Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2023/ Employed


After 15 months of unemployment I have tentatively been hired for a job. I signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) so I cannot say much about the job, but I hope it is safe to record some of my reactions and feelings now, before I start working again.

This is a big life change for me. It will be the first time I have worked for a for-profit company since 1996 (the year of my disastrous summer internship). It will also be the first full-time job I have had since 1996. If I stay employed I will be making a significant amount of money -- enough for me to be in the middle class. However, I will have to be awake and active in the morning.

This is also the only job that I got via the standard hiring process with resumes and interviews and such -- I think in every other case people were either obligated to hire me (TAships) or they knew of me beforehand.

Nobody feels pity for the one who has found a job, but I am anxious and trying not to spin out of control. I certainly will have to work longer hours than I have previously, and I am guessing I will have to work harder as well. Somehow I have to get enough sleep so I can be functional in the morning. I will have to spend some work time (maybe most of my work time) in the office, which spurs on COVID anxiety.

I do not know how I landed this job. I applied to several other positions and was not even getting screening interviews. Somehow I made it through the entire hiring process for this position.

I hope that they will not regret hiring me. I do not have a good sense of why they chose me -- my technical in-person interview was fairly weak. My intention is to try and do good work for them, but I do not know whether that will happen.

The Gamble

For years I was on a merry-go-round, bouncing back and forth between teaching at the University of Waterloo and doing sysadmin stuff for The Working Centre. When rent was cheap I could scrape by on either, but rental prices have skyrocketed over the past few years, and my housing situation will not be stable indefinitely.

After I left the cult in 2016, I lucked into a teaching gig because an old supervisor saw me in the halls of UW. (Thanks, Algorand.) I started teaching sessionals again as a "survival job" while I looked for something more stable. The problem was that teaching is exhausting, so I would never get around to the job search.

I could have kept teaching for a while, probably. In fact I turned down a couple of sessionals that were explicitly offered to me. But teaching was getting more stressful (hello Microsoft Github Copilot), and I was stuck teaching the same course term after term, and because teaching was so stressful I was not able to teach more than one term in a row without burning out. So teaching was not going to pay the bills once I lost my housing.

I decided to take a risk and not take work from either UW or the cult, so that I could focus my attention on looking for a more lucrative job. Somehow, that gamble paid off. Even if I get fired after the probationary period it will have paid off, in the sense that I will very likely have earned more there than I would have teaching. Hooray for me? It's more like hooray for incredible luck. I was not looking for a job diligently enough. I was not taking Microsoft LinkedIn seriously, because I despise Microsoft LinkedIn. I had a bad resume and sketchy work experience. There is no reason the gamble should have paid off, but somehow it did.

Jobsearch Relief

If there is one thing I am grateful for it is that the pressure of looking for work is no longer hanging over my head. The guilt was ever present, and during those months when I was too lazy to lift a finger and apply for anything the pressure felt worse.

I have a lot of anxieties and misgivings about this new position, but not having to look for work is a huge relief. I am terrible at looking for work. I don't schmooze well and don't sell myself well and the entire job search process is broken and dysfunctional. I do not make a good first impression, and I do not speak the language of business. The entire structure around job search makes me angry, which makes me want to sit around and do nothing rather than participate. Fortunately for me all that is now over, at least for a while.

If this falls apart and I am looking for work again after the probationary period then it will hurt, but at least I will have had some relief. Even if I get fired after two weeks I will have had some relief.

I was losing hope that I would find work. I got the definite sense that I was unemployable -- both because of my weird work history and because I was not trained in the latest technologies, never mind my mental illnesses. I was starting to think about applying to manual labour positions at factories. Add to that the techcession -- high-tech companies are laying off hundreds of skilled employees in this region. With so much skilled competition, how did I manage to get work? It's insane. All these competent, talented people are getting laid off and I manage to land something?

Therapy Round 2

After my initial bad experiences with therapy I was reluctant to try again. But I was stuck so I went to KW Counselling and they set me up with yet another qualifying therapist. This one was more effective than the last, but towards the end I lost trust and things ended badly.

I am still deeply broken. I may be unemployable. I am not sure that I have fixed a single thing that therapy was supposed to help me fix. The one concrete change was that as a result of therapy exercises I started looking at job posts again. When I started round two of therapy I was so nauseated by job postings that I was avoiding them. While in the therapy process I still found them nauseating, but one exercise had me reacting to the postings and writing out my negative feelings before attempting to apply. That helped a little -- enough so that I could put together some applications and cover letters. It is likely that I would not have tried applying for this job if I had not been through the second round of therapy.

I guess this means I should consider the therapy a success. It did not feel particularly successful, but I did achieve my goal of getting a job. (It's amazing how winning the lottery justifies all kinds of bad decisions.)

Culture Shock

I am still broken and weird. It is my job to hide those aspects of myself and attempt to fit into this new position the best I can. I do not know that I will succeed.

If I can hold onto this job then I will be middle-class and not a Poor anymore, but that does not mean my Poorish tendencies will not manifest themselves. I do not expect to eat out at restaurants or go for social drinks with others. I do not expect to purchase a car. There are many middle-class habits and values that I do not share.

I am hoping that by focusing on the work these cultural differences will remain managable, but I do not know for sure. I am incredibly relieved that (as far as I know) this company does not do catered lunches.

Already there are indications I do not fit in. I doubt I will ever fit in. I just hope it is not an insurmountable barrier to making a living.

Gratitudes and Tradeoffs

The job is okay. It is not my "dream job". I do not know that I have a dream job. I do not even know what that means.

The commute is okay. It is about 40 minutes by bicycle, and it is not in Cambridge. I had been applying to positions in Cambridge industrial parks, which would have involved riding down King Street in rush hour, then taking Eagle/Pinebush all the way to Franklin Road. I would have done that commute if I had to, but it wouldn't have been nice.

