Just sitting around... waiting to die

Victoria News, May 1st 2009

On Friday, I sent off a job application to a data entry company. This, just one of many, many efforts to find work in Victoria right now. But the difference with this one, was that for the first time since I've been here, I actually got a response.

It wasn't a job offer. It wasn't even an interview. It was simply an email containing the details of an online test I had to take to prove things such as my typing speed. Possibly even an automated email. But that didn't matter. For the first time in what is now over a week of trying, this search for work finally produced a positive response. A response, of hope. As all other online applications have been, it did not produce a response of silence. And as all face-to-face applications have been, is wasn't "We don't have anything right now, but we'll hang onto your resume and let you know if anything opens up..." It was an actual response.

And this came, some 90 seconds after these 2 stunningly beautiful Danish girls had just moved into my dorm. And for this brief period, my life suddenly became about a hundred times better.

The jubilation was short-lived as reality soon came back to bite. The reality that this was no more than an email. But with the way things have been going, and the lack of positive response that I've been receiving, this was a moment to savour.

Being a tad hungover on Friday, I left this online test until Saturday morning. And it didn't go all badly. I got a typing speed of 60 words per minute, which is the exact requirement that they were after, and not bad seeing as I took it in bed with my laptop on my legs. But in the numeric test, I only scored at about half speed, because on my laptop I don't have the 3×3 (plus a zero) number keypad that you do on most desktop keyboards. So I was attempting to enter numbers at speed using the straight line of numbers on my keyboard. Which isn't so easy. Had I known this was the test prior to this, then I would have located a different pc.

I emailed this HR person explaining this right afterwards. But with my luck right now, I can see this plea falling on deaf ears. I suppose I have a chance, seeing as my typing speed was adequate. And I like to try and think positively. I think to avoid disappointment though, to be realistic, this opportunity has passed.

Even so, that glimmer of hope I got from this email response, however small it may sound, just kind of gave me life again. Even if it was only short-lived. Because for the first time right now, I'm beginning to feel like we're in a recession.

I saw signs of it at Pano. People getting laid-off for next to nothing. Cuts being made in the budget. But there was nothing that directly affected me. I didn't once have my hours shortened, consistently getting 5 shifts per week. So all that was going on around me, was water off a duck's back. It just didn't impact me.

But now... it feels like how I'd expect a recession to feel like. I'm almost feeling a sense of hopelessness. Filling out application, after application, after application. Handing out resume, after resume, after resume. And yet every call for work that I make, isn't heard. I'm calling, but no one is listening. I guess this is how all those homeless people feel. They ask, and they ask, and they ask for help. "Spare any change?" But no one ever helps them. And this is just how I've been feeling.

This email response is probably how the hobo feels when he gets 10¢. It's not going to buy him anything. But it's just that glimmer of hope that all his asking isn't for nothing. Just like I'm fairly confident that I won't get this job. But it's just good to know that people are listening.

And it's still the weekend now. Presumably they won't decide not to hire me until at least tomorrow, so I've got a puncher's chance if nothing else. Think positive.

Like I said though, it is for the first time, starting to feel like I expect a recession to feel. I was sheltered from it at Pano. But in my struggle to find work, I'm just getting depressed. The reality is, that on the assumption that most companies won't hire you on weekends, I've only been looking for a job for 5 days. But as I've said before, it just feels much, much, longer. When you're doing all this work for... nothing, it takes it out of you. You get no money. You get no response. It's why, however insignificant this little email was to this data entry company, it actually breathed life into me again. It was just... hope.

And I just went for a walk a minute ago. There doesn't seem to be too much point in job hunting on a Sunday. Because all the businesses that are open will be businesses that cater for all the people who aren't working. Like bars and restaurants. So they'll be too busy to hire people. And then everywhere else will be closed. So I did a few online applications this morning. But I don't see any real point in getting out on the street with resumes today. So to get some exercise, I just went for a little walk.

And I went down to the waterfront. This is the hub of street sellers and buskers. And there were the usual suspects. The people you will see here everyday. Struggling to make pennies. Ungroomed. Unshaven. Unclean.

But there was this one woman who caught my eye. She looked like your typical business woman. Expensive looking clothes. Clean. Looked fairly well off. And she was standing there, on the waterfront, with a hat on the ground in front of her, trying to scrounge pennies singing.

