Or Something

There was a big storm here in Wellington a couple of weeks ago, and there has been a lot going on politically, all over the world. I’m still doing my physio exercises and getting more into my volunteer gig at the marine science centre. Wellington On A Plate and the Film Festival are coming up. Mostly what I am thinking about, though, close to every minute of every day, is work. More specifically, my lack thereof.

I quit my old job in October when I had to go back, suddenly, to be with Mom for the last weeks of her life. I didn’t think of myself as unemployed then because I wasn’t thinking about anything at all except cancer and death, not even after the memorial service when I traveled around for a little bit before coming back to New Zealand. I just did whatever needed doing and, because we were lucky, I was able to do it without worrying too much about money. I gave myself the month of January to settle back in to Wellington before I really started to look for a job, but then! My first week back, I got an email from an organization that I’d been in touch with earlier in the year asking if I would be interested in working with them for a while?

I was, and it worked out great. It was a part time gig for six months but it was pretty much exactly what I needed at the time: something I could do with confidence but that also let me try some new stuff out, professionally. Last week they got me a very nice morning tea and we parted with mutual expressions of regard. I’ve been actively job searching for the last month, but this is the first week I haven’t gone to work at all.

I’ve been here, many many times before, and of course I know what to do: have coffees with contacts, scour the job ads every day, re-write my CV one more time. Email the recruiters. Go to the library, go for walks, go and do the house projects (Line the kitchen cabinets! Organize the closets! Steam clean the carpet!) that never get done. Read and write. Bake. Count my blessings, and check my email one more time. I hope this is how I will get a new job. It’s only really the first week, I tell myself, and I tick all the boxes. I hope this is how I will get a new job.

Earlier in the year I’d actually thought that maybe when the contract was done I would go to Thailand or something for a couple of weeks. No reason, Thailand, just that I wanted to take an overseas trip that really felt like a holiday and not a descent into tragedy. I researched it and planned it and was pretty sure I was going to go, even though I didn’t know what I would be doing for work after June. (Just as I don’t know what I’m doing now, when it is after June). Best case, I said to myself, I’ll have a job to come back to and worst case: eh, what’s a couple of weeks? I’ll just apply for jobs when I get back! Two weeks on a beach! Could be the best thing that ever happened to me!

I decided, in the end, not to go, and part of me is a bit ashamed for being so practical. I think I would have liked to give a low-key middle finger to practicality, just for a couple of weeks, but I just started getting so anxious. I didn’t imagine myself diving or eating delicious food or learning to count to ten in Thai: I imagined myself frantically trying to find good wifi on that beautiful beach so I apply for Wellington public servant jobs. I imagined stressing over every baht, frettishly nickel-and-diming myself over every plate of noodles.

So I’m home, doing what you’re meant to do when you want a new job. Practical, sensible. No holidays for me for a while. I’ve got three batches of cookie dough in the freezer and I’m going to help out with a school holiday programme at the Marine Education Centre tomorrow as part of my volunteer thing. There’s a free shuttle to Zealandia so I’m going to use my membership there on Friday if Wellington doesn’t get physically blown into the Straits by the gale-force winds we’ve been having with depressing regularity lately. These are all good things, and I feel glad to do them.

But part of me wishes I was on that beach right now. Part of me thinks that I should be braver and more seize-the-day-ish. Part of me knows that it’s my privilege talking, to think that going on a holiday is any type of bravery at all. Part of me thinks it’s just a matter of time, if I put the effort in and do what I’m supposed to be doing, before I get something really really good. Part of me knows that that’s a privilege, too, to think that.

Part of me thinks I could–magically, somehow–be a marine biologist or a human rights worker or a ballerina or a writer or an astronaut or something, and part of me cannot believe I am still thinking that sort of thing, unemployed again, at the age of thirty-eight.


  1. oh, but doesn’t it just sort of happen? One finds oneself unemployed for a while, but it all works out. Remember to think of this as temporary, because it certainly is. They will find you. xoxo

  2. Please keep thinking those things. I do. And I’m older than you.

  3. You’ll soon get a great gig with PAID holidays (so you can pop over to Melbourne on a whim, for example). It’s gonna happen. You’re making the right decisions.

    One day at a time, yadda yadda!

  4. Hello Chiara,

    I am new to this blog, but I wish to offer every encouragement, and to say it’s never too late, at least for marine biology (my degree). I am only in my mid 20s, but a member of our department didn’t start her degree until she was 40. Luck with it all.