Monday, March 13, 2017

Four Years

Sent: Wed, March 13, 2013 5:30:22 PM
Subject: Congratulations

Hi Chris,  I hear you got the job!  That's great. I think you'll enjoy working for attorneys..some of the work is routine, but I'll bet it's seldom boring. Imagine the experience in human nature!  It may lead to bigger and better opportunities; or just look great on your resume.  Either way, I hope it works out.  Best wishes.  It sounds exciting.  Love, Aunt C.

I had been unemployed for over three years. Quit my job when my first daughter was born. My wife made more money than me, and so someone had to stay home and watch our baby girl. Shortly after our second baby girl was born, my wife lost her job. It was time for me to go back to work.

This was the second job I applied for. I was amazed at how quickly I got called in for an interview.. though it was only a part-time position as a file clerk. $10 an hour. No benefits. But.. it was a job. It was easy and stress free. Take documents from each of four boxes. Place documents in pocket folders. Pull pocket folders for attorneys. Rinse and repeat. I could do this job on five hours sleep - and often did.

I actually wore a tie and dress shoes on my first day as a file clerk, mostly because the only men I had met were attorneys, and they didn't mention anything about a dress code. (There were a lot of things they never explained to me; I've had to fly blind through so many tasks.) 

The girl who trained me said she made a similar mistake; she wore a dress and heels on her first day - and got them all scuffed and dusty when pulling files from the basement.

The paperwork boxes are located in the collectors' room. There were two guys who handled collections - Steve and Jose. Nice guys. Everyone in the office was nice (well, almost everyone.) I could hear them deal with debtors sometimes, and I'd shake my head at their side of the conversation. You couldn't pay me enough to do that job. Steve was the calm one, Jose was more animated. I don't think that's why he was fired, I just think the attorneys are cheapskates. 

For a while Steve was the only collector, until Jose got a job in Princeton - and convinced Steve to come with him. The attorneys decided to offer me the job of running the entire collections department. I had no experience with collections, and no idea how to handle debtors. I also had anxiety and a history of traumatic experiences in retail. I did not want to take this job. But it was the first time I had ever been offered a promotion, and it felt good to support the family. 

My first day as a collector felt like the first day at a new school, only like.. three grades ahead of where I'm supposed to be. I was originally set up at Steve's computer, in the back room. All by myself. Just me and the deadbeat debtors. Only I couldn't log on to the computer. I think he left me the password, but it didn't work, or the attorneys set me up with a new login and didn't tell me. Either way, I felt so much relief that I could not do my job. Since then I've learned to navigate my way through the work day.

Some of the debtors are easy enough to deal with. They know they owe money, they make an offer, I call them back with a response. Tedious, but not difficult. The problem is that far too many of the issues are out of the ordinary. Either the debtor argues that they don't owe this bill, or they don't have the money to pay and they give me a sob story about their hardship, or they get nasty with me. And it's my job to be the middleman; I can't just pass the difficult debtors off to an attorney (though I do try.)

Last week there was a woman who whined about her wage garnishment. She wanted to settle for an amount roughly $75 less than what she owed. My boss told me repeatedly that he won't accept her offer, and we're proceeding with our current course of action (already in progress.) I told her this three times but she keeps calling. He told me to "disregard her calls" - which is easy for him to do. But when I see her number pop up on the caller ID, I panic: if I have to argue with her one more time my blood pressure will skyrocket... but if I don't answer it, she'll just call back and talk to Receptionist Lady. And she'll just redirect the call back to me. 

I've learned to avoid a certain amount of confrontation by turning the telephone volume down (which allows me to not answer the phone if I so choose) and if it's a particularly difficult issue or a debtor that has called one too many times, I'll wait until they hang up and either a) fax something. quick. b) call a different debtor, and stay on the phone for as long as possible. or c) power-walk to the bathroom.

More often than not, this is what I feel like after a five-hour day of collection calls:

(right up until 0:46, when Ned Braden says "mother of god")

I started applying for full-time jobs almost immediately after beginning my job in collections. After all, I got the file clerk job after being unemployed for three years, I was promoted, and I've had a dozen different responsibilities with this firm. That's going to look great on my resume.. right?

And so today begins year four as a part-time employee at the same tiny little law firm that hired me to be a file clerk (God, that feels like a lifetime ago.) At least I have my own office, and I can still wear the same jeans/polo shirt/sneakers I wore when I started. I'll probably be stuck here forever - unless the attorneys retire or they fire me.

I'm practically in a permanent state of anxiety and frustration. Even if I'm at home, I'm scrambling to maximize every moment of not working... because the second I wake up, the nightmare starts all over again.

So, yeah.. I've been in a sour mood for most of the month. It's not just work stress. I'm drowning in negativity, bad outcomes, and family drama. I needed something to perk up my mood (besides baseball cards) and I thought that this video might be a welcome distraction, or possibly give me some tips on how to deal with my anxiety:

Was this video helpful?


God, she has completely lost her mojo. I used to love her stream-of-consciousness tangents, but she's just kinda rambling here. Her voice sounds kinda off. And she's reading from a screen. Come on girl, you're better than this!

I don't even know how I feel anymore. I know that the simple act of watching her video felt like a major decision I had to question multiple times - Are you sure you want to see this? Are you sure you want to know? It's like deciding to smoke a cigarette after you've gone without one for six months. You might feel good, you might feel guilty, you might need this one last drag to know that you're done forever. Or you might get addicted again. 

