Month: March 2012

Hobbies

You absolutely need a hobby if you are unemployed. I think it’s probably useful to have a hobby if you have a job, too, but you especially need one if you are jobless.

I have several hobbies, and actually, a lot of my hobbies are pretty functional. I love baking and cooking (baking more than cooking, but I don’t always want my results…. I like baking cake more than I like eating it), so we have a homecooked dinner most nights, in addition to snacks and various other treats. Additionally, I love crafting. Knitting, sewing, decoupage… and pastie-making.

That’s right, pasties. Because my main hobby, the one that keeps me sane, drives me insane, and fills my heart with joy, is burlesque. I’ve been doing it for a year, and I started before I became unemployed. (Or, “got fired,” as the kids are saying.) Burlesque is probably not what you think. It’s artful and creative. The people who do burlesque are some of the most intelligent and beautiful individuals I’ve had the privilege to meet.

Doing this bold and scary thing has gotten me a lot of flack. You might not approve, and that’s okay, as long as you realize that my choice of hobby, my choice of self-expression, has nothing to do with the fundamental quality of my character. I am a good person! I’m fun and weird, and I like to make people smile. In my routines, I’m goofy as can be–I’m not one of those classic statuesque beauties with gloves and a boa. That’s not my style, but I respect and love people who embody it. Burlesque is not for the faint of heart; I have a tendency to be a wimp. This past year has taught me more about myself than any other experience. The combination of being unemployed and doing burlesque is pretty powerful.

So that’s my mysterious hobby that takes me to bars and theaters late at night, and forces me to be around lots and lots of (sometimes inebriated) