Hibernation 2009 #FridayFlash

The time ticked as 11:03am at the bottom corner of her computer screen.

Some inner urge moved her to shut all her tabs and hit ‘hibernate’ in the turn off box Windows gave her as options.

‘d’ and ‘c’ are completely worn away on her keyboard, and her memory serves to know which key is the ‘n’ and which is the ‘m’ ”“ they’ll get obliterated next. Better than how the ‘o’ is stuck now, giving her “ooooo” each time she touches it, no matter how lightly. At least it still works, for she’d tired of her game to use only words without the well-rounded letter. It had been amusing though.

She sat for a moment in her sudden realization she’d never hit that ‘hibernate’ option before, wondering what it actually did. Ironic; if pixels could get worn down same as keyboard keys, that ‘hibernate’ button would surely be the remaining beacon before her computer gave up for good, and she feared it might happen soon, sooner than she’d be ready for.

It was too early for lunch, so that wasn’t the urge. Still, she walked to her fridge and grabbed a bottle of water to quench any possible stirring of idleness hunger ”“ too much of that had already gone to her waist in the past few months, but it went to the page too, a pleasing plumpness altogether. She closed her eyes and drank deeply, feeling the chilled water slip down her throat and pool inside her. She stood inside the opened refrigerator door for another lingering moment to deliberately separate the feeling of cold within, and cold reaching her skin on the outside. The inside was deliciously stronger. Bracing.

When she opened her eyes, the water bottle was already capped and back in its place, and the refrigerator door closed; she knew the motions as well as she knew her keyboard. She caught the view outside her kitchen window and impulsively moved to open the door, stepping outside. The day was so beautiful, and the sun so strong! Normally the early autumn heat and humidity irritated her, especially in the afternoons as it cut her writing concentration short. It got her to race against time each morning, and yet here she was, choosing to sit on the porch stairs and let the sun burn into her back, warmth quickly permeating every part of her and her morning. Damn it felt good.

The garden beckoned next. Well, those stubborn resilient weeds did. She moved from the rectangle of green onions to the square of low-lying basil bushes plucking out the new weeds as she went, bending down, straightening up, and bending down again in her own garden inspired exercise break. The thyme and the oregano grew profusely, loving their patch in the garden, and they effectively smothered everything in their path, so no weeds grew there, yet she stretched toward their far reaches in the garden to check anyway ”“ the stretching was good for her.

Ah, when she returned to her keyboard the words would flow again, she just knew it. How lucky was she, to work from home as she did? Corporate life had been good to her, but she did not miss it, not one bit. This was so much better.

All Torched Out

The time ticked as 11:03am at the bottom corner of his computer screen.

That maddening restlessness moved him to slam his laptop shut to hibernate ”“ again. He didn’t even bother closing any of the tabs, not caring if the machine struggled to understand the abrupt interruption or not.

What was the use of having the newest and most expensive mac Apple offered when it was so pathetically poor at holding his attention? He’d begged for it as the only graduation gift he wanted. What a waste of money. What a wasted wish.

It was too early for lunch, so that wasn’t his urge; he felt a far different hunger. Still, he walked to his fridge and grabbed a beer; it would dull this confusing boredom as it always had the past few months. He wondered how much longer it would work, for he couldn’t afford the hard stuff. Just as well. Whatever.

Summer had become autumn. It was beautiful outside, with the leaves turning color and a new crispness charging the air and quickening the pulse. His shades were drawn though, and he didn’t notice any of it. Didn’t see it, didn’t feel it. Not anymore.

Worse than the boredom, the nagging, brutal guilt suffocated much of whatever else he’d once felt. It consumed him and all his attentions nowadays; he just couldn’t concentrate on anything else. He was supposed to be an adult now. He was supposed to go to work every day, listen to some boss, pay taxes, contribute to society and all that crap. A college degree, graduating summa cum laude no less, hadn’t helped him one damn bit; he had done all he could to find a job ”“ any job ”“ and there was nothing. Nothing.

Pride wasn’t in his way ”“ that feeling went away a long time ago and he’d gladly flip burgers, haul trash, anything; the lack of possibility was the problem. If it was still there, he no longer could see it. He could barely force himself to get out and keep looking. This morning was one he hadn’t, and he was getting alarmingly close to stopping altogether.

