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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dole Mountain


Applying for the dole can be an arduous process akin to climbing a mountain, albeit one constructed mainly of red tape, paperwork and awkward conversations with social workers. No-one expects it to be an easy climb. When you finally reach the summit, there's a distinct sense of anticlimax. What now? Now that you've scaled the heady heights of Mount Saint Going Nowhere (career-wise, that is), what is to be done?
Then you realise that your view was obscured and you are, in fact, looking at tackling another sheer cliff face, twice as intimidating as the previous climb.
Ok, so maybe I went a teeny, tiny bit overboard with the metaphor. Hopefully you get the picture. The dole is no free ride. If it was an easy process, everyone would be claiming. My claim involves sending in a docket every week, which results in a cheque being sent directly to my door every Tuesday. Very convenient, or so you might think. No stroll down to the post office for me. I can just sit on my bum and literally watch the money roll in.
Except the money has not rolled in. It has not sprinted, ran, jogged, tumbled, somersaulted, crawled or even lethargically dragged itself in. I haven't received a payment in three weeks.
A quick trip to the dole office revealed that my dockets had magically dissolved en route to Hanover Street. Or, as one person baldly put it, "You must not have sent them in." If only it were that simple. Fortunately, I have the wherewithal to remember popping a little yellow piece of paper in a postbox once a week. It seems that an impasse has been reached, yet another obstacle to scramble over in the race to reach the unreachable summit.
In life, as with my column, I tend to compartmentalise things by rote. It's easier to believe that things will work out when a situation fits neatly into a preconceived slot. Problems need to be moulded into metaphors and fitted into boxes in order for a solution to be found, or at least that's what we control freaks tell ourselves.
You'd think that with easy metaphors comes easy conclusions. Instead I find myself as the perennial climber stranded on a precipice, with supplies dwindling and the air becoming gradually thinner. I find myself repeating a phrase that has become a mantra for young people everywhere - just what the hell do I do now?