Year of Hell: A Retrospective

Well folks, this is it: the moment I’ve yearned for, fantasized about, and sometimes feared might never actually happen has arrived. I’ve returned, like a triumphant Odysseus from a decade-long romp lost in the Aegean, to the happy familiar shores of gainful (and non-soul-sucking) employment.

It’s for real now. At exactly 10:13 AM yesterday morning, I officially and enthusiastically accepted an offer to become a member of the national recruitment team for Arizona State University’s Undergraduate Admissions office. Emails are flying to and fro and paperwork is being generated as I write this. My name is being placed on an office door. A year of patio slacking, couch potatoing, fry slinging, and job hunting is coming to a grinding halt. Two weeks from yesterday I will put on my pretty big-boy clothes, smoosh my unruly spikes back into a grownup hairstyle, dust off my trusty old Starbucks coffee travel mug, and re-enter the land of academia.

Now that my glorious return is at hand, it’s time, I suppose, to reflect on the long and bumpy journey.

While I won’t say the past year has been nightmarish – it hasn’t been, entirely – it’s certainly been…interesting.

A year ago today, I was racing across the Utah and Arizona deserts toward Phoenix with Boyfriend, Kitten, Bird-Bird, all our earthly possessions, and grand notions of settling into lives and new careers. Lee and I were deathly bored of life in unglamorous rural Eastern Washington, I was nursing the fresh wounds inflicted to my ego by an administrative downsizing, and we were excited to start a new chapter of our lives in the sunny Southwest.

It was going to be wonderful, amazing, and the fulfillment of all our dreams. No more dreary, wet, snowy winters! No more boring small-town weekends with nothing to do! I was going to rise through the ranks of student administration at one of the largest universities in the country and Boyfriend was going to finally go back to school and finish his degree. We would spend weekends sipping cosmos and margaritas by the pool clad only in skimpy swimwear, hop from trendy club to trendy club by night, and generally live a fucking fantastic life.

Like life ever goes exactly as planned, right?

While Boyfriend was able to transfer into a full-time position with his company and go to work two days after our arrival in the lovely Valley of the Sun, employment was a little slower to come for me. The one thing we’d neglected to take into account when planning our great epic move, it turned out, was the worse-than-abysmal state of the Phoenix economy. Yeah, that should have been a no-brainer, given that our lovely city was Ground Zero for the housing bubble crash, but…with five million people, an enormous thriving university, and thousands of community colleges, university work had to be plentiful.

Right?

Well, no. After five months of watching the red Arizona dust settle into my belly button, I finally went to work in October as an insurance rep. For one day. Then, in December, I traded my slippers and sweatpants for UnderArmour polos and morphed into a fitness nazi. After a month of peddling overpriced memberships to undermotivated housewives and cheap-ass wannabe muscleheads, I decided it was once more time for…well, if not greener, different pastures. After the hectic hours and stultifying dreariness of gym membership sales, fast food had to be nice and easy, right? Especially since it would only be a momentary placeholder – days or weeks at most, most likely – until I landed that prime university position?

Riiiiight. The fast food industry is like a parallel dimension, it turns out – whereas a mere six months passed in the real world, I figure a good decade or two of my life disappeared into that dismal vortex called the McFranchise. And I might permanently smell of fry grease now.

Still, the journey has not all been bad. This past year has given me time (loooots of time) to explore parts of my life that had fallen by the wayside gradually over the years in the rush of career advancement.

For one thing, I’ve had time to write again. Aside from my occasional ramblings on pro(zach)nation, I’ve roughly outlined and began work on not one, but two memoirs – one of which is inspired directly by what I’ve come to call the Year of Hell. All the existential ennui brought on by the prolonged underemployment has allowed me to tap into the angst and dark broodiness necessary to dither about with my long-neglected novel project, too. And McDonalds? The sheer level of insanity and dysfunction there practically begs to be turned into a novel, too. Lee and I have even seriously talked about me taking a break from the career once he’s through with school and paying the bills to turn my focus full-time to writing and publishing. A year ago, publication was one of those ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ pipe dreams. Now, it seems like an eventuality. Five years from now, maybe I’ll be swinging by your local Barnes & Noble on my spring book tour. You never know, y’all.

This past year has left an indelible mark on my relationship with Boyfriend, too – and in a good way. There were rocky times – very rocky times – for a bit. Remember those vicious digs at his roommate in earlier blog posts? Moving down here – with me moving in with my best friend and he with his – certainly presented a few obstacles from time to time. We’ve moved beyond those now and come to understand and appreciate each others’ relationships with others better, and we’re in a much better place for it. And I even like his roommate.

Since finances have not exactly allowed us to hit the town every weekend, Boyfriend and I have learned to enjoy the simple things in life. Instead of getting our crunken party on, there have been home projects with visits to Home Depot and the local plant nurseries. We re-landscaped my front yard. We bought our first set of real furniture and made a pretty little sanctuary of the back patio. We re-furnished and re-decorated Roommate’s house, re-did the irrigation system in her yard, and even managed to re-vamp her wardrobe, teach her to walk in heels, and get out on the dating scene. At the end of the day, we stroll through the neighborhood or have a drink or ten on the patio. And sometimes we just talk. Sure, we love hitting the town now and again, and Phoenix has some great bars when we want to get all gayed out and play Dancing Queen. But all things considered, these little moments of domesticity have been surprisingly satisfying, and our relationship has benefitted from it. And maybe, just maybe, we’ve both managed to (gasp!) grow up a little bit.