You play by the rules, get good grades, stay out of trouble and do everything your parents and teachers tell you to do, then the economy tanks, you can’t catch any break at all much less a decent one, and life sucks.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Postscript: I want a happy ending for this story. This was triggered by the current events of the day, for this second scene is playing out everywhere right now, and it breaks my heart. I am on a campaign to do something about our Lost Generation, and I hope you will join me. More here: Share your Sense of [Work] Place.

We have put so many dreams into the ‘job’ basket, that we have a lost generation not now understanding how to enjoy any sense of work, because the ache for a workplace is so very strong, and it feels so missing. They have no sense of belonging, and we are all paying the price.

Photo Credits: All Torched Out by Rosa Say and Working Late on Flickr by Thomas Rockstar

Footnote: About the #FridayFlash fiction community. This is the 5th time I am participating, with fictional stories that do reflect some of the struggles we have in our workplaces today. My first 4 stories: The Vision, and The Manager, The Truth Will Set You Free and The Garage Sale.

Comments

  1. says

    Really liked the juxtaposition of tales!

    The first lulled with the cadence of a satisfied person doing what they love to do, where they love to do it.

    The second gave life to the realities that face us now. New graduates having no place to work, without any real feeling that things will change very soon.

    There is another group too. People who have lost their jobs and are not new graduates, but are still too young to retire, and have no hope of finding anything either.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • Rosa Say says

      Thank you Marisa :-) Comparing the perceptions of two vastly different generations was exactly what I was going for, without that word ‘juxtaposition’ explicitly being in mind; thank you for bringing it to that clarity for me!

      You are right of course: There is a third group, and likely a fourth or fifth, with each of our co-existing generations now exhibiting different needs. What is clear, is that we all need each other too.

  2. says

    I really liked the two different views, too. I have twin boys that are completely different and I can enjoy those differences more because of the comparisons. I really admire your passion for helping create stronger working environments and using your writing to spread this message. It is scary out there for the young and the old. (My mother is 60ish and trying to find a job) My daughter is in a great college and is scared to death of graduating because she knows there’s not really a future for her even with a degree. Like your first character, I am enjoying my life, but it is hard to do when those around you are so unhappy!!!
    .-= Shannon Esposito ´s last blog ..Friday Flash: Sea Glass =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      Interesting Shannon, I have very recently had that conversation with someone else who feels they have finally gotten to a place in their lives where they should be enjoying the good fortune they feel they’ve been blessed with, but find they can’t! It is horrible to feel badly about finally enjoying one’s happiness.

      Earlier this morning, Dean Boyer and I were talking about how the college environment is shifting right now as well, as schools are overly burdened with people feeling they have nowhere else to go… this problem is going to grow, and not get smaller unless we act, and act today.

    • Rosa Say says

      Thank you for the comment Laura. What I am hoping to help people focus on (in my companion writings on this issue) is that we can all have a fulfilling sense of work (the value of Ho‘ohana) without restricting ourselves to that container we know as ‘job.’

  3. says

    Really liked the use of two scenes in this one – very well written (as usual) and all done for a good cause :-) Well done x

    • Rosa Say says

      Thank you Clive, I greatly appreciate the compliment, master storyteller I have learned you to be :-) Heard a bit of the Twitter buzz earlier about your latest #FridayFlash, and will visit you this evening when my work day is done.

    • Rosa Say says

      Aloha Michelle, good to meet you. Thank you so much, and welcome to Talking Story; I am glad you enjoyed the story.

  4. says

    Absolutely brilliant! Narrative captures my attention in a way nothing else can. How triumphant and how sad.

    I have an awesome view from my office window and I’m about to shut down my PC and drink it in!
    .-= Pete Aldin ´s last blog ..ACFE Award Winner =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      Good for you Pete! I fully intend to make my way to Australia one day soon, and you can show me that view (and share the triumphs I know you now enjoy :-)

  5. says

    The two views played off each other well. It isn’t a topic I had given much thought to. I have a cousin who is becoming what I call a professional student. He keeps switching majors because he is terrified of graduating.
    I always enjoy reading your #fridayflash because it tackles issues in a real way. Not to mention it’s always well written and entertaining. This week is no exception of course.
    ~chris
    .-= Chris Chartrand ´s last blog ..Wizard’s Last Hope =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      Chris, your cousin is far from alone, and I hope to bring this issue to the collegiate community via Teaching with Aloha, where Dean and I try our best to illustrate that business and academia can partner better (our past relationship has been at odds too often). My view is that we must promote entrepreneurship beyond the MBA programs which now exist… I have this vision of Main Street USA coming back everywhere as people get more enterprising and self-sufficient, with big box retailers giving up their strangle hold on us…

      Thank you for continuing to support my #fridayflash learning as you do. Your comment is encouraging in that I do try to keep my fictional accounts entertaining even when the issues are real and quite serious for me.

    • Rosa Say says

      Thank you Maria. I aspire to be more like my first character too! For starters, I should pay more attention to my own garden over the weekend, since it does get kissed by the Hawaiian sunshine, something not to be taken for granted.

  6. says

    Hmmm….Interesting point. We have been encouraged to reap much of our self image and sense of worth from work. Times like these, we see the downside of that. More and more I lean towards work as simply a way of being able to afford to do the things that I like to do, increase my sense of self through those activities, exclusive of work.

    The college/work connection is interesting. What I’ve discovered is that the major is not so important. It’s the commitment and completion that employers look for. The transferable skills, such as time management, organization, and communication that develop regardless of area of study. Here’s a little guessing game to illustrate the point:
    I went to college for music. One of my colleagues has a degree in Linguistics. Another has a Bachelor of Science in Organic Chemistry, and one of our managers, an Asian woman, learned fluent Russian as a result of her post secondary degree in Internation Relations. What business are we in?

    My two bits? De-couple expectation from education. Study something that has intrinsic interest rather than economic viability, and be mindful of developing those transferable skills. Our society and economy move in real time, and academic (read: bureaucratic) time can’t keep pace. Most of what you learned in the first two years has a good chance of being irrelevant by the end of your fourth year.
    .-= trev ´s last blog ..Happy Ending # fridayflash =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      Good thoughts Trev. I am a big advocate of financial literacy within that “economic viability” part of the equation, for there is a “business of life” we all must be able to navigate through successfully for livelihood over and above business profits. However I am also in favor of more dabbling and less major/minor specialization while in college so we truly find that “intrinsic interest” you allude to, and thus a more long-lasting self-motivation. Some of the best courses I ended up taking were not my first choices, but ones I ended up in to get all my credits because the mainstream major/minor heavy-hitters were fully enrolled, and I couldn’t get in. A generation later, my two children had the same experience.

      Maybe my fiction dabbling was meant to be” My first major was journalism, and I found the reporting emphasis so restrictive ”“ I barely made it through one semester because I tried to write too creatively and with journalistic freedoms that were not permitted. What did I graduate in? Business, with a minor in Travel Industry Management.

      By the way” “read: bureaucratic” ”“ couldn’t agree more.

  7. says

    Two sides of the same morning, very well painted. I understand your wish for a happy ending. Sometimes there isn’t one. In reality, I would wish there were.

    Your descriptions of nature are beautiful, lyrical. A joy to read.

    Thank you.
    .-= KjM ´s last blog ..Because I Can =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      I’m an optimist Kevin, I think we can have it all! We certainly can have a happier ending than we are presently getting, and my campaign continues with every expectation of greater success.

      As for my descriptions of nature ”“ thank you! Beautiful Hawai‘i, and my blessed sense of place here get the credit: I just have to notice and write it down.

  8. says

    Good topical hit, Rosa. I was laid off from my job one month ago, and I’m still having a hard time getting a rhythm to my day. I try to focus, but my mind races and I have a hard time shutting it down. I can feel for someone just graduating and already being in my shoes. It’s tough. Even if your job is nothing more than a means to earn money to do something you want, your perception of self when you’re without income changes dramatically. And it changes your time-value assessment. I just spent two hours grocery shopping today to spend $65 — three stores, loaded up on cheap stuff. Yeah, it’s very strange how your days become when you don’t have the structure and financial reward of work. In a way, it’s a nice break. But it sure is hard to see it that way most of the time.

    Jeff Posey
    .-= Jeff Posey ´s last blog ..A Spiral-Maker’s Questions =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      I’m sorry to hear you were laid off Jeff; this bump in the road certainly does not show up in your writing, for it has been as strong as ever. That disconnection from a comfortable cadence with time you mention was something I wanted to illustrate in my duet of stories: We generally tend to think we want more time, but relativity and context makes all the difference in the world. I think the phrase you used, “time-value assessment” is a telling and very accurate one.

      I do not want to minimize that this is a tough time for you Jeff, and I feel very honored you feel comfortable about sharing that so transparently here, but I for one feel very positive about your future prospects, having learned what I have about you and your talent these last few months we’ve come to know each other’s work.