It was late August and things were winding down at my old job. I had busted my ass for 2 years while also giving up what little free time I had to this place on the side. It was over. I was tired and glad to be done, but also left with an emptiness. This was August 2020, the disease was in full effect, there would be no celebrations or ceremonies for all the hard work (way more than 2 years) I did.
I put up with all kinds of shit at this job: angry students, angry staff and faculty, angry management and angry coworkers. I was so fucking done with these people. I was done with this place. For all the talk about how much I was a “good employee” it meant nothing in the end. I was getting laid off. I was no longer useful.
It was out of their hands, supposedly. They would keep me if they could, they told me.
My last day came and hardly anyone said goodbye save for the few people who were there. So much for being a “family”. That’s what my former boss said to me when she interviewed me for this job 2 years ago. That this place and these people were a “family”.
As soon as they offered her a better paying job in a different department she got up and left. That’s family for you I guess.
A pat on the back and a promise that they would give me good references if any future employers called. A few letters of recommendation. No job leads of course. I was on my own for that. No one was hiring, like at all, but I’m sure I would find something.
That’s what I told myself. It’s what I always told myself. “I always do”, I said, walking to my car on that hot fucking August afternoon on my last day of work.
The next month was absolute hell.
There is this insidious fucking thing that working and having a job does to you. It institutionalizes you. You don’t know what to do without it. You can’t remember a time when you had any actual independence.
You get so used to having all your time and energy put into something that isn’t yourself, that now that you have it back, get overwhelmed with how to use it.
I didn’t know how to be anything other than a “good employee”. I took value in that, as pathetic as that sounds. It made me feel good. It made me feel useful. Without that structure I felt completely worthless.
Now here I was sitting on my ass at home. Mindlessly watching the hours go by while trying to figure out what the fuck to do with my life.
I hated it so much. I hated not having anything to do. Above all I hated knowing that I couldn’t see my own value outside of a stupid fucking job.
I spent hours applying for different jobs all over the place. Retail, fast food, office work of any kind since that was what I had the most experience in. Fucking nothing.
Employers are picky fucking motherfuckers. They ask you stupid questions and if you don’t immediately give off that plucky, go-getter, unhealthy happy all the time attitude vibe then they stop taking your calls.
Here I and millions of others are struggling, trying to get help or just some fucking work with everything going on and yet these motherfuckers continue with their fucking games.
I’m glad they’re feeling the squeeze now. Fuck them. I hope they go bankrupt, both big and small alike. They deserve it and if you think otherwise you’re a fucking loser.
Job hunting is an awful, soul-draining process. Nothing makes you hate employers and the system we live in than job hunting. I paid for someone on Fiverr to make my resume less likely to get thrown in the digital garbage by some algorithm used by Big Lots or whomever. I was on my last few dollars.
Spend money to make money, I guess.
Submitting applications was fine and all, but eventually you’re still stuck with the problem of what to fucking do while you wait for calls. I was stuck trying to fill my days with something, anything that could me the same feeling of usefulness a job gave me.
My poor wife had to suffer with all my bullshit tantrums about it every night. While going through her own problems to boot. I felt like such a fucking child.
I turned to what I always did when I had free time, games. Everything sounded so fucking boring. I would look at my now huge library of games and felt no motivation at all to actually pick one and play. It was too overwhelming. I had seen it all and done it all. I didn’t want a distraction anyways. I wanted time to think. Yet sitting around all day in silence and in the dark wasn’t exactly appealing either.
I don’t remember how, why, or what motivated me to play Death Stranding. All I knew about it was that it was a game where you walked around and delivered shit to people. Occasionally you might have to fight someone or something, but for the most part it’s a chill game. Fine. Whatever. It was new (to me) and I needed something to pass the time.
There is a lot about Death Stranding that people who are much smarter and observant than me have already said. I won’t repeat them, but I will say that Death Stranding is a very hopeful game. A game that came to me at a moment when I needed it the most. I was a depressed and broken mess. Death Stranding made me feel useful again.
I’m afraid of being left alone with my own thoughts. My thoughts have this weird tendency to always worry and think the worst about everything. My new unemployment wasn’t helping. I can’t snap out of it and learn to keep things in perspective when I’m worried about how bills are going to get paid.
When you get an assignment and there’s about 30 or so minutes of terrain between you and your destination, your own thoughts are all you have in Death Stranding. There ain’t no radio and no NPC dialogue to fill the gaps and silence. You’re on your own.
Oh sure, your mind can keep itself occupied with how to cross a river or how to scale a particularly rocky cliff. Your first few encounters with MULEs and BTs will distract you for a bit. Eventually though, even that becomes routine. The creepiness of the BTs wear off and the MULEs become more of a minor annoyance than anything.
You settle in. Your mind starts to wander. You can’t help it. You start thinking. I mean really thinking. About everything. Not just about the game, about your own life.
No one bothers you in Death Stranding, not really. You know what your job is. Go and get it done, then come back and get the next one. Much like the main character, you’re doing this for reasons that just feel pointless and yet you don’t know what the fuck else you’d do.
Whatever. No one bothers you. It’s quiet. You’re alone. You get time to think.
It may be pointless and stupid, but at least you get to feel like you did something.
I felt myself growing calmer and more at peace with my situation. It mattered less and less if I got calls from anyone that day or not. I would find something, eventually. I always do. Why let it bother me? There was always a delivery. There were always roads to rebuild and structures to repair.
I had something to do. Something to contribute towards. Things that might actually help someone, however small. I had grew content and satisfied, I found my value again.
After about a month of searching, I received a call from a funeral home & cemetery business I applied to on a whim. The guy who called informed me that they were “passing” on me for the receptionist position I applied for originally. “Oh”, I said, slightly disappointed, but also with an internal shrug of my shoulders. I didn’t care anymore. I always had more deliveries anyways.
The guy who called instead asked if I would be interested in another position, in his department. He explained what it was and I didn’t fully understand, but I agreed to meet him in a few days anyways to talk about it. Whatever. Maybe it will work out. Maybe not.
I hung up and got back to my game. I continued with my work and thought about the phone call more. I would probably have a job soon. Employers don’t usually call you like that for no reason. I thought about it and the idea of going back to a typical job. This was what I was waiting for. Jobs are scarce right now and I need money really bad. I should feel happy, shouldn’t I?
All I could think about was that phone call and the idea of having a job again. I should feel happy right? I finished the delivery I was on and just walked out into the wilderness, looking out at the beautiful landscape that Death Stranding was so frequently capable of delivering.
The world was shit and people were dying. I was about to return to that world very soon and see that death much more up close than I ever had.
I looked out at the world in front of me and I felt at peace, for a moment. I didn’t know what was ahead, but I prayed. I prayed I would have the strength to handle what it would ask of me. I prayed it would bring me good things. Above all, I prayed it would bring me fullness.
The way Death Stranding had.