And then there are all the little lessons that this year has taught me. Like the fact that Target can, in a pinch, be an acceptable place to buy clothing that doesn’t totally look cheap. That underwear need not always come air-freighted from Australia at hideous cost per garment. That I am physically capable of shopping the clearance racks, or going more than a few months without a new pair of awesome shoes. That I won’t die if I can’t immediately download the newest single by Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga (and that the radio actually plays music too), and that it’s not really that inconvenient to watch my shows on Hulu instead of buying them on iTunes or DVD. That a seven-dollar bottle of wine from Trader Joe’s, when paired with chocolate-covered fruit gummies and enjoyed over the course of a leisurely afternoon on the patio, is just as nice as a good vintage of Veuve Clicquot or Fonseca. That sometimes, it’s okay to simply have a laptop repaired instead of rushing out to buy a new shiny one (and that I can actually survive for two months without a laptop of any kind, even). That happy hour appetizers and cocktails with good friends and loved ones makes for as nice a birthday as a weekend secluded away at a really posh hotel, and that an evening of board games and beer with said friends and loved ones is as fun as spending a night dancing and preening in front of strangers at the hottest gay bars. And that a photo scrapbook filled with pictures of my childhood and home can be the best Christmas present to receive, and that pizza and a marathon of classic Star Trek movies can make for a cozy Christmas day.

So…in the end, no. The journey wasn’t all rotten. It certainly hasn’t all been for nought. There were good points – many of them, in fact. Still, it’s not all fanfare and celebration and easy streets now that the Year of Hell is officially over. There’s plenty of re-building to do. A year of constant stress and soul-deadening part-time jobs have taken their toll on my once-firm physique. There’s some…ahem… de-squishifying and re-sculpting to be done. There are the financial setbacks to recover from. And last but not least, I’ll have to get used to getting up consistently at a god-awful time of morning to commute the thirty miles to work.

But really, that’s all small shit. The Year of Hell is O-V-E-R. I survived it. Exactly one year after I arrived in Arizona ready to start a new chapter, it’s finally happening. It’s all occurring a little later than I’d imagined, but hey…it’s all part of the journey, right?

Here’s to that.

Now please, hand me a margarita. My days of drinks before noon are becoming quickly numbered.

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Hope and Fear (and a little loathing)

As y’all keep reminding me, it’s been a while (2.5 eons, to be precise) since I’ve posted something new, witty, and entertaining here. Some of you feared the laptop might have died again, and others speculated that perhaps I actually turned into a penguin. Or a duck. Or I ingested too much gold body paint and poisoned myself.

Happily, none of those things happened, though gold body paint does sound kinda fun, now that I think about it. No, the simple fact is this: I got busy. Real busy. Busy like the INS in front of Home Depot. Busy like a Republican senator in an airport bathroom stall. Busy like Madonna at an African orphan two-for-one sale. Busy like…well, you get the picture.

When last we saw our devilish hero, he was busy viciously hating his McJob (what, you didn’t get that from the title of Bitch Is Going Down?), was madly applying for real jobs and trying to un-derail his career, and was philosophically quacking and wondering if penguins ever daydreamed.

Fast forward to now: I still loathe the McJob and McBoss the way conservative anti-gay Christian leaders loathe carrying their own baggage on vacation (note to self: if academia doesn’t work out, advertise baggage-handling services on Rentboy.com), and I’m still prone to occasional deep navel-pondering (second note to self: get back to the gym pronto. All this stress-eating is making that navel all the deeper a place to ponder. One of these days, you’ll get lost in it).

One thing I’m not busy doing anymore, however, is furiously writing cover letters and revising resumés.

Yes, you read that right. Almost a year to the date from the end of my last real, honest-to-goodness non-soul-sucking gainful employment, a light finally appeared at the end of the tunnel. And that light, folks, was a train of interviews. For not one, not two, not three, but FIVE positions.

Tell me now: am I an effing golden god, or am I an effing golden god?

Five interviews. At the largest university in the country. One after the other, bam bam BAM. After no more than a single phone interview with ASU and a couple interviews with rinky-dink corporate ‘colleges’ in the past, oh, fifteen months.

Sheer awesomeness, right? Well, yeah. And no.

Interviewing, it turns out, is a hectic process. Who knew? Between phone interviews, on-campus meet-and-greets, presentations, and follow-ups, I barely had time for my actual job, no less anything else. And five weeks on a constant rollercoaster of giddy anticipation, tentative hope, and crushing fear of rejection? Beyond tiring. Seriously. For the past five weeks, I’ve spent my life staring (alternately, and sometimes simultaneously) nervously, anxiously, hopefully, and despondently at the phone, waiting for it to ring.

Throw in a parental visit (complete with meeting of boyfriend and dinner with ex-wife and her new boy, all with no shedding of blood), a mysterious ailment putting Roommate in and out of the emergency room (turns out it was a particularly nasty strain of strep throat that brought along a flesh-eating bacteria for the ride), and the continued constant drama of the McJob (oh! the stories I could tell…if I had the energy)…and you end up with one utterly exhausted and depleted guy.

I couldn’t be more emotionally and physically drained if I’d just finished watching Titanic fourteen times in a row while running on a treadmill and after steaming up the windows of a vintage Packard with Leonardo DiCaprio.

All this is my long-winded and not-very-entertaining excuse and apology for the lack of recent posting prolificity (as well as an excuse for the not-very-entertaining nature of this post, since I’m too dead tired to be witty or creative lately).

It’s also my long-winded and not-very-entertaining way of saying this: I’ve got a job, babies!

I’ll tell you all about it once I sleep for the next week. Promise.