And being nice to her, I'd say she was bad. You know? She was really bad. Not only was her singing terrible. But she was shy. She was quiet. She was conscious of herself. Looking nervously at everyone who walked past. Occasionaly just breaking out in nervous laughter. And I can fairly confidently say, that she had never done this before.

Her age was late 40's/early 50's. Professional looking. And she just did not want to be there. She didn't look at all happy, or at all comfortable. And I just have to wonder, have things got so tight for her, that she's resorted to this to make money?

At that age, she may well have kids to support. So is this how she is trying to provide an income? Have things got this bad? Because this was just a surreal, surreal, situation. I expect street performers, to look like street performers. And all of the others, did. She didn't. She looked lost and uncomfortable. And I can only assume that this was some last-ditch attempt to bring in some extra pennies.

And I've been feeling depressed for a week now. Searching for a job, is my full-time job right now. But with no income, I'm living as prudently as possible. Dry pasta is a large part of my diet right now until I can afford to source anything more luxurious. And I'm just not doing anything that involves spending money. I went to a bar with Christian on Thursday night, but that was an exception. And perhaps the last exception until I have a job. And there isn't too much to do around here that doesn't cost money. Go to the movies? Go to a bar? I'm not doing that until I get myself sorted. So I just, pretty much sit around, depressed. Just waiting.

But seeing this woman today, it was the first indication to me, that we really are going through a stage of depression. I don't feel so good. But like I've said, when I take a step back and look at reality, I've only had 5 real days of job hunting. I could live for 2 or 3 weeks, just on the money that I saved at the end of Pano. Partially because my knee injury stopped me spending that money, and partially because of the larger than normal final pay-check. But my reality is that I could stay in this hostel, for probably 3 weeks more, on the money I made at Pano. And then I'd just have to start living off my savings. And could maybe survive, staying in this hostel, for a further 12 months. So I'm really making a mountain out of a mole-hill. I'm depressed I don't have work yet. But the way I'm feeling really isn't proportionate to reality.

But to see this woman there, nervous and shy. Attempting to sing. Reality bit! For the first time it really became noticable to me, that we're in a time of economic hardship. If this is what people are resorting to, then we maybe are fucked. Because up to now, it's been little more than news headlines. But this was real. She really didn't want to be doing that.

And I've said it a hundred times before, that you aren't going to learn anything, or find out anything, when times are going well. It's in times of adversity that you'll find out about your character. And in this case, I'm finding out about my qualification.

I'm only applying for unskilled jobs right now. If I wanted a career right now, I'd have stayed in England. I came travelling to get away from anything business related. So I'm applying for bottom of the ladder, shit on your shoe jobs. It's all I want. And I'm not the kind of person who's going to ever think I'm too good to get my hands dirty.

But perhaps a catalyst of the economic times, I'm beginning to realise that even for "unskilled" jobs, you need skills. And beyond business, which I have no desire to get into right now, my previous experience consists of operating ski-lifts. Can't really do that right now. Lifeguarding. Though I'm no longer qualified. And various bar/restaurant positions. Though being the different industries that they are here, my skills there are virtually obsolete.

Bartenders over here have all done courses. They can make butt-loads of differnt cocktails. And unless you can demonstrate a qualification, you're unlikely to get hired. So that's out. And then unless you're sexy, female, and don't mind showing a lot of leg whilst at work, you generally aren't going to get hired for anything else front of house. I tick 2 of those 3 boxes. But as much as I love that policy when I'm out drinking at night, it makes my previous waiting experience fairly pointless.

Which leaves just kitchen work. And one thing I've learnt from Victoria, is that I'm going to have this problem wherever I go in the world. If I literally have no proveable skills that can be translated to the local working environment, I'm going to have this problem of finding work, wherever the hell I am in the world. Especially if this recession keeps going for a while. So what I'm now thinking, is that I need to gain some of the skills of unskilled work.

One of the few jobs that I've previously been avoiding, is dishwasher. That's something I first did professionally at age 15. Before I even had GCSE's for fucks sake. And since I now have a degree, I was hoping that this was beneath me. But these are hard times, so I'm now not even going to be dismissing dishwashing jobs from what I'm willing to do. I haven't quite yet resorted to applying to McDonalds. But I'm not far off.

