One of my coworkers has been having a rough go of it lately. His position is technically split between two work groups and each of his bosses assumes they have 100% of his time. A week does not pass without him coming into my office to declare he is just going to quit. This situation causes him a lot of stress. He was especially down on Friday morning and then he talked to his mother on the phone. She makes a habit of buying lottery tickets in the state where she lives and mailing them to her son as a gift. This seems an odd habit to me. Anyway she called to tell him that she had sent him a ticket and that drawing had a 4 million dollar winner from the store where she bought it which hadn't been claimed yet. He had not received the ticket yet and so hope was alive that he could be the proud new owner of four million dollars. He spent the rest of the morning talking about what he would do with the money, how he would arrange his life, whether he would continue to work somewhere "for the benefits" or attempt to make four million dollars last the rest of his life. He planned and planned the rest of his life. He seemed to actually believe he had won the lottery, that the odds were in his favor, and his life was about to get very good. After talking up the possibilities all morning, he convinced his wife to swing by their house during her lunch break since she works relatively close and check the mail to see if the lottery ticket had arrived. It had. To the surprise of no one except my coworker, it was not the winning ticket. He was crushed and spent the rest of the afternoon sulking about it.
It is sometimes fun to play the lottery. You buy a ticket, but you also buy permission to dream. You think about what you would buy and how you would live and you might even get excited about it, but you are also pretty detached about these flights of fancy. When the numbers are announced and you inevitably didn't win, you tend to think with momentary disappointment, "Oh, too bad" and then you move on with your life.
This past week it seemed likely that Dave was going to be offered a job. In retrospect it was much less likely than it seemed. He ran into the middle management wall again where he gets enthusiasm from those he would actually be working with and then gets dismissed out of hand by the higher-ups for some unchecked box on his resume. Those boxes are never going to be checked. We made the choices we made and cannot go back and unmake them no matter how difficult it is now or how incomplete our information was then. We get to live with the consequences good and hard. He has hit that middle management wall repeatedly and it is discouraging. The only real hope is to find someone willing to look past an unchecked box. It is kind of like winning the lottery. It's possible in theory, but not terribly likely. There is always another applicant who has that box checked.
When these job opportunities arise, I struggle to remain detached. I deliberately suppress any thought or fantasy of how life might be. I do not indulge, but the thoughts bubble up anyway. I push them away, but they are there, waiting. I made the mistake this time of looking forward on the calendar to see what my last day at work might be. I shouldn't do that. In spite of my best efforts to remain detached, when the bad news unfailingly comes, I drown in a tidal wave of despair. I don't know how not to get excited beforehand and the disappointment is overwhelming.
I am not sure I will ever get to the point where I can dismiss the disappointment of another job rejection with a momentary "Too bad" and move on unaffectedly with life. I am not sure I am supposed to. I surely don't know what the purpose of all this is. Sometimes it feels like we are being toyed with for amusement. I don't really believe that, but despair is sometimes just a thought away, a feeling I have to actively suppress just as diligently as I suppress fantasies of raising my children. It is hard not to think the reason this job situation is so intractable is because it is for our eternal good that I not be the mother I want to be. That it must be better for them for me to be at work away from them. A life time of penance from me in reparation for my many failings in order to merit heaven. How about I just take some time in purgatory and get to raise my kids instead? I am aware this is irrational.
A much more likely explanation is that our situation is difficult to overcome and that's that. There is no cosmic injustice here. We made stupid choices and get to live with the natural consequences of them. However, we aren't giving up. We trudge ahead. We cry in our beers for a night and then figure out the next move, making plans based in reality, not fantasy. I only wish I could remain as detached from the process as I can when buying a lottery ticket.