The long hard road

It isn’t a long shot to call the march towards gainful employment gruelling. In fact, I can think of several more choice terms: humiliating, degrading, daunting, pointless.
There comes a point when doing something repeatedly without any change in outcome becomes insanity. Well call me insane because I must hold the record for number of repeat applications to firms. Where’s my parade?
It isn’t as though I’ve stopped in time, crystallised and stagnant in my life. I’ve done concrete things to add to my CV. With every passing year and with every reiteration of my applications, I have things to add. I’ve taken risks, I’ve taken action, but it seemingly is never good enough.
Let’s see, since my last round of applications, I have: gone through an internship where every person my level was at least 8 years younger. Gone through the humiliation of returning to university where again, everyone is on average at least 5 years younger than I am. Tried to do more entrepreneurial things like joining case competitions and running a business. Nothing seems to make any difference…
The application process currently in place is a particularly cruel one. It’s a multi stage process and prior to interviews is conducted in a bizarrely arbitrary way. One is summarily judged and then rejected based on the words one has written on a cover letter, and through grades. It would be an acceptable process if one also managed to get an answer as to why one was rejected in the first place. What was the screening out process? Was it grades based? CV based? How much of a kiss-ass one can be through words? Or a braggart?
It’s not that I don’t understand-yes, it is time consuming to sift through thousands of applications and yea it will be hugely time consuming to explain to the 90% of people who don’t make it why they weren’t up to scratch. Although really, how hard is it to craft two separate emails; one giving CV reasons for rejection and the other grades reasons? 
I am frustrated. Of course I am. Also dejected and humiliated. Because once again, I had the audacity to hope and once again those hopes were summarily dashed with no explanation. How can I change, do what I need to do if I don’t even know what’s wrong in the first place? 
Of course I wonder, what if I had spent more time crafting a cover letter with more ass kissing, more pointed selling of my attributes? Would that have made any difference? And obviously I don’t have the answer to that question…
The underside of this equation is that the doubts that I have about the risk I’ve taken, attempting the risky procedure of a mid-career change is for nought. The dark doubts of whether or not I made the right decision is ever lingering and it flares up whenever I find yet another rejection in my email inbox.
I weigh up the options I have on a daily basis; almost everyday, I am reminded about my dwindling options, the lessening hope and increasing dread that I was wrong and that at the end of yet another degree, I will find that I am saddled with another useless piece of paper and no means of supporting myself financially. It gets harder to forget, this doubt. It gets harder to remember why I embarked on this journey in the first place.
Do I want to rail against the unfairness of it all? You bet I do. I am, on paper, equally as qualified as the lucky ones who get through. Can I blame luck or fate? I’d love to. But rationally, I can’t blame anyone else but myself. At the end of the day, I was judged as unworthy, whether because I failed to adequately sell myself, or because I wasn’t able to show the requisite amount of enthusiasm. Age does that to you, it saps the youthful enthusiasm and naïveté that one has in the flush of youth. So perhaps it was just my sober approach towards writing out my applications which was the cause of my downfall.
I wonder how to continue onwards… I do. I wonder if this is worth it… And above all things, I wonder what else I can do and how I can actually find the will to carry on.
End rant. 
I am so so aware that I am not the only person who is in this boat. I am so so cognisant that a large, huge percentage of my cohort are facing the same challenge. What is it that we can do about this? Perhaps if we all banded together and boycotted firms which used this cruel application procedure. Although in doing that, we would presumably not apply to 90% of firms.. And in my fantasy, I’d also like my own island with personal 5 star resort attached..
The sad reality is that applications isn’t even the end of the road.. Once that hurdle is surpassed, there’s interviews, there’s more people to impress, higher and higher up the chain. There’s the long road of actually doing the work and impressing bosses so that one does not have to hunt for another job in two years. Up or out, as the firms love to say. 
I am filled with fear; so much fear because the stakes are much much higher for me. Being older does not confer any kind of advantage, it in fact, reduces the amount of time I have left to futz around… As I flounder, drowning in the sea of rejection emails, I am left clutching at whatever straws I can find… Where is the light at the end of the tunnel?

