On May 4th, 1997, viewers of the TV comedy “The Simpsons” were introduced to Frank “Grimey” Grimes, who in my opinion was one of the more poignant characters on the show. Frank Grimes was a hard-working, ethical and honest man, who had to work for everything he achieved in life, and other than a few degrees in nuclear physics didn’t actually achieve all that much. He was introduced as a new employee at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant and quickly befriended Homer Simpson. However, Grimes was continually aggravated by the fact that despite Homer’s complete incompetence, Homer is still able to lead a comfortable and happy lifestyle. Homer has it all, the beautiful wife, the smart kids and a nice house. This leads Frank to declare himself Homer’s enemy and when his plans to discredit Homer fails, he loses his mind and decides to end his own life.
Quite the depressing tale, for a TV comedy show, but the reason I find Grimes’ character so appealing is precisely because the show’s creators decided to make such a bold choice, with the message being “sometimes, you just can’t win”. There is a lesson to be learned here, and in the analogy I’m trying to make, I find a pretty damn good one.
About two months ago, I was laid off by my previous employer, Yahoo. Rather, as they had put it, my position had been “eliminated”. The reasons are still somewhat unclear to me, however, I do remember words like ‘downsizing’, ‘re-organization’ and ‘re-structuring’ being thrown around. This was my first job right out of college and having toiled for four years to become a respectable computer engineer, I was devastated to find that this is what my future looked like…unemployment. I became the Frank Grimes of my own story. It seemed as though, it didn’t really matter what I did, or how hard I tired, life didn’t really care, and even the best of us end up nowhere. Of course, thoughts like these tend to create a lot more problems than they solve, and self-pity was something I couldn’t really afford at the time.
Let’s rewind a little bit first, because I think context can be a powerful thing. I was an international student, at my university and I only had three months right after graduation to find a job, and somehow I did. So, straight after finishing up with my degree, I was immediately plunged into the job hunt, and soon thereafter the job itself. It was bittersweet, I liked moving on in life but I abhorred the fact that I couldn’t afford myself some downtime. I was transferred from a student to a work visa, which was, for me the path to permanent residency (I kinda really like it here). Now, the way immigration works is that you only really have up to the day you’re on payroll to stay in the country, once you’re out of a job, you’re supposed to be out of the country. Now that I was laid off, things got a whole lot more difficult.
I have to mention though, that I really do appreciate the fact that Yahoo gave me a month to find a position. They agreed to dole out my severance package in the form of paychecks lasting a month to give me time to find a job. What every junior engineer probably knows, this isn’t a realistic timeframe whatsoever to actually get a job. Processes take time, and the interview process can be grueling and slow at times.
At this point, I was ready to give up, just desperate to find anything worthwhile, but that’s when I got the news, this was the end of the line for me. I got my bearings, and then my things and walked out the door. No goodbyes, no time for comfort, just a steady walk right out of a job.
So, I was the Frank Grimes of my own life, a man who tried to do everything right but nothing ever worked out. Through weeks of trying to figure out where it all went wrong, I came to realize it was one basic thing, culture. I just didn’t fit in. I didn’t really enjoy working there, I was miserable and felt a lot like a cog in a giant machine, just another nameless face staring down my monitor’s bright screen chugging out code like an assembly line worker.
Alas, that’s how it goes and sometimes, things just don’t work out no matter how hard you try, and unlike the TV show, the point isn’t to just accept your fate for what it is, the point is to never accept a situation that you’re not happy with. Just. Do. Something. Anything. So, that’s what I did, I shook myself awake; determined to make a future for myself that I really wanted.
It took weeks of frantic job hunting and interviews, but things are better now, I have a job for one, and a pretty damn good one but the lessons stay the same. There’s a Frank Grimes in all of us, and the eternal struggle to fight against failure is a very real one. Sure, things won’t always work out for you. There will be failures despite endurance and hard work. However, in the end, it’s always the one who resist the urge to give into insanity and complacency, are the one’s who succeed.