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Nov. 28th, 2016

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I have three key thoughts floating around today.

One: for me, some distinction exists between actions with an outcome and outcomes with a future. I mean future in some kind of idealistic sense, in the sense of "This person has a future." But also in a personal sense.

I'm working at a transportation and delivery company right now, in a package sorting facility. I won't name it in a public post. But it's one of the big two: our main competitor is the purple and white one. We're a different color.

The shift goes four o'clock to nine o'clock in the evening, from Sunday through Thursday. But I have frequently been there until ten.

The job is more physically demanding than any other job I've had, except maybe when I was doing maintenance. The pay is a few cents over ten dollars an hour. It is tough, as yesterday attested. Today was my sixth day on the job.

The hub is about 20 minutes from my house. My station is on one side of a conveyor belt, standing on a platform about 25 feet in the air. I look at the states and destination numbers at packages going by. If the label on a package matches certain patterns, I take the package and put it down a chute so that it can go onto the belt below me. Otherwise I let it continue down the belt.

It's pretty simple, but not straightforward or easy. If the belt even gets saturated by one layer, it becomes impossible to pick off the packages on my own. Sometimes it gets so hectic that the packages are falling off the belt at my station, or pushing me backwards.

I'll describe it more later. For now, it's enough to say that I'm sore and tired the rest of the time I'm not at work. And I lost my first paycheck to finance charges--my account is negative until next Friday.

To trace how I got here, I'll will eventually have to work my way back, and recap what I've been doing over the past year or so. Maybe I'll try to describe where I failed, and how, if I can find it, I succeeded. I'm not completely sure, in any case. The question, "How the hell did I end up here?" floats around in my head a lot. Last year, around this time, I never would have guessed I'd be doing this.

But for now, I'll just tie it into the thought in my head earlier.

I think I am doing an okay job picking packages so far. The facility just opened two weeks ago. On Wednesday, before thanksgiving, they had a ceremony to celebrate the opening.

Some company big shots came and said a few words. One of the themes each of these guys kept touching on was that there is room for advancement if we work hard and stay loyal to the company. You hear how good a company it is from supervisors and other people who have stayed on for years. Great benefits, they said. The head of Atlantic operations recounted how he started as an unloader in a small facility in Kansas. His only ambition was to work his way up to driver.

"You can make a great future for yourself here," he said. "I'm proof." He gestured to some of the other managers and executives. "They're proof."

Lots of chances for advancement. Stick around, and you have a future.

It's future if you want the job. I don't really want the job of any of the supervisors who trained me. I doubt I want the job of any of the executives or the drivers.

But as I ranted on Slack:

Even though the pay sucks, the hours suck (even though it's part time), and I'm sore and tired the rest of the time--

If someone came up to me and asked, "Hey, how about you do this [software job] that pays a lot more?" I would still be hesitant. I don't know what that says about the the way things are right now.

But I know I should basically expect to be stuck here until I really begin to make a move

I'm not really sure what this all means


So this is probably the second toughest job I've had. And it doesn't pay much more than hanging clothing. But I'm hesitant to do the work to trade this for a better paying, higher skilled line of work that I've supposedly done before. I wish I could explain why in a succinct fashion. I will be honest instead. There are a lot of I don't knows. That's part of the reason I am writing.

I'm glad I live in a society with this much opportunity, that I don't have so many obligations in my life that I'd be afraid of turning down opportunities. It's been a trademark of mine since I was young, saying NO to career paths and money-making moves.

Of course I do want a future. I feel happiest when I am looking forward to a future. But there is a difference between that and paths that lead to better outcomes. A much better income, working in a nice office, being able to contribute back to my family, being able to pay off my debts -- those would be great outcomes.

It doesn't feel like a future. But I can't bring myself to really look forward to those things. I don't know how to put my whole heart into resolving those issues. It feels like things changed, and I got older. But I know it will still feel as it's felt for much of these last six, seven, eight years -- that my life is still on pause, waiting to get started again.

A stopped conveyor belt would be a good partial metaphor for some part of this, but I would have to explain my job further. I see package labels with state labels and destinations numbers when I close my eyes. Sometimes my brain registers part of a wall or a doorway as an Amazon box standing on its end.

I don't really want to talk about work that much right now. They told us today that we have to come in early tomorrow to handle the Cyber Monday loads.

I started a week ago. But it's felt like one continuous day. Things moving, but little sense of change. There has to be more to life than transactions, changes in tempo, with paid breaks strewn in-between. There has to be more to life than envelopes and boxes and chutes and ladders.

It looks like I am meandering here. I had two more thoughts to discuss, and it looks like I've forgotten what they are. I will have to remember tomorrow.

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