Define yourself…

“So what do you do?” 
I get asked this question a lot, as an obvious 30 year old and as the partner of a successful, renowned architect. At dinner parties, at casual drinks, at official functions.. All I can do is stammer, “Ah.. Well.. I used to be a scientist…. And now I am not sure what I am… Unemployed? Poor struggling student?” Neither of which are particularly satisfying nor reflective answers.
My partner, bless his heart would then interject cheerfully, “he cured cancer!!!” 
Which is sweet, but not quite true…
Where do I start when it comes to the topic of my career? What terms can I use to couch it so that it doesn’t sound self pitying and as though I am wallowing in my own sorrows, like the jazz singers of old? 
The facts are; plainly and starkly presented, that I did have a career, once in a previous life. I was a scientist, full of idealistic naïveté, wanting to make a difference, save lives and all that jazz, but the travails of academia soured my youthful enthusiasm and turned me into a bitter crone who just wanted to sell out and go corporate.
I can hear my partner in my head going, “hmmm, perhaps that isn’t the best way to sell yourself… How about you talk about your career highlights!!!”.. In a tone that is all at once chipper and enthusiastic.. He’s so adorable.. 
So here goes, the positive spin: 

I worked in cancer research, starting out in haematological cancers before branching into prostate cancer. I worked on the cancer that Delta Goodrem had* and my work was actually licensed by a pharmaceutical company (!!!!), [sight pause for acclaim from assembled multitudes]. As a prostate cancer researcher, I once pipetted 60 plates in two weeks, [pause again as assembled multitudes’ eyes slightly glaze over], which is close to what a robot can do, which means, I am part robot (!!! And said with a tone of maniacal glee). [longer pause as some of the assembled multitude begin to back away slowly wondering if I am some kind of nutjob]
See what I mean when I say I have issues with my elevator pitch… 
The truth is obviously more mundane: 

I got my PhD, worked for a bit as a post-doctoral researcher, impulsively decided I didn’t like it, took a pay cut and became just a lowly research assistant, and performed robotic tasks for three years before deciding I wanted to be able to wear suits to work and that there was no point wearing a suit to a lab since mice aren’t actually cognisant or appreciative of a good dress sense… So I decided to go back to university; but in my infinite wisdom, decided I could do both full time work and a full course load, which I hasten to add, did work out for a semester, before the strain of trying to do both things concurrently sent me spiralling into a vortex of exhaustion and self pity, whence I would spend my three hour seminars thinking of sad weary songs in my head as the lecturer droned on about bonds and ‘portforio’s’ (she was Asian.. Trouble pronouncing ‘l’s’…)
But wait, there’s more! I then decided that I would give up full time work and the salary that went with it so I could focus on my studies. Which would have been an OK to great decision, except one is not likely to perform well in ones exams if one spends the entirety of the lecture picturing oneself as a down in the doldrums, lip syncing jazz singer.. And of course, with the terrible grades, come the uncertainty of whether or not this particular course is the right one, which leads to more wallowing and soul searching, which leads to a terrible case of the ‘woe is me’s’ [an actual disorder.. Look it up… On Wikipedia.. ]
Here I imagine my partner giving me awesome side eye and muttering “pessimist” under his breath.. 
My partner believes I am amazing. He looks at me and sees this wonderfully gifted gay man who is so smart and so intelligent and so good in bed. His words, not mine.. 
What do I see? I see someone who is average… Who isn’t the worst, but isn’t the best either, (coincidentally what an interviewer said about me). Someone who could be something great, if he could just stop wallowing in the past and look towards the future by doing something concrete, like writing about the Serious Issues of today and getting his name out there. I see potential, in other words. 
But I also see someone who isn’t quite sure what he wants. Who balks and balks like a stubborn horse because he doesn’t quite know what road to choose and in doing so, chooses to let the opportunities that he has wither away, much like Esther in The Bell Jar…
What is special about me? What have I achieved that others haven’t? One time, I modelled for a teen magazine.. It was a contest.. I won a set of the ugliest clothes ever… (Plaid shirt and terrifyingly ugly grey pants which didn’t fit because I lied about my waist size). I have a PhD… What else? I have a very good memory for pop culture and song lyrics.. I learnt the words to the Les Mis song The Docks (Lovely Ladies) in a day… So I could market myself as a PhD, who once modelled ugly clothes and who recalls lots of song lyrics and pop culture trivia… Except, where’s the niche for these skills?
Here’s the thing, I do know, in my heart of hearts, that I am more than capable of succeeding in whatever career I end up getting into. I know that I have the skills, I know I can do the work. The issue is more about whether or not I will enjoy the work. Also, not screwing up job interviews by breezily writing off my past scientific experience as ‘irrelevant’ (I am so good at interviews…). Although, as my mother would say, ‘happiness at work? That’s bullshit. Nobody enjoys working. You just go to work and you do your work well and you get paid and then you come back and put food on the table for your terribly bratty and ungrateful kids who then whine about not having a good childhood because they don’t have toys.’ (Yes, my mother actually said that. Why she never won Parent of The Year, I will never comprehend…) 
Where to from here, one might ask. And if I knew the answer, I wouldn’t be writing this..
Here are the options:

Option 1:

By some miracle, one of my job applications actually works out, I get an interview which I don’t screw up and I get a job as a patent lawyer or a high powered pharmaceutical medical science liaison and I live happily ever after with my knight in shining armour, in our palace with white and brown speckled horses. Oh, and a household staff of 20 and a walk in closet, whilst I am fantasising.. 
Option 2:

I go back to uni, finish the course to the best of my ability, get into a graduate program, (which isn’t looking all that likely, given my poor grades and the fact that all I remember about portforio’s and bonds are the lyrics to sad jazz songs.. ) and then I live happily ever after with my Prince Charming in a penthouse, with a cleaning lady and a closet full of Tom Ford suits.. 
Option 3:

Hmm.. There are less options than I thought..
Yes, yes, I know that both option 1 and 2 can be done concurrently; not exactly a Sophie’s Choice in that I can apply for jobs whilst studying and one of the applications might actually work out.. So essentially, I have inadvertently devised my future plans whilst writing this..
*Not exactly true, but as my dearest partner would say, “who needs to know that?”

Like gold…

It can happen to you, they insisted. The multitude of readers, many who read my tales of woe from the dating front-the ones who relieved their memories vicariously through my written words; they all told me that these things do and will happen. They told me to be patient, that someday, one day, that mysterious man would appear and everything would be like gold..
And then he came into the picture. And then he appeared, like vapour, like mist-an apparition. And I could not quite believe it, he didn’t appear solid; it was hard for me, oh, so hard, to believe, to trust that maybe those readers-all of you who steadfastly shared, stood by me and whispered your words of encouragement and solidarity from so far away; to believe that maybe you were right.. 
But you spoke the truth-the wisdom, all of that precious experience. You were right, these things do happen-a man, a good one, one who thinks the world of me would walk into my life-just like that, a momentous instant; just like that and my life would begin to alter. Just like that-a plain black and white world, shades of grey colouring every perspective-it would turn to gold…
My life is now divided; pre and post. My new life now involves him-it is no longer a selfish one-one where only I mattered, one where there was only me in a sphere, in a bubble. I now have to think about another person’s views, another persons’ life and his choices and his hopes. My life’s course is no longer on that same dreary track.. There will be different priorities, different outcomes. Pre and post; what a difference a day, a second, a moment makes…
It has happened; I have met him. It feels completely right-as he said, there is a feeling of familiarity. It is like coming home. The long journey, the arduous trek, it is the feeling, that indescribable joy of returning home after a long absence. I have come home and it feels like gold… 