But the way I'm looking at it, is that one industry you will find everywhere in the world, wherever you are, is the restaurant industry. And although I might be able to get waiting jobs in other parts of the world with a penis, I might not in all. So what I've concluded, is the greater kitchen skills I can develop, the better it will serve me in the long-run. So I'm now actively applying for kitchen positions. I'm hoping for something better than just a dishwasher. Line cook or prep cook would be great. But just to get on the bottom rung of a ladder in a kitchen, although a little demeaning now that I have a degree, would probably go to serve me well in the future. Especially as I plan on travelling for the long-term. Because like I've said, even unskilled jobs are requiring experience in this environment.

And I'll be honest, I wouldn't be enthused to be working back in kitchens again. But it would serve me well in the long-run. Not an ideal job for me, seeing as I'm the kind of person who just sees food, as food. Quantity and nutritional value are what I care about. Fuck taste. I've eaten eggs raw before when I didn't have the time to cook them. I don't give a fuck what food tastes like. If it's food, I'll eat it. It's that simple. So chef may not be a position I'd excel at. But, in seeing the amount of chef jobs there are over here right now. And everywhere in the world for that matter, it wouldn't hurt to get a little training. Might make my life a fuck of a lot easier in the future.

That being said, I would much rather get this data entry job. And it may sound stupid, seeing as many people would see this as one of the most boring, monotonous jobs around. But to me, right now, it would be perfect. Because it would be a job, without distraction.

I've said previously, that had I not got a job by the time my current stay at the hostel expired, 4 nights from now, then I'd leave Victoria. But I'm not sure I'll honour that statement, because I have a very clear vision in my head of how I want the remainder of my working visa here in Canada to go. I have some very clear goals in my head that I want to achieve, and I can do that here. For the next 6 months, it's not about fun or experience. It's simply about a means to an end.

I've come to accept the reality that my knee may not heal fully for a long, long, time. It's been what? 10 weeks now since I injured it. And although I am noticing improvement, it is very, very, slow. And I'm now fully committed to the possibility that it might be another 6 months of healing until I'm back to normal. If I ever am. Which has been a hard reality to swallow seeing as when I first did this injury I was able to ski down the mountain, and thought I'd be back skiing the next day. But now, 10 weeks later, I still feel pain with every step. I cannot bend my knee fully, and I cannot fully straighten my leg. Now I've healed to the point that I can retardedly run, if I have to do something like get across the street or run for a bus. But I'm not even close to be able to doing any long distance running yet. And I don't know when I will. But where as before I was setting unachievable goals, and being disappointed, I'm now accepting of the fact that I might not heal fully for another 6 months. And I'm prepared to dedicate that time to resting my knee as much as is necessary to get it back to full strength. So that is one goal.

Since I left for Canada, but particularly since this injury, I've seen a sharp decline in my physique, and more importantly, my fitness. And resultingly, my health. Well the next goal I want to achieve, is getting that back to, and beyond the levels I was at, before I left for Canada.

Historically, I've always been able to fluctuate my weight and change my physique. Not because I'm built any different to anyone else as many fat people seem to incinuate. But simply because, not only have I been there before, but I've also taken the time to gain a knowledge about what is required. I've learnt. And then I've been there and done it myself. And my experience tells me, that to rectify all the "damage" that I've done to myself since getting to Canada, it will be maybe a 6 month project. More challenging than normal seeing as in the past I've used long-distance running as a great fitness tool. But I'll need to find low-impact replacements for the sake of my knee. Cross-trainers, maybe taking up roller-blading. That kind of thing.

Well you know how I've said that I've been wanting to take up snorkelling again? Well I've now developed that and linked it in with this drive to rectify my fitness.

I was thinking a day or 2 ago, that back when I used to be in shape, I had a resting heart rate of lower than 45bpm. A normal persons heart beats at 60-90bpm, but a slower heart-rate indicates a greater level of fitness. Well I just took my resting heart-rate, and I'm now up to 58bpm. That's still better than a normal person, but 13 extra beats per minute compared to where I was at some point in years past, is quite a jump.

I also used to be able to hold my breath for well over 3 minutes after hyper-ventilating (overloading your body with oxygen), or for more than 60 seconds at a moments notice. Well I haven't tried either in a while. But I'm pretty sure I couldn't achieve either right now.

And these are both traits that will come as I improve my fitness levels. But how does this link into snorkelling you may ask?

Well when I used to work as a lifeguard, once a week, after the pool closed, we'd have free-divers come and use the pool for an hour. These are divers who don't use oxygen tanks. You just dive on the air in your lungs. And I used to see these guys doing lap, after lap, under water. Never coming up for air. Sometimes swimming 150 metres at a time on one breath. And just this morning, I decided to look up some free-diving records. Someone once free-dived to a depth of 150 metres. That's a total distance of 300 metres obviously. At sea.

