the tamago report

Eggs benedictated

Category: The Job-Hunting Series

A SHORT STORY ABOUT LIFE CHOICES.

by MDY

Our graduation ceremony was held in the Big Hall on a tepid summer’s day. The mothers cried and the fathers tried not to as the Headmaster told us that in front of us stretched a brocade of untrammelled possibilities upon which we could walk, run, or eschew altogether for unworn paths of our own choosing. Next to me, I could see Alvin M. looking up “untrammelled” on his phone. We mingled for the last time on the vestibule outside the hall, ties askew as we ribbed our teachers (“yeah Sir, cool tie!”) and discussed summer plans and generally steered clear of our tearful and increasingly maudlin parents. All the boys were going out for dinners and movies and under-age clubbing that night, but I felt this restlessness in my gut and besides I hadn’t been invited by any of them anyway, so after dusk I took Dad’s car and drove out to the spot in the mountains where no trees grow. The hawk and the jihadist’s ghost were playing sic bo with ivory dice on the stump of the thousand-year oak.

“I’m just saying poker is a far better test of skill,” the jihadist’s ghost was saying.

“And how am I going to hold my cards?” asked the hawk. “Get the bear to embroider them into my feathers, is it? Hey, want to take old Assad’s place? He’s getting all radical on me.”

“No thanks, guys,” I told them, sitting down with my back to the stump. “I’m just a bit out of sorts today, that’s all.”

“You okay, man?” the jihadist’s ghost asked. “I can give the phoenix a yell if you’d like.”

“It’s cool,” I said. “I just had my graduation today, is all. And everyone seems so happy and excited but I can’t help thinking that it’s like a little death, you know? Not knowing what comes on the other side. I have to pick my university, courses, all of that – it’s like character selection in Kingdom Hearts except there’s no save point to go back to.”

“Did you know I used to be the CEO of one of Japan’s largest telecommunications companies?” the hawk said. “No, shut up, Osama, he obviously hasn’t and it’s very relevant to him. Now, after university I bummed around for ages, just playing video games and hunting pigeons and all that. I tried applying for some jobs, of course, but it just didn’t work out, and I kind of just gave up after the 52nd rejection letter. One day, my friend tells me there’s an opening in the mailroom where he works, and I manage to make it to my interview and end up getting hired. 25 years later, I’m sitting in the chair opposite the one in which I got interviewed, looking at a photo of old Junichiro-sama on the wall, and I suddenly have this epiphany, that there’s nothing more I can or want to do to serve my empire. So I smash my window and turn into a hawk and fly away.”

“Is there a moral to that story?” asked the jihadist’s ghost.

“Hey, patience, Bomber al-Bashir. What I’m saying, friend, is…well, I’m not going to say Do what you want, because you probably don’t know what that is and if you’re anything like me or 92 percent of the general population, you probably never really will. You should find something that interests you, but don’t let it define you. I think just do whatever, and remember that what you do is only who you are if you let it be.”

I looked at the jihadist’s ghost.

“Don’t look at me, man,” he said. “I waged war on infidels like you for the promise of an eternal caliphate, and look where I ended up. If you see any sexy Persian sprites, send them this way, will you?”

That night, I laid out my course preference form on my table, closed my eyes, and placed a dot on the page with my fountain pen. It fell next to Mechatronic Engineering. I looked it up on Wikipedia and it sounded like a pretty okay choice.

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The Job Delusion

by MDY

I don’t have a dream job. I sometimes think I would’ve been an excellent electrician, except my fingers are clumsy (particularly when cold in winter) and my father always discouraged me from becoming an engineer from first-hand experience. I used to joke in high school that I had no ambition. My gift is not one which lends itself easily to professional designations.

In letters to his patron Maecenas, the Roman poet Horace alludes to the necessary separation of otium (“leisure” is an approximate translation) to its literal antithesis negotium (“business” or “responsibilities” in a more or less professional sense). I’m no longer familiar with the specifics – this knowledge stems from high-school Latin, after all – but the gist of the correspondence is that a person will derive most happiness from keeping business and pleasure as distinct as possible, to avoid corrupting one with concerns of the other. Maecenas was offered up as a good example of this: a politically influential entrepreneur by day, he would dedicate his nights to holding literary salons replete with fresh poetry, wine, and bro-fisting. If you were to represent Maecenas’ social circles as a Venn diagram, the intersection would be the Empty Set or its asymptotic equivalent (O ∩ n-O ≈ ∅). I wonder what Horace would have written about work/life balance (O ∩ n-O ≈ {webmail, kids interrupting conference calls, …}).

In my current line of work, we often talk about “managing expectations”. Is it a compromise if you fall in love with what you do only after you’ve started doing it? I find my current line of work to be interesting, and the people with whom I work to be more salubrious than average. This, to me, is the epitome of job satisfaction. I’m one of the lucky ones, but I also believe in making my own luck. My gift is not one which lends itself easily to professional expectations. Things have worked out well for me and my dichotomy of neg/otium. But if they don’t, there’ll always be wires which need fixing.

(The intersection between and B)

How to be a freelance writer

by MDY

Last week I interviewed two pretty well-known figures in the Australian start-up community as part of an article I’m working on. One is a few years older than me, the other about a year younger, and both have accomplished far more in a few short years – resettling in San Francisco, rebooting a corporate career – than most people aim for in a standard lifetime.

I started out my career as a freelance writer. When I was seventeen, it was a source of precious liquidity at a time when my contemporaries were mostly waiting tables or reloading cash registers. As I fumbled through university, it offered me the credentials for marginally bigger things: temp work, internships, even experience to base my essays on. Eventually it became a highly lucrative venture which translated into a full-time career.

When you’re a freelancer, you’re a business owner. The business is you: your skills, knowledge, and work ethic. Managing that business and making it profitable can take you to some pretty interesting places, and open up some otherwise-unimagined doors. While I’m nowhere near the league of the two women I interviewed, I’m proud of what I accomplished in those years as a bootstrapping opportunistic pen-for-hire.

To those of you who want to write professionally, I ask: what’s stopping you? Get an ABN or your country’s equivalent. Go online and fight the nameless and faceless for commissions offered by the nameless and faceless (but hopefully not penniless). Offer free trials to get that crucial first gig. Learn how to negotiate a pay-rate and how to bid against the entire Internet. Send your portfolio to every magazine that’s still selling and still solvent. Learn to ask the right questions, and practise your listening face. Enjoy the quasi-legitimacy of “freelance journalist” that lets you call up highly accomplished individuals and ask them about their life stories just…because.

Freelancing will not get you rich, but it’ll get you started. The lessons you learn from it – everything from time management to tax compliance – will serve you well, whether it be in corporate or creative or your world-domineering enterprise. And the people you meet and the places you go have more value than anything you can tape to your CV. You may lose sleep, perhaps all of it. You may fail.

You may also change your life.