The company seems to be a good size for me. I was having lots of misgivings about applying to giant multinationals with too much bureaucracy. There will still be bureaucracy in this job but I hope it will be managable.

The company is definitely capitalist. I mostly understand the business model and how the company makes money. Apparently they are already profitable, which is a good sign of stability. I do not know their future plans (to scale and become a unicorn? To get bought out by a competitor?) but I am hoping that there will not be too much turmoil.

There are people who know more than I do about my job at the company. That is a huge relief. I want to be the one learning rather than the one who is expected to have all the answers.


The job pays a lot of money. In my eyes it is too much money. I do not know how I will be able to justify it. I do not know how the salary compares to the industry average for comparable work and I don't really care. I had a financial goal in mind when looking for new work and I have blown past it. Meanwhile many of the other jobs I was applying to would have paid well below my financial goal, but I was applying to them anyways because I was getting desperate.

I worry that the money will change me in unpleasant ways. Already I feel myself turning into a Conservative. I am debating how much tax I want to pay and how much money I want to stuff away in RRSPs. Despite other taxpayers subsidizing my lifestyle for years and years I feel the impulse to hoard as much of my paycheque as I can for myself and deprive broader society of much-needed tax revenue.

It is clear that my expenses will go up somewhat, but as much as possible I would like to keep a tight lid on my spending habits. If I sign up for subscription services than I have lost. If I get a car then I have lost. If I develop expensive tastes in food or goods then I have lost. I need to spend enough to look borderline respectable at work, but I want to save as much as I can.

This may be the last job I ever have. I do not know how long it will last. At some point I will be too sick to work. So whatever I save now might be the last money I earn. My immediate goal is to put together enough money that I can pay a year's rent in advance when I have to move. The secondary goal is to build up my savings so that the next time I am unemployed I will have enough buffer that the anxiety won't destroy me. I am lucky that I had money saved up for these 15 months. Although the reserves were running low I had enough to live several months longer depending on my housing situation. That made my recent job search less stressful, and I would like the same privilege when I have been let go from this one.

I am still freaked out by inflation. It bugs me when prices go up on my groceries and junk food. Housing inflation scares me much more, and I do not see any short or medium term solution to this.

If I am no longer poor I will be expected to pay full price for things. That is just but it makes me anxious. Maybe I will have to live even more stingily than I did before.

I need to become more generous with donations. It is likely that I will be volunteering a lot less, so I should spend more. I should also pay for some of the entertainment I have been consuming for free. I do not want to do either of these things.

I feel myself losing whatever solidarity I had for other poor people. I got mine; why should I care about them? This is a bad impulse, especially since I have not gotten mine yet.


I have very mixed feelings about working out of an office again. I remain a COVID-anxious person, so spending eight hours a day with other people is not great. On the other hand, everybody else seems to think this virus is no longer a big deal, and they may be right. Almost nobody is masking anymore. Tracking systems for outbreaks are being dismantled. People are holding in-person events again.

On the other hand, I do not work very effectively from home, especially when "home" means "my room". Going out to work in an office might be good in that sense, although the fact that my workplace is in an industrial park undermines that.

The alternative to getting a job that required office presence would have been getting a remote-only job. To do that I would have been competing with global talent, and I do not have enough talent to even compete locally. So it is not a surprise that my job involves office work.

Having said that I hope I will not get COVID from work. I have spent hundreds of dollars on KN95 and N95 masks that I will wear all day in the office. I kind of hate these masks (so much waste!) but I am hoping that by wearing them diligently I will keep myself safe(r).

This also means that my days of sporting a bushy Santa beard are over, at least for now. (Bushy Santa beards are probably not appropriate in office workplaces, anyways.) I am too vain to forgo all facial hair, so I have a ridiculous caterpillar moustache for now. But I will have to shave regularly so the masks seal properly on my face.

I will say that it is a relief that I am not teaching in-person while COVID is raging. From what I understand the pool of coworkers I will have is smaller than it would be at the university, which (I hope) reduces the COVID risk.

I am an idiot who does not understand that COVID is just a cold now. There are some people who will develop long COVID, but there is no guarantee that I will be one of them. Many people have gotten COVID with no big consequences, and those people are not afraid of COVID anymore. Maybe I will become one of them. But honestly getting long COVID would be a disaster for me, so I am still scared.


Getting a full-time job feels like being sentenced to prison. I have real fears that I will not be able to handle it. Five full-time days is too much for me. I wish I could have found a job that would pay the bills but let me work 3-4 days a week instead, but such jobs appear not to exist.

Any daytime activities are now out. This means that my summer volunteering is in jeopardy, although I am thinking of seeing whether I can use vacation days for those.

Not getting enough sleep is a huge danger. My tendency is to stay up too late. If I spend all day at work and then get home late in the evening then I will want some time for myself, and I won't be able to allow that. Instead I will have to get ready for the next day of work and then get to bed right away.

I would strongly like to keep my Sundays free for cycling, but given that I will have to do all my chores and shopping on Saturdays for that to happen, I am skeptical that I can hold onto this. There are other habits (such as reading books and Twitter and Reddit) that will definitely have to be curtailed.

This is the all or nothing problem again. When I am working I tend to be consumed with working, and then I burn out. When I am not working I have too much idle time on my hands. Is there nothing in between?

Counting Chickens

Already I envision all the things I will be able to buy with my new salary. That is foolish. I do not even know whether I will be able to handle the job, and if I cannot handle the job then I won't get the salary.

The next step is to get past the probationary period. The step after that is to organize myself so that I can handle this job and do a good job on it without burning out.