The paths that could have been…

There are no excuses I can give-sure, reasons and justifications exist but not excuses. I will not make any excuses.. And by extension, that makes all reasons and justifications moot.
Without excuses, without reasons; there is no blame. Or rather, it is that the blame cannot be apportioned to anyone else. The blame rests solely with me; the blame resides in me. But to acknowledge that blame that rests on my shoulder, waiting to ensnare me in its waiting jaws in order to drag me down into that spiral of hell, that long descent towards self recriminations, is to give it power.. And I won’t do that, not this time.
All I can acknowledge is a weariness-a tiredness. The kind which comes with the constant push and struggle which apparently leads nowhere. Even on the most optimistic of days, those days when I can grudgingly admit to myself that I didn’t do all that badly, it is tough for me to find any point to the struggle. Where has it lead me? Did I learn anything? 
It behooves me to try again and again, repeatedly. For to give in and give up is to accept the bitter realisation that the path I chose, on my own, is not true… And I have not that strength to double back and find the true way. For even false roads lead somewhere; even they eventually end up in some kind of clearing-a denouement, an end. Even those byways and overgrown paths lead somewhere eventually; but of course, the constant fear of a dead end remains… 
The fact is, back then, decisions were made-small little inconsequential things, which at that time, didn’t seem to mean anything but which may have turned out to be my undoing. And realising those mistakes later, I still went ahead and did the same thing over… I have no explanation for those turn of events-no way to justify… And it is precisely the cause of why I am where I am. 
There is nothing to do now but to accept that events have transpired as they have, the chips have fallen where they may. As much as I can rue the decisions made, the paths that could have been, now fading away, there is no point in that. Why cry over a path that can never be traversed? It will not bring that path back-that journey can never be made… The only thing left to do is to walk the path I am on, to the bitter end… Wherever it leads..

With bated breath…

The waiting and the not knowing is the hardest part.. You are on the edge of a precipice, on tenterhooks, just waiting; seconds pass, minute after minute.. Waiting for confirmation, for validation. 
The tragic part is that the outcome is already known. The powers that be have already determined who shall not pass; call these powers fate or HR-call them whatever one pleases, but they already know the power they yield…
It is hard to remain indifferent when this is one of the rare opportunities remaining. It is hard to maintain the perspective that it doesn’t, at the end of the day really matter-that this is but the first part of a long journey, and that a failure at this stage doesn’t preclude one from success.. It is hard to hold on to that precarious grip on the edge of sanity, precisely because of the deeply warping desire to claim some form of validation from a vote of confidence. 
Ah, but to stake confidence on this outcome is a fallacy… Mostly because the expectation and the reality of what will be, what is to come are so divergent. What will happen may not necessarily be good for me nor what I want. What I want today, right now, this moment, more than anything: to get an internship may not necessarily be the best course, the wisest path…
But still I wait with bated breath; too weak to leave it all to God, to own the fact that I have done all I could, that what I put forth was the best of my abilities and to accept the judgement which comes… I wait for that email, that call, that sign of it being my time, my turn. I wait and I dream and I dread.. Soon, what is to be will reveal itself… And whatever that outcome is, I can only hope that I will have the force of will, the grace and the strength to accept it and to soldier onwards…

A victim mentality..

The victim mentality.I don’t deny it, I have the tendency to play the victim card. I do it because it’s easy, because it’s expedient, perhaps because the only way I can sort of push myself to go forward is to have collect the sympathy I receive and use it as some kind of force to propel me forward, as though sympathy is some kind of battery for me. It’s pathetic isn’t it? But there I go again, seeking sympathy.
The truth is I really would like to stop wallowing in the filth of my own misery. I do. But essentially the detente with that is this: to stop wallowing in self pity, I need to make some very tough decisions. And I am risk averse; averse to making any kind of decision. And so I continue down this wretched path hoping for something to change, wishing for some momentous event to happen so I can delineate my life into pre- and post- this event. I go on doing things in the same fashion, living my life in the exact same way always putting of any kind of beneficial change, which I know I must make but am too afraid of making, off. Ladies and gentlemen, that is the very definition of crazy.
I know why I have lost readers over this period; because reading about one person’s self pity and watching vicariously as that person sinks deeper into the quagmire of fear whilst refusing to change in order to save himself is tiring. Beyond tiring, it’s boring. The same paths rehashed, the same topics raked over repeatedly as though ripping through old wounds and ancient grudges is going to effect some kind of change. I know. I have exasperated a fair chunk of what used to be my regular readers; exasperated them to the point where they have ceased reading, stopped visiting and I stand to lose the remainder of my readers if I continue on this path.
But what I cannot seem to do, what I wish I could get someone to tell me how to do, is change. I want to be able to say that I am truly not affected by the almost constant deluge of rejections I receive; whether it’s career related or men related. But I am. The frank truth is that it kills me. It destroys me. And yes, I wallow and I write…
Admittedly, I do know that the career related rejections are implicitly my fault. I must take the blame for that; because I haven’t thought through thoroughly what it is I want to do with my current degree. One could say that I am only applying for internships because it is the thing to do. I have zero conviction on whether I want to work in a bank, or in management consulting or in an investment bank or an accounting firm. I don’t know what it is I want to do and it shows on my applications, so the rejections should come as no surprise to me. Despite how well I am doing, and I am doing well all things considered, minus that conviction, I will never successfully get an interview. 
Here is my attempt then, feeble as it is, to maintain a sense of clarity, to in a way, stop playing the victim. I am not the victim.. It is perhaps for the best that I don’t get an internship because I don’t know if that’s what I want to do. And it’s ok to admit that. I just need to embrace that fact…
I will also cop to the fact that rejection in love is also to be expected since the timing isn’t right… And there really is nothing more to say on that matter.. 
All I can say now is that I am trying, I really am. There is no point in me trying to garner any kind of sympathy in order to ‘take strength’ from it.. But at the same time, without making the changes I must make, my life will not be in any state of flux. Meaning that whatever I write, will always sound like a rehash… 

