The future I deserve

You don't post much to this newsletter, because there aren't really that many new things to report.

You didn’t apply to any jobs last week. You also know those job openings slow to a crawl this time of year, so it’s gonna be rough for the next couple of weeks.

You’ve stopped counting the rejection emails you’ve gotten. In one recent video interview, an interviewer says, “I love your enthusiasm,” and there’s just enough of a backhanded tone in there to know that you fucked up your chances at that company. That position was for an engineering manager. The general read you’re getting applying for manager positions is that the professional experience you have isn’t enough; the team you managed wasn’t large enough. Ditto for Project or Product Managers. So maybe it’s back to development or design. But that requires a portfolio.

So it goes when you’re having a bit of a career identity crisis.

You’ve been catching up on all the technology you fell behind on. The same way people catch up with The Great British Bake-Off, except your livelihood is on the line.

While building said portfolio, you learn about the web app version of Photoshop, stumble upon a Twitch stream of a guy talking about Web Assembly, but with a radio DJ voice. He’s streaming from his empty office for a major tech company. The first thing you think is that that’s a really niche video stream. The second thing you notice is that he’s at his office on a Sunday at 7 pm, which means he easily spends 60-70 hours a week. Also, he’s most definitely younger than you.

The narrative in your head, of course, instantly goes to “you’re old.” Then it goes to, “you wouldn’t be in this position if you didn’t move to Miami seven years ago.” You suppress that thought immediately because it does no one any good.

You’re good at suppressing things.

Your mom has stopped calling every day. Things have been different ever since you reached your breaking point a couple of months back when you responded to her distress about her husband and daughter moving back in the house by saying you didn’t know how to help her anymore. Her last couple of calls weeks ago had been the polar opposite of all of this, drenched in syrupy optimism that you’ll find a job soon.

Now that she’s stopped calling, you’re not really sure if she’s stopped calling because the optimism is exhausting, or if you just don’t know what to say to each other.

You look up “how to get out of a rut” on YouTube. You stumble upon a TED talk of a psychologist who throws out the idea that the depression is in your head, something you just feel, and then your mind trying to make sense of all that nonsense tries to put a narrative on things. It would make sense, you think to yourself — your entire life, you’ve always been down on something, find a reason to be unhappy about something. You wonder to yourself how much of all of this is your mental chemistry, as opposed to having everything suck around you.

Your mind naturally goes to a thought you had when you were in your early twenties. That was when your sister had “the break” ten years ago -- a brutal, massive psychotic episode where she destroyed her possessions and ran away from home before checking herself into a hospital seven hours away. Your father “rescued” her the only way he knew how; by putting her on lockdown, a curfew, a military-style watch how he grew up. You have always wondered if you were going to turn out crazy as well, and when you didn’t hear voices in your head, you said, “thank god, I’m not as fucked up as she is,” and moved on with your life.

Except you didn’t get away scot-free, you know now.

When things are bad, really bad, you imagine yourself moving back with your parents. The family outings to McDonald’s, where someone has an outburst in the middle of a crowded fast-food restaurant, awkward silences when your sister asks a philosophical question and answers herself with a word salad. On the flip side: jobs. And friends too, sure, but friends you wouldn’t see much because you’d be living with your parents.

You know exactly what you would write, should you move back: “this is not the future I wanted, but clearly it’s the future I deserve.”

Your partner takes the leap and buys flights for the two of you to travel to Taipei over Christmas. Because of the long trip and how sitting coach in prolonged periods hurt his back, he insists on flying business class. You see how much it costs to fly business class. You protest.

“Christ,” he says, “can you just say you’re excited to go to Taipei?”

“I’m excited to go to Taipei,” you say.

“Good,” he replies.

He leaves the room to call Japan Airlines to finalize the tickets. You turn back to the laptop. There are 15 browser tabs for “budget luxury hotels,” and the paused tutorial you were watching moments before.

You’re not sure where to click next.