by Mike Vuono
May 28th, 2019
Way back when, a few months after graduating from college, I had been reduced to little more than a waking job application machine. Going through my email archives, I sent somewhere around 700 applications in 3 months during my busiest stretch. That’s like eight applications a day, every day. I was writing cover letters for each of these jobs as well, trying to beguile whoever was reading this thing that I was a functioning adult and not some total asshole who would abruptly quit their job (we see how well that went.)
Usually I wrote an overly passionate type of cover letter. Some of these crossed over into dark humor as I got loopy from writing so much gibberish day in and day out. “I’ve always believed in knee-related medical devices, I feel that this work is my passion” etc etc.
I was entirely indiscriminate with the jobs I was applying to; one day saw me applying for a line cook at a restaurant, a few generic office assistant gigs, part-time photographer, and creative director for a medium-scale marketing firm. To me, it didn’t really matter what the job was; I could learn it. Some people call it naive but I like to just think I can hit the ground running. And that most work is bullshit.
This brings me to the Honey Baked Ham company. Although my current self, ethical vegan and all, would be appalled to support a company like this in any way, my 22 year old self was way more interested in the whole “work here and we pay you money” arrangement. I applied for some type of leadership training type role. Basically I’d be acting store manager for a year, and then if I didn’t colossally fuck shit up I’d become a real manager. After a few rounds of phoners, amazingly I received a phone call that went something like this:
“Hi Mike, I have good news and bad news.”
“Okay, sure - give me the bad news first, then.”
“Bad news is you didn’t get the role in New Jersey...”
“Good news is, we want to offer you the same job, located in Boston. We’re ready to offer you this job right n--”
Despite my younger self having such a grounded mentality, things change. About two months ago I found myself frantically looking for somewhere, anywhere, to go. Not like, go on vacation. Go. Stay. Move. Change your life immediately and drastically. Philly? Cool let’s do it. Arizona? Look at how cheap a three bedroom condo would be! California? Can’t afford it, have no contacts, no job prospects and no idea how to make it happen; let’s fuckin’ do it.
I was looking for the geographic cure.
The “geographic cure” is the false belief that all the shit in your life will magically fall into place if you just move somewhere else. It’s bullshit. You think Philly is great when you’re on vacation because you’re at an Airbnb for three nights with nothing to care about, and you spend every day eating out and walking around the park. I mean, yeah that life sounds fucking awesome, but you’re missing all the banality of what life would be like full time over there. Think of laundry every week. Think of doing the dishes. Think of paying your electric bill online. There we go, there’s reality again.
It’s really just escapism, albeit a much more tangible version. There’s probably nothing stopping you from actually picking up and moving. You’ll find a job. Even if you have to work at some shitty retail job and live in a garbage studio apartment for a while, you can move out there. The problem of course is that your life won’t magically get better because of it. You still won’t have as good a relationship with your parents as you want. You’re still gonna carry those extra 10 lbs in your belly. You still can’t find a diner as good as the one from your hometown. The last season of Game of Thrones will still feel empty and hollow.
I really did start looking up how much condos in Arizona cost. I really did start looking up jobs in Philly. I really did have a mini crisis on an otherwise regular Tuesday morning a few months back. I talked myself down. My fiance talked me down more. So what do you do, when you feel like shit isn't going exactly how you want it, and your reaction is to run away and set up shop somewhere else?
Dig the fuck in.
How well do you know your neighbors? Do you even know them? Do you patronize small businesses in your town? Did you volunteer for your local Earth Day activities? Where’s the library in town? How good is the coffee shop on the corner? Where’s the community garden, and what are you growing in it? Questions like this are pretty much unanswerable for most people, at least most Northeastern people like me. There is no sense of community that binds us. This has a lot to do with the Gen X/Millenial thing where we’re just kinda like “nah fuck this” about everything. Nihilism, and associated isms.
But you can create your community. You can say hi to the folks walking downtown. You can check out the farmers market on Sundays. You can go to the tiny bookstore in town that charges 10% more than Amazon. You can not get your Soy Hazelnut Latte from Starbucks because you’re getting a black coffee next door. That place roasts on site, they know what they’re doing.
Or maybe their coffee sucks, what do I know? Either way, supporting giant corporations and their more/less evil tactics is a good way to eventually wind up entirely disillusioned with life when you’re 40 and you realize that we are out of time to do anything about how much carbon is trapped in the atmosphere. Oh god, we really are locked in to a 4 degree warming no matter what, aren’t we?
Maybe stay put where you are. Try to make it better. Create your own network. Go to the local park and just hang out for an hour or two. You don’t need to run away. And if you do, it’s gonna be the same shit wherever you go. So stay here. Stay in Jersey. Jersey fucking rocks.