waiting..

There are the similarities-both applying for internships/jobs and dating in that both are basically numbers games. They operate on the belief that as long as one does not give up, there will be a reward in terms of a job or a man at the end of the hard slog.
Here I am reminded of a scene in the movie Little Fish with Cate Blanchett. Her character, in the midst of a despairing soliloquy asks, ‘what more can I do?’. Or words to that effect. In essence, sometimes one can do everything right, do every possible thing and yet still not be able to achieve that goal of a job or a man. Somehow, something, whether one is able to distinguish what it is, or whether one is blissfully oblivious, keeps getting in the way. Put it another way, either one is not good enough, or there are other people who are superficially better.
I know, don’t I know it, that either love or a career or both in some kind of magic formulation is not going to guarantee my happiness. I know that happiness isn’t meant to be fuelled by just these two things, that career and love are not all encompassing.. Yet, these two aspects seem to be the only thing that I am aware of that has the potential to make me happy. 
Perhaps it is who I am; a person who conflates happiness with security, with having money. All my choices, be it in terms of my career or the men I date have been made in order to maximise the chances that I will have a secure life, and that I am able to lead the lifestyle I wish to live. But these choices haven’t necessarily been the best; in fact, I could possibly call a lot of them the wrong choice. 
I am fully aware that what I need to do right at this moment has nothing to do with either my career or love-I need to find a source of self worth that is not inherently linked to something external like a career or a man; neither can it be something as superficial as my body. I know that I have to find something that I am passionate about, and not be a dilettante about it. I just don’t know what it is… 
Once upon a time, I thought it was my writing-but let’s face it, the only reason I wrote in the past was because I secretly wished for literary fame and fortune-as much as I decried the ‘fame now’ ethos of Hannah Horvath, the ugly truth is that I felt the same way-that I was an undiscovered voice of my generation. Obviously I am not.. There already is a gay Asian voice, voices even; what more could I add to that conversation? being a dilettante, of course I basically gave up on writing once I realised that… And whatever I write now is basically just an extended version of my own rambling musings.. 
Take away the writing, what else is there? I am nothing special. Average in all aspects. Not that having a passion for something equates to being good or the best at that thing-see, another one of my warped ideas… 
I realised that I left of doing a lot of the ‘normal’ things that people do in the course of their youth; things like travel for instance. I left it off because I kept thinking how awkward it would be to travel alone, to be unable to share that experience. Of corse there was a semblance of fear there, but on the whole, I left off doing those things, waiting for something, someone to be able to do it with. And now, it’s basically too late. 
I can only hope and pray for some breakthrough now. Because I have done almost everything possible in terms of my career and my love life. Whether I did these things right is of course a debatable point.. That’s all I can do now really, return to waiting for something to happen…