Shortly thereafter I graduated. Term limits are a bitch.
Having little money in my purse and everything to interest me on land, I set about applying for work. I did it meticulously and thoroughly. Over the course of two years I applied for over one thousand jobs in something like twenty countries. I crafted dozens of resumes and hundreds of cover letters – and read as many books or blogs, or attended workshops, on their proper crafting. Life is short, I say, but that’s no excuse not to go for 100% completion.
While applying for work I decided to take a wanderjahr. I spent the better part of six months living out of my car. Well, really I drove from friends house to friends house and lived off their couches. Not quite roughing it, not quite romantic – but close enough, while allowing me to see a little bit of the world.
During that time I also wrote two novels, my fifth and sixth. But who’s counting. (Me!)
I did not find work. Eventually I decided to throw my hat over the wall & move to a city. I settled on Boston. I took a flat in a brownstone just north of the Cambridge Common. I set myself up as a business consultant. I’d been doing contract work, off and on, for years – mostly fundraising and bizplanning for plucky little 501(c)(3)s. Over the next two years I had half a dozen clients, from Mass General Hospital to the Boston Circus Guild, as well as enough pro bono work to have occupied the staff of a small NGO. I produced a 2200-person black tie fundraiser, I organized 600 volunteers to staff a 3500-person convention, I did work with artists and community art spaces and city-wide arts events. I even produced a play.
I began spending one day a week giving direct care to the severely developmentally disabled. Which led to me basically managing a group home. Which led to me getting free room and board in a mansion on Professor’s Row just north of Harvard Yard. Which turned out to be two blocks from the largest makerspace in America, where I began teaching woodturning and historical wood finishing. You know, just as soon as I’d learned how to do it.
The one fellow I worked with – my Gentleman, I called him – we’d go exploring. His car, his dime, and I was on the clock. I drew up a list of everything I wanted to see within a two-hour drive of Boston. Then we went there. From Newport to Newburyport, from Peterborough to Hartford, we went to dozens of museums and parks and promenades. We didn’t see it all – but damn near.
I was in the world. I was doing real things. I was getting things done. It felt wonderful. When it was up, it was UP. And when I had downtime I wrote – a collection of short stories, a novella here and there. I think my novella count is now at seventeen. A few of them don’t even suck.
It did not stop, really. It just lost momentum. I was having a harder and harder time finding new clients. The work I was finding was less and less interesting – less management, less creativity, more clerical work, more Office Space. I could not escape the feeling that I was regressing. And when I did find the better sort of work – advising a Board, or leading a team – it paid less and less. It got to the point where I was spending 90% of my time looking for clients to whom I could devote the other 10%.
So I went back to job applications. I tried to get my foot in the door at every consultancy, every thing-tank, every investment bank, every corporate headquarters in Boston. Then outside of Boston. Then, as before, all over the world. I just could not get my foot in the door. I was growing bored again.
I don’t handle boredom well. (Perhaps you’ve noticed?)
Another blessed horror occurred: the house I was managing was being shut down. I would be out on the street – much worse, forced to pay Cambridge rent again. It was either secretarial work at fifteen bucks an hour, or disappear. After having chosen so many times to do good work for free? I packed my bags, and said my goodbyes.