Best of VoxPop: The World of Work
By Jeff Milligan
I'm not planning on drinking a cyanide smoothie or anything, but when you have no work, your soul seems to shrivel. As a self-employed contractor, the fundamental assumption is that I have to rely on myself. But as my "self" seems to implode, so does my reality. There is nothing left to lean on, so I slowly fall down.
I scour Craigslist for jobs and gigs and check
I wonder if the neighbors have noticed that my truck has been parked out front for a few weeks. Maybe I should move it -- go sit at Wawa for an hour. I peek through the curtains and see Mrs. Brown getting the mail. I slip out of sight before she sees me.
I wonder if an idle mind is the devil's workshop. Maybe I'll read a book -- something inspirational by Wayne Dyer or something nice about Jesus. Maybe a cup of green tea. Got to fight those free radicals if you want to stay healthy and young. I probably already have cancer, though. My groin hurts. I need to go outside.
I go upstairs and find the dog asleep on my bed. "Want to go for a walk?" I say mustering what enthusiasm I can. He sits up, yawns and lies back down. A hollow feeling of complete rejection spreads through my belly.
I shuffle into my son's room and sit on his unmade bed. On his shelf of trophies is one of mine from when I was a kid. I take it down: Rookie of the Year, 1980. The hollow feeling grows. Where did all the years go?
I realize I'm drifting, spiraling down, allowing depression in. I force myself to check my email and see if I've heard back about the jobs I've bid on - the wall job in Downingtown or that walkway in
Maybe I should do some of the chores my wife has been asking me to do. I could replace the light bulb on the front porch. I could get a new doorknob for the closet. I could do so many things, but it's hard to get started.
Paralysis soaks into your bones when you feel you're no good. Now, I know I'm being sensitive. And I know my self-worth is not tallied on a paycheck, but it sure seems that way. And I know that if I could just get moving that I would somehow gain momentum, but that first heavy step just won't come.
And so I sit here. Stupidly.
Then I remember this quote from the Tao te Ching. "Hope and fear are both phantoms that arise from thinking of the self". I need to be selfless, to do something for someone else. I will change that light bulb, I declare boldly. And I'm off to the closet to get one... but the door won't open. The knob is finally stuck for good. I jiggle and shake it. Jam and slam it. Curse it. Kick it. Beg for mercy. But it won't open.
Then I calm myself - breathing, breathing,
So it's back downstairs to get my tool box, but I can't find it. Then I remember I loaned it to my brother who just moved to
I collapse like a sad puppet in front of my computer, but I muster up the fortitude to check my email again...And, lo and behold, before my eyes, I see I have one new email mail! Maybe, with this one, the money will come pouring in.
I open my mailbox and there is the message: JOCKEY SHORTS 15% off!
A smile creeps across my face.
Jeff Milligan lives in