Now I don't have any aspiration to achieve anything remotely close to that. But it would be a hobby that could supplement improving my fitness. Working on my breathing would go hand in hand with improving my fitness. And it would be a motivation, other than just looking and feeling better, to keep on improving my fitness levels. And I said previously that I wanted to take up snorkelling again seeing as I'm on an island. Well I'd love to take up scuba diving. But not at what it costs. Well free-diving is the poor mans scuba diving.

I don't want to take classes. I don't want to go to free-divers meetings. I don't want to compete. All I want to do, is learn the basic breathing techniques, probably from a book or the Internet, and get to the beach in my spare time. I'd be happy to be able to free-dive 10 metres. That'd probably be about as deep as I'd go scuba diving without any training. But I just see it as a hobby that could supplement my fitness drive. And I've always had a fascination with under the sea. This way I'd be able to go diving all over the world. I just won't need any fancy equipment. Just a mask and some ear-plugs.

And on top of this, I've said many times, that I want to be at or near conversational levels of Spanish by the end of my visa here. And qualified to teach English. And all of this will take time.

So I've got targets. Some quantifiable. Such as decreasing my resting heart rate by 13bpm. Some not. I know how I used to look and feel, and it was a lot better than I do now. I want to be back there. And this is a perfect place to achieve them.

And right now, I have focus. But I fear, that if I end up getting a fun job in a bar or something, social life will take over, and I'll start forgetting these goals, which will inevitably serve me well in the future. So I'll be completely honest. Of all the jobs I've applied for, I hope I get data entry.

Social life was not on my list, and with good reason. I'm not here to make friends right now. I'd be happy to work in a dark office, and live in a basement. I was able to save on $8.72 or whatever it was at Pano. So if I can get a job where I earn $10 here, and I keep focus on the things I want to achieve, none of which will cost much, then come the end of the next 6 months, I could be in such great shape to keep on travelling.

If however, Victoria turns out to be "fun". If I get a fun job and have a social life, I'm simply not going to have the time to get done all of the things that I want to get done. Learning Spanish, improving my fitness... All this will take a lot of time and a lot of dedication. So I would love a job that I don't take home with me. Data entry, where I make no friends. And living in a basement. That's the dream right now. As peculiar as that sounds.

That however, is a long way off. And the reality right now, is that I don't even have a job. And that's been somewhat depressing. But I've always found emotion to be a relative commodity. Meaning that something that depresses you will be relative to your norm. And something that makes you smile, will be relative to your norm. Otherwise how is it that people dying of AIDS can smile when a billionaire is forever angry. Whatever your status, you'll have positive and negative emotions. You cannot survive without both. Why do drugs have a come down? That's your body providing you with negative feelings after experiencing something positive.

I remember hearing about some study about this once. I think it went something like they constantly injected a rat with a substance that made it constantly ecstatic. It had no negative emotions. And it died. Because you can't be happy all the time and survive. Yet you can't be sad all the time and survive. Emotion is relative. Whatever your status, you will have happy and sad emotion.

That's my take on it anyway.

So this 'not having a job' thing that I've been going through. Well that has had me somewhat depressed for the past week. But you know something, I think I'm just coming to accept it. Because it's not bothering me so much right now. It's like I've moved down a tier in lifestyle quality, and went through a period of depression whilst my body adapted to it. But now I've accepted that I'm here, I don't seem to care about it so much. And once I find a job, I'll move up a tier again, and have a period of prolonged happiness.

That doesn't mean it's been a fun week. But it puts some perspective onto it. But where I was going before I got stuck on emotion, was I was leaving the hostel the other day to go job hunting. As usual. And I was walking down the stairwell. And I passed this guy who was doing some housekeeping work at the hostel. As I passed him, I said "How're you doing?" People need to learn that when I say that, I don't actually care how you're doing. It's just my way of saying hello. People don't get that in this country.

So he responds "I'm good. How're you?" So I reply with "Good. I'll be even better if I can find a job..." And this was the catalyst for us to start talking. "Do you have a working visa?" he asks. And we're stood there, in this stairwell, talking for probably 10 or more minutes. And this guy, he doesn't have a visa. He's here at the hostel, working for Ocean Island Money to live on. Essentially working for coupons. And he's been travelling. Using WWOOF to find places to stay in exchange for work. He tells me about couch surfing. A website I've never even heard of. Basically people offer couches, free of charge, to travellers to help them on their way. And speaking to this guy, it put my "situation" much more in perspective.

