People often say that what kills a person isn’t work but retirement; that the obligation of having a job to do is what drives people to get out of bed every morning.
Being nowhere near retirement, i’m faced with a bigger problem: For the first time in 13 years of happily being a working shmuck, I suddenly found myself unemployed. I had left a badly paid big corporation job for a risky contract following my interests and working for a sports team. That dream failed when the team collapsed, and I was suddenly with no income in a city with one of the worst employment rates in the country.
We’ll hit the darkside first.
Unemployment can be fun, but not during winter. Sure, if you’re Canadian or lucky enough to live near any kind of mountain area, you can pick up a distracting winter sport to ease your weary mind. Except that unless you are TRULY lucky enough to live near a mountain space not taken over by a ski-hill company, you’re paying anywhere from $30-75 for a lift ticket for the pleasure of flipping your shit rolling down a hill (just me?). This isn’t a winter sport issue so much as it lends to the bigger picture: Fun is expensive.
In the summer one can take oneself and read a book on a nice free piece of grass. One could even take onself to the beach and enjoy some people watching. There are constantly free things to do throughout the city to distract yourself all day long, but in the winter those tend to be halved and are typically limited to the indoors.
At the beginning of unemployment, I started going to coffee shops just to get out of the house. After a month of walking down the street everyday, my change purse was getting a bit too light and it seemed like needless effort of putting on pants just to browse facebook around people. Well, and search for jobs, of course. My intentions were solid (Get out of the damn house and do not become a hobo), but monetarily misplaced.
The depression gets real. I consider myself a relatively stable person with a healthy sense of self esteem (compared to most people in my life), but being constantly rejected by people you’ve never met eats away at you real quick. Writing endless cover letters repeating the same things over and over again with no progress is exhausting, and it’ll take you to that dark place that wakes you up at 3am and makes you think about every bad decision you’ve ever made in your life. Oh ya, you’re not the only one who visits that place, my friend.
You start to question your self worth after awhile. I mean, whats so great about you anyways? You seem pretty awesome on paper, yet every response you get (if you’re lucky enough to get any kind of feedback) is to tell you they’ve found someone better. And then multiply that by 5-10 applications a week, for 9 months on end. That’s 190-380 jobs applied to with no one wanting to so much as meet you. Ya, that creates a whole new chamber in the ‘Everything I’ve Ever Done Wrong’ dungeon.
It makes everything else in your life seem way worse. In the grand scheme of things, my life isn’t that bad. I’m healthy, my family and friends are all in good health as well and love me. They even tell me so. I have a roof over my head and food to eat and my life isn’t in any imminent danger (that I know of, stay tuned).
But the little things make those blessings seem slightly tarnished when you have the weight of unemployment on your shoulders. Suddenly your problem isn’t being able to go out until next paycheck, its not being able to go out at all. With a limited social outlet, you have a lot of time to sit at home and think about how you have no job, no money and now no distraction. Throw no relationship, no pets and no hobbies into the mix and you got yourself a lot of free time to slip into sadness.
Every word of encouragement makes you want to punch someone. I stopped wanting to hear “Something will come through soon, it HAS to” about 6 weeks into unemployment. People’s overconfidence in my ability to secure myself work made me hate myself because they were wrong, and you can’t tell that to people who are trying to be nice to you. ‘Something’ won’t just come up because my number has magically come up; if so then why has it taken this long? Am I going to be able to tell my landlord to wait another few months on rent because people have assured me ‘Something’ is just around the corner? But they seemed so sure…
You stress that relationship with your family and friends if you rely on them as a shoulder to cry on, or need to rely on them for any kind of financial/ couch surfing support. If every conversation you have with your support system is sad and your situation never changes, people get uncomfortable trying to cheer you up. They don’t want you to talk about how your life looks from the bottom of a well because they want whats best for you without having to help you at all. Constantly coddling you with cliches doesn’t help, however, and hearing empty promises of greatness to come only makes a person feel worse when they never materialize.
Ok, but now for the good.
Didn’t think I was going to get there did you? It’s not all bad, there are a few hidden gems.
People who love you come out of the woodwork. The support I do have is pretty awesome. I’d actually say its incomparable. I’ve been lucky enough to have people in similar fields take time to do everything from overhaul my resume to just allow me to pick their brains about different fields I could go into with my skill set. My friends constantly send me jobs, along with a few of their caring parents. My city has some pretty great support for unemployment and has followed up with me constantly with new job postings and counselling sessions.
Love-love finds its way out too. Maybe its just a bone being thrown from the universe, but people tend to band around someone they care about in a moment of need. I was in a situation where after months of no job prospects, I had to decide whether it made sense for me to move cities to find employment.
Deciding to uproot your life can be really helpful to weed out the people in your life who can’t live without you, and I got just that. Suddenly my best friends were in tears at the thought of not being able to visit in 15 minutes, and it made someone in my life decide they couldn’t miss the chance at telling me how they felt romantically. For the first time in years during the worst time in my life, I found the happiest relationship I could have hoped for. My friendships grew stronger, and for once I felt truly loved and not just wanted by people, but needed.
You’ll take on awesome new things, and that may change your life. With all that free time on my hands at the beginning of the year, I (like most type-A personalities) took on a variety of smaller jobs in areas I had dabbled in. I started writing for a cultural website that kept me busy sending me on assignments to concerts and gave me the opportunity to interview some of the most interesting people in the city, I started modeling and volunteering for a non-profit organization.
Volunteering my time to a non-profit organization coupled with writing opened up a whole new avenue of networking possibilities. Non-profits are an excellent way to widen your skill set as they are often under funded and under staffed- meaning you get the chance to do a few different peoples worth of work. Sounds exhausting, and it is, but people respect NFP work and the opportunity to learn is huge. I took on anything and everything to fill my time, and while some of it paid out monetarily, its doubled its value in life experiences.
So, everything works out in the end, right?
Almost 10 months into relative unemployment, none of the connections I’ve made nor the work i’ve put in has paid out into any kind of permanent employment. The fantastic relationship eventually dissolved and my friends went back to just regular loving me. I still wake up in the middle of the night scared for the future, and I still feel powerless to change my situation.
I wanted there to be some massive shift in my luck. It would be like ten months of soul-destroying bad luck made better suddenly when all my hopes and dreams came true. It just doesn’t work out like that, though. No one person can have everything in their life work out in the best possible way.
There is no option but to pull your socks up and move forward. Oh, damn. I know that’s not what you wanted to hear, but it’s the single most true thing in this entire post. You have to keep moving forward. There isn’t even a ‘but’ or ‘or’ that goes with that. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, my shit ain’t that bad- and neither is yours, likely. The progress I’ve made (while not having yet paid out) has made me realize all the things I do want to do with my life, and all the things I don’t. With every thing I tried and failed at, or decided I hated, I was able to shut that door and never feel the curiosity of why I never pursued it.
It’s shown me the people who care enough about me to encourage and motivate me to move forward, and give up the fair weather friends who’s lives would have been unchanged in my absence. And the people that don’t give a shit? You know you’re better off without them.
The best part if you look like a motherfucking warrior of bad circumstances. People admire your resilience, your balls of steel and your ability to not let a little something like a downpour of crushing circumstances get you down.
So have fun with unemployment, and if nothing else realize that the ups and downs are going to come and go. Things WILL get better… BUT prepare for the reality they may get worse again. Build up that armor, and take a stab at changing your life.