Time Machine: Odd Jobs

Originally posted December 15, 2001.

So it’s been almost four months since I was laid off my cushy Graphic Artist position at a Coin-Operated arcade game manufacturing company turned Internet New Economy latecomer turned back manufacturing company. Or whatever. The point is, it’s been a while since I had a real office job.

I looked for a replacement office job, but that 18 month degree I got in Graphic Arts that made me a very much in demand web designer a year ago has made me a very much under-needed entry-level skill-deprived tech worker in a recessing economy. To help pay the bills I sort of stumbled into doing odd jobs for pretty much whomever asks me for some help in exchange for money. I’m helping one set of in-laws get their pool service business off the ground by cleaning swimming pools, lawns and rain gutters. I’m helping another set of in-laws with some actual web design work; I’m putting in more time as webmaster of a high-profile fan site for an actor and I’m holding open houses for a real estate agent on the weekends.

It’s very strange to go from getting nice consistent paychecks every two weeks to getting small personal checks in varying degrees of frequency. Really, I’m not complaining. I could be unable to find anything that brought in money. The weird thing is, I’m doing at least partially what I really wanted to be doing all the while I worked for the game company. That is, I’m designing web pages and working with computers on my own time, at home. I still have to do the pool cleaning, but it’s good for a guy who would sit in front of a monitor 24/7 if he could to be required to get up at least once in a while and move around, remind myself what the outdoors looks like.

It’s also strange how life throws you curve balls and most of the time you just close your eyes and take a wild swing. But you know, I’m starting to find that a good percentage of the time those blind swats connect at least a little, and sometimes that’s quite enough to at least keep you from striking out.

I mentioned to Dr. Mac a few weeks ago that I actually missed the dotcom boom/bubble. A lot of the nostalgia for that time comes from my being an undeserving beneficiary of the insane demand for people who could rub two HTML tags together rather than one of the fleeced investors who were hoping to get rich off of ethereal potential rather than, you know, business models and revenue and all that.

The odd job thing was incredibly stressful at the time and certainly wouldn’t fly for our family now, but in retrospect it was kind of an exciting time and the whole year that was to come would really serve to solidify the relationship between Nik and I since we didn’t have traditional careers to pull on our time and we didn’t have much money to engage in a lot of diversions so we had to learn to work together and lean on each other heavily for support (especially since at times it wasn’t clear what would be in store for me work-wise down the road and it definitely wasn’t obvious how we were going to keep the lights on and food on the table week to week). We sure made some mistakes as we stumbled through it (the pool cleaning service was a poor fit and an awkward transitional moment between the in-laws and myself, for example) but it turns out a lot of those blind swings don’t just keep the count steady at 3-2 but unexpectedly end up being the sacrifice bloop that scores the winning run.

The trick is to open your eyes when you’re done taking the rip.

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