Like I said earlier, I probably have the savings to comfortably live at this hostel for the next year. I have a full work visa to get any job in Canada... and yet I'm getting all uptight and depressed. Makes you realise you're just moaning about shit for no reason when you meet people whom have it worse. Yet as I was speaking to this guy, we were having a laugh. He was making jokes. He was happy. And it puts it into perspective.

If he can smile and be happy, working for coupons. Hitchiking to different places that can give him board in exchange for labour, what the fuck have I got to moan about? I've got it easy.

But then it got me thinking. I've been moaning about the pitfalls of capitalism for years. I feel somewhat smug about the current global recession, but it doesn't really help me seeing as I'm still playing the game, just like the next person. I'm still spending my days in Victoria, walking the streets with resumes and applying to places online. And it just got me wondering, is this visa even a good thing? Because being able to work anywhere like I can, I've almost lost focus of why I'm travelling in the first place. It'd be a waste to start travelling Canada working for board rather than money, and getting food coupons for cleaning the hostel, just because I have a full working visa. But I almost feel that I'd gain more from doing it that way.

I hear people who talk about going home because they can't get a visa for a particular country. Yet I'm seeing this guy, among others, whom just get on with it. When you become too good to hitch-hike, too good to clean toilets for accomodation, too good to break a sweat when it's not for money... then what the fuck have you become? And after brushing past this guy in the stairwell, it almost makes me wish that I didn't have this visa right now. I just think it'd be a more rewarding experience to get by here without it. It'd tell you a lot more about your character.

But I do have a visa now. But you know what I'm thinking might happen one day in the future. I can see myself, back in Canada 10 years from now, or down in the US. No money, no savings, no visa, and doing the exact same thing. Perhaps even sooner than that. I know that I want to get down to Bolivia after this. How I get there is still up in the air. I could hitch-hike and couch surf all through the states. Who knows. But it just put my "trials" into perspective when this guy is here breaking his balls for coupons. Yet I'm fretting about only having another 12 months worth of funds remaining.

That being said, I do want this next 6 months to almost be a period of rehab, to get my knee back to strength and get my health and fitness back to levels so that I can put my body through the rigors of what I plan on doing. I don't care about social life right now. I've spent what? Maybe 1½ years in Canada in total since 2005. I'm not sure there's too much more I can learn from Canadian society. Especially living in a city. I just plan on getting myself ready to move on from here. I just need a job so that I can do it.

If I get a job, then I get an appartment. If I get an appartment, then I have the privacy and security that I can do all of the stuff that I plan. I can get a gym. I can have the privacy, and get the routine, so I can learn Spanish. I'll just have the infrastructure around me to do what I need to do. Which is perhaps why this elusive job is so frustrating. I have everything planned out. But this is the missing link. I just need a job, and everything falls into place. What I would give for this data entry job to materialise. Because I'd expect that to be reasonable pay. Significantly more than I got at Pano anyway. Enough so that I could live comfortably, and save. However I'm realistic that it's unlikely that I will get it. Which is a cunt.

Oh, and 2 more Pano people have turned up at the hostel right now as well. Lily, the French girl if you remember her, she's one of them. At one point a couple of days ago, there were 9 people from Pano standing outside this hostel. Small, small world.

Man I really don't know what I can be depressed about right now. The girl in my dorm who had the one double bed, moved out this morning. So I've now nabbed this double bed. And the only other room mates I have as things stand, are these two tall, blonde and stunning Danish girls. How can I not be happy with my life right now? It's a rare time that I've woken up to see more beautiful things than those two walking about in their underwear. My life is great right now. Why am I so unhappy?

Ah well. They move out tomorrow. Then my life will be rubbish again.

Writing really puts things into perspective you know? I was really down when I started writing this blog. I try not to write when I'm depressed because I don't think I ever produce anything especially readable. But it just makes things clear, you know? It puts into perspective that I don't have it half as bad as I like to tell myself. So what I don't have a job? Enjoy it. Freedom. I'm actually quite content now.

See, emotion. It's all relative. You can be a crippled, downs syndromed, Frenchman. And you will only be depressed for so long. You'll always find positives. You've just got to go long enough without killing yourself to realise it. Ah, life is good.

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