I'm sorta leaning towards three, but with a little bit of two sprinkled in. The only time I felt one was when I saw that she and GoPro Bro broke up. I mean... it's not like I'm happy she's single or whatever. It's just like.. let's say her life is the reality show that she wants it to be. I was into it from the beginning, but kinda lost interest after season three. She was dating this photographer dude who lived in a van and traveled all over the place taking pictures and doing action sports.. and they were a cute couple and all, but the whole time I'm thinking What kind of future can she have with this guy? He's always traveling, always out of town.. and he lives in a frickin van.

Then I stopped watching the show, missed the beginning of season four, and just checked in about halfway through. Her business is going well, her physique is/was on point.. but everything else is a mess. And she actually declared in a different video that she's a disappointment to her parents, which just makes her sound overdramatic. (ha! I'm one to talk.) Her mother even commented on said video to straighten her out. 

Btw, her mother has the exact same name as a local attorney here in the Jerz. When I saw the attorney's name on my office phone I thought oh I gotta take this call. Yes I'll fax you that information right away. And tell Kayla I said 'what's up?'

Ugh...I have been watching this "show" for far too long. And I have been at this job for far too long. I'd wish for a major life change, but it would almost certainly be something bad - and I cant handle any more negativity. 

I did take some much needed "me" time yesterday. Stayed home while the wife & kids went to Grandma's, sorted some basketball cards, caught up on Kayla videos, and blasted this old school jam for reasons I cannot explain:


Maybe it was all the old school basketball cards that brought this out of my brain. Whatever it was, it made me feel good for about six minutes. 

We're supposed to get a major snowstorm tomorrow. 12-18 inches. If I'm lucky I'll miss two days of work :-)

Now I'm the one rambling. Okay, I'll stop now. Thanks for reading!




  1. Work may be a drag but I applaud you for getting up and going out each day to make money for your girls so that you can live a decent life together. Well done and keep going! It's not over yet.

    1. Thank you sir. I try to get through it the best way I can. I just wish it allowed us to move forward in life and enjoy things, instead of barely scraping by.

  2. Chris, I'm so sorry to read about your misery at work. As you know, I'm pretty damn miserable at my job too. I've been looking for something better for 2 years now and it's so discouraging. If I didn't need a job with great health insurance (I carry ours and my husband had cancer 5 years ago, so....) it would be easier. The past week at work had been extra stressful and I was just thinking about taking a xanax before heading in today...that's how anxious I am about facing that place. So I do sympathize. I wish you lived closer and we could get a drink and swap war stories! Haha. But seriously, we shoukd both keep looking and try to keep the faith that something better is out there for us both. Stay strong, my friend!

    1. Yes, I know you can relate to my work stress and misery.. though I wish you couldn't. Does the Xanax help? I've often though I need some antidepressants/anti-anxiety meds for those really tough days at work (or at the in-laws) Swapping stories and having a drink sounds lovely, I wish we could do that. But there's always the blog I guess!

      Keep looking for something better. You deserve to work in a less stressful environment. :-)

    2. Xanax maybe helps a little. I rarely take them, as I don't have prescription and I get a couple from a friend here and there. (I know, I know, not good...) I'm getting so fed up with looking. The job market around here is awful. Actually, it's okay if you're in the medical field. And if I wanted to continue in retail it would be great, but that's a definite NOPE. Haha!

      Did the snowstorm hit? I hope you have a few days off! :D

    3. Yeah, I know we're warned about not taking pills we're not prescribed..but I'd do the same thing. ;)

      The job market 'trap' is so discouraging. We take what we can get, but its so hard to get into a different field without very specific experience. I live in a smallish town with a fairly new plaza practically across the street.. and 95% of the job openings are in food service (which is why I was so pissed about not getting that receptionist job)

      The snowstorm hit, and I'm off today. But the snow is wetter than expected, its only about 8 inches and its falling like freezing rain (it may have even stopped now). I expect to be back to work tomorrow :/

  3. Sorry to hear you're unhappy at work. I was unhappy with all my jobs until I went into business for myself as an illustrator. How're your drawing skills?

    1. Horrible. I'm the worst artist ever. But my 7 year old has potential.

  4. Some of this sounds familiar.. I had to leave a job after 7 months because of panic attacks and dry heaving.
    Now, the lives of 50 screaming children are in my hands on a daily basis. That said, I love my job driving a school bus..

    Like you, before this job I was unemployed for three years. My marriage dissolved and things were looking bad.. I still don't answer the phone unless I know who's calling, in part because I'm pestered by collections lol..

    1. That's awful...what was the job you had to quit? I dont think I've had any physical reactions to stress like nausea or anything. There have been days where I've wanted to lie on the bathroom floor in the fetal position and hide for five hours (like yesterday) but no panic attacks that I can remember.

      I'm glad you found a job you enjoy. And as a reluctant collections clerk, I really rely on people to do exactly what you do - don't answer the phone! We cant leave messages, so it makes my job a lot easier.

  5. I had to leave the one job I had that I really loved because my idiot husband (now ex-husband) got fired for sexual harassment and couldn't find a job for a year. When he finally got a job, we had to move so I left my home, my job, my friends, everything. I should have told him to move without me because we got divorced anyway. Jobs are big anxiety producers. Thank God I can't find a job other than editing for people while I sit in my favorite chair in my very own house. I like editing, but I can't support myself with it.


    1. It's a shame..the jobs that are rewarding or low-stress dont pay enough, and the jobs that pay enough are physically/emotionally draining. That ex-husband of yours really effed up. I'm glad you dont have to deal with him anymore!

  6. Sorry to hear about your current job situation. Hopefully things get better... or maybe a more intriguing job opportunity will reveal itself in the near future.

    1. Thanks Fuji.. there was a job in my town that would have been amazing. But I didn't get it. I'll keep looking though.