knew I was making up failed classes at the same time and had a lot on my plate. I didn’t get a scholarship for my stay abroad in the United States so my parents paid for it. I got into Maastricht University, the only school I applied to, because they don’t have any entrance requirements. I became an intern last-minute at the company I did because my mom had found the ad and sent it to me just at the right time when no one else had applied yet.

It always worked out in the end. I was always lucky enough. I graduated, I got just-above-average grades, things were moving forward as they should. But I never set real goals and met them because I dedicated everything I had to getting there. That you can get away with never doing more than absolutely necessary – sometimes less – because there’s always people higher up to let you pass or timetables that tell you what to do next or holes in the system to slip through is a terrible, terrible lesson to learn. It feeds into my general laziness and lack of ambition, and creates a toxic mix that led me to where I am right now: jobless, unmotivated, incapable of fixing things on my own.

I have sent out maybe ten job applications in the past three months. I should have sent out at least three times as many, and the job counselor the government assigned to me when I applied for welfare checks if I do. So I lie. I look up job ads and I print them out and I tell him I applied, even though I never did because I couldn’t be bothered to do actual research about the company and write a decent cover letter. I think we can all agree that is INSANE behavior. What kind of person does that, deny herself progress and success just to avoid putting in any effort? A person who never had to. A person who never learned that this is how life works. A person who, time and time again, discovered that the choices she’s made so far were never really her own but just happenstance. A person who always always always settled for whatever came along, for the easy way out that was always there if she just waited it out long enough.

Right now, waiting it out was good enough again. I whined and complained and did little to improve my situation – work towards a job I really want, or even figure out what I really want – and by pure chance, the company I interned for contacted me again and offered me a job. It’s a crappy job, it’s not at all what I had in mind or what I should sensibly be doing. But I didn’t line up any alternatives and so, once again, it looks like I will settle for something I just happen upon; something that’s handed to me; something that’s good enough for now but not ideal; something I forced myself into that I won’t likely be happy with.

I mentioned this in my last post already but it bears repeating: I need to break out of this strange cycle. If I make any resolutions for 2013, it has to be to take control of my life, set goals and actually DO STUFF to achieve them, make decisions and own them, be myself and be happy.

A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor

Something’s come up. A potential part-time/freelance job opportunity. Doing work that I’m good at and that kiiind of makes sense in the greater picture of my career. More sense than being unemployed, certainly. It’s paid horribly with zero benefits, and so, financially speaking, it’s actually worse than being on welfare. On all other counts – from feeling like a productive member of society to minimizing the hole on my resume to getting back into a normal routine and out of the house – it’s of course better than welfare. So I’m anxious about negotiating details and hopefully have this work out and be a first step back in the right direction.

It’s just- This sounds like great news only because I can’t really get into the specifics of it (and let’s keep in mind that it’s not a done deal yet). It is better news than no job at all. But it’s not what was supposed to happen; what I so desperately wanted to have happen: to graduate, do an internship or two, and find a job with some security (freelancing is quite the opposite). Without months and months of worrying while hunting for full-time jobs, and eventually ending up on welfare because money had run out in the meantime. It’s not what my my parents expected of me and it’s not how things turned out for any of my friends.

Now that this opportunity has come up completely out of the blue – via email from a former employer, unsolicited by me – it is easier to see things a little more positive, though. I suppose when nothing is certain, everything is possible. And sometimes I have to remind myself that I don’t have to do what everybody else is doing. After all, a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor. (Then again, too rough a sea might just kill the sailor so I’m crossing my fingers that this, at least, does indeed turn out to be good news!)

(Image source: labelleviegirl)

I’m off work today. Technically. I logged on to my work email just a minute ago, anyway, because tomorrow is a national holiday and I have some work-related business that needs to be sorted out before that. (More on that later!)

But I am off work today. So I’m off to Ikea right now to buy lots of random cheap things small enough to bring home on the subway, and eat the world’s best hot dogs.

How’s your Wednesday going?