Ehh…maybe 8-9 months ago? I can’t count…
The Darkest Timeline concept will be, perhaps, Community‘s enduring legacy on the Internet. In the season three episode “Remedial Chaos Theory,” the gang play a board game where, with each roll of the die, we are presented with a different timeline based on how the die falls, one timeline being the most depressing and cynical of them all.
After about two months in California, Lance and I fell into what we would come to refer to as our Darkest Timeline, and maybe we should’ve seen it coming. As Lance went longer and longer without a job, the clouds started rolling in (see what I did with the picture above? Clever girl…).
As I mentioned previously, we had been hoping to jump ship from Philadelphia for awhile; my concern with that was always the long odds of us both finding work around in a new city around the same time so we weren’t taking too much of a financial hit. Eventually, though, the itch was too great and we began talking about how long we could go on one income while the other looked for a job.
I found mine first, while Lance kept looking. At the beginning, I wasn’t too concerned. “Lance will have no problem finding a job,” I’d joke. “Lance could charm the pants off of a priest.” Err, bad example and probably not all that difficult (I can make this joke because I was raised Catholic.)
Perhaps we were a little too optimistic. A month dragged by, then two, with barely even a bite. As I saw our savings starting to dip to concerning levels, the panic inside me started to fester. Every morning, I would wake up early and scour Indeed, Monster and CareerBuilder. At my own job–the only network I had in California–I begged everyone who would listen for any job leads for Lance.
Trying to find a job where you know almost nobody, it turns out, is really freaking difficult, much more than we initially assumed. Jobs for which Lance would’ve been perfect just responded with form rejection e-mails. It was incredibly frustrating and intimating to me, and, though he did his best to manage it around me, devastating to Lance.
“How long can we go without another income?” Lance asked me one day.
I ran the numbers in my head. “Another two months,” I responded, startled that it was drying up so fast. “Then we’re in big trouble.”
The risk we took to move to California and add a jolt to our lives was now taunting us as a mistake. Why did we, two relatively rational-thinking people, leave jobs we liked to move across the country to where we knew virtually nobody, burn through our savings and end up broke and homeless and have to turn into streetwalkers to pay the rent except we’re so old by gay standards so who would even pay us to turn a trick?? How stupid were we?
By late summer, Lance finally got a few interview requests, though many were less than ideal. On a day with three interviews, Lance called me at work and said, “I just can’t do these jobs.” So many of these jobs, at this point, where compromises, something just to put food on the table.
Other interviews and positions seemed promising, and we’d invariably get our hopes up before the generic HR e-mail would come saying Lance didn’t get the job. Things started to look bleak, which is not something I say lightly; usually I take a cautiously optimistic view of these kind of things–keep your head down and trudge along and something is bound to happen–but I became increasingly worried over time.
Finally, finally, finally, right after Labor Day, Lance got a job, one he seemed happy with–good pay, good benefits, a good team of co-workers in a location not far from home. This was just in the nick of time, too, as we were perilously close to running out of cash to pay our bills. The sense of relief I felt was unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.
I got home the evening after Lance’s first day at his new job, ready to pour some drinks and revel in that beautiful cosmic save in the last few seconds of the game. Instead, I found Lance in bed, visibly upset.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. Seeing him there, experiencing the exact opposite emotions of what I assumed, crushed me.
It wasn’t the new job–that was fine. Lance was devastated because of everything this new job symbolized: he was so far away from the friends he’d made over the last twenty years, the family he’d left behind, the career he had just started to build. A new job added a permanence to those facts.
That moment and the days that followed were my own Darkest Timeline. All emotions seemed counter-intuitive: we were distraught when we should be elated. Everything was topsy-turvy. I honestly had never felt as helpless, as hopeless, as I did then: after months of effort, to feel a sense of victory crumble right in your hands? Where were we supposed to go from there?
Next: Interlude: Stay-At-Home Puppy Daddy