The Still Life in Jacksonville

Thus far, my life in Jacksonville has been dismally slow. For an explanation of why I live here now, read my previous entry. I began applying for jobs before we moved here and have continued to apply for jobs (or at least look) almost every day since I’ve been here. I’ve contacted a job placement company. I’ve asked for advice from professors. So far, I have heard very little from any one of them. In fact, I only heard back from one of the applications as of a couple days ago, and I haven’t been asked for an interview of any kind (at least not yet). Of course, I know these things take time. Caddy told me the other day that many of her friends that were looking for jobs took about three months to get them. The whole process thus far has been very discouraging. If I had known I would be living in Jacksonville and not continuing on to PhD, I would have secured a job in this city during my masters degree at UWF. Three months just seems like a very long time, especially since I spend nearly every moment of my time in this box of an apartment. I see the little money I had saved up dwindling away. Most of that money, by the way, was actually student loans that I had stowed away during my masters degree, loans that I’m going to have to start paying back somehow. Getting out of the lease in Live Oak was a big hit. I know it could have easily been a lot worse, but the three months’ rent punch really made my bank account situation pretty scary.

Thinking about how big that break-lease penalty was and seeing what I traded it for really doesn’t make me feel any better. I don’t really care for these apartments. When I purchased renter’s insurance (which is required to live here), the agent told me that the building was built in 1985, which happens to be the year I was born. I must say, I could have guessed the age by looking. The carpet looks to be mid-80’s style, and I’m guessing it has seen better days based on the random areas where it is ripped up. It is a townhouse style apartment, so we have two floors (bedrooms and full bath are on the second floor). The second floor actually has holes in the floor with carpet going over it. Cockroaches can often be seen running around being chased by the cats. Cooking in the kitchen feels is so cramped. It feels like cooking in an elevator. Anyway, enough about the apartment for now. Nick told me that the reason this apartment complex was suggested to us was largely because anything nicer would be very expensive, and this place has a better price and isn’t in an area in the city where we have to worry about getting shot (although, there was a murder in this apartment complex a year ago, a result of a domestic dispute).

The city itself has its ups and downs, as I’m sure all cities do. Jacksonville has an odor to me. Although not always overpowering, I tend to smell what to me smells like sewage; I guess one just gets used to that after a while. The one thing I can’t get used to is the water here. Oh gosh, it is revolting. The water here actually has a smell to it. If I filter it with the Brita and take a sip, it tastes okay to begin with, although it feels like slime going down, but then you get hit with a vile after taste that makes Brita run and hide with its tail between its legs. I’ve had no other choice but to start buying bottled water, something I had never thought I would have to do. Even that doesn’t completely help. We ate at a Mexican restaurant across the road last week; we could actually taste the Jax water in the lettuce! When I cooked something simple like mac and cheese, I used tap water that had been filtered and boiled but the vile taste was still there. I can even smell it on Julie after she takes a shower. It is like we need a shower after we take a shower to get the shower smell off. Sigh… I guess I’m being a little dramatic, but my point still holds true. Water here is terrible. The cats don’t even want to go near it until it is at least filtered. Still, this is a city, and it does have its advantages. I guess the number of different places I could work in Jacksonville is higher. Although, I had connections in Pensacola and could have found a job much faster there, even if they didn’t pay as well. Seems like there are things to do here; although, I don’t want to commit to any regular hobbies until I have a job and know what my schedule will be.

I am bored out of my mind. I wake up every day with no particular purpose. Dates and times don’t really seem to matter or influence me anymore. Julie is gone when I wake up. She comes home at very unpredictable times every day, sometimes mid-afternoon, sometimes later. As soon as she is home, she either has a book or her laptop to her face until she goes to bed. She tries to spare a little bit of time each day to give me some company. Although she would probably argue otherwise, it is very little time, and it’s typically not very good time since she is so stressed over school, and I’ve been so discouraged about quitting school and not being able to find work. I sit at home with nothing to do and little motivation to do anything, and I’m worried that won’t change until I finally do hear back from someone about an interview. So far, I haven’t been able to find a way out of the funk I’ve been in since I quit school, but it has largely gone unnoticed, except by Julie.

I’ve been tiptoeing around the idea of taking on an online second masters degree, part-time of course. Something to keep my mind fresh. Something to entertain me when I’m not working (or if I’m ever working), since Julie and I don’t really entertain each other much anymore. I’ve asked other people what they think about the idea. Julie seems to support the idea, but I’m not sure if that’s just because she thinks it will make me happier, or if she thinks it’s actually worth doing. Most of my friends that I’ve asked are skeptical about the idea. They’ve mostly said that unless it would enhance my career (and it probably wouldn’t), then it is a waste, and I shouldn’t do it. I’ve kind of agree with both sides. I think it is possible that a second masters would provide some entertainment to me, take my mind off the fact that Julie is busy all the time, and I don’t really know many people here. At the same time, I have trouble wrapping my head around the idea of spending that money on a degree that probably won’t enhance my career that much. By “enhance my career”, I mean that it is unlikely that a second masters degree would put me up for higher paying work. At this point, with a BS and MS in Computer Science, the only thing that can really help my career is work experience. A second MS would only serve to point my programming abilities toward a different field, and at this point, I can already point toward medical, statistical, or general programming. Still, I have tiptoed around the idea. I looked into the distance Masters Degree in Space Studies from UND [link]. The field itself has actually been an interest of mine since before I was a teenager and long before I even had a computer (just ask anyone in my family). Had UWF offered an Astrophysics degree, it is possible that I wouldn’t have majored in Computer Science at all. Still, the idea of studying the field formally and possibly applying Computer Science to it is an idea that has fascinated me. Still, there are problems with the idea: (1) As ridiculous as it sounds to me, out of state fees still apply, even to the online degree. Meaning, without a tuition waiver or tuition reimbursement (and I think I’d have a hard time convincing an employer to cover a space degree), this degree would be very costly. (2) It would require a one-week stay on campus at the end of the degree. This stay would be a few years from now, so that probably wouldn’t be a problem (although I can’t say that for sure). (3) Can’t seem to convince myself one way or another about it. Of course, there is still the issue of PhD. If I started this online MS in January, I would probably be finished with it around the same time Julie finished her JD. What would I do from there? Would we move to Tallahassee and take FSU up on their offer for re-admission? Would I keep working for wherever I’m working in Jacksonville (oh please, let me have a job by then!)? Or, would I find some other job re:Space Studies? Of course, regardless of if I do a second MS or not, the issue of PhD is in question anyway. Julie does want children, and I don’t know if I can start a PhD 3 years from now that may take up to 5 years. It just doesn’t seem responsible; I don’t want to feed children crumbs from a stipend. Julie might not have lawyer work (whatever) in Tallahassee; her prospects may remain in Jax.

I guess the real problem is that, and I think it is the first time in my life, I have no plan. I’ve always had a plan! Even if the plan changes, I’ve always had a plan. I’ve always had goals. There’s always been something I’ve strove to attain, some new level to reach. Right now, there’s nothing, and I’m not exactly sure how to function in this new setting. I feel happy and worthwhile when I feel I am accomplishing something. With that gone, I’m not sure how to live. I feel confused and lost in some strange place far from home.

This entry really isn’t meant to depress my audience (whoever that’s supposed to be). It is actually just meant to update on my life, and also meant for me, in that, it helps me self examine and find a way out. Two good things have happened from all this. (1) My relationships with the cats couldn’t be better. I hardly ever leave, so to them, it is like I am one of them now. They love me so much more than they love Julie right now, and something about that makes me feel powerful, in some puny sort of way. (2) Without my realizing it, I am starting to become a god in Frets On Fire and Guitar Hero.

Well, maybe my luck will change soon. Maybe things will become clearer. Maybe someone will take interesting and ask for an interview, or at least respond… I need some sort of good news, and I need it soon. I feel like there’s no help. I’ve always continued on the belief that hard work is supposed to pay off, but I see so many people these days that have worked hard and that not hold true.

Did I mention the dryer is broken again?! I think I’m probably going to have to replace it this time.

My Vitae/Resume, in all its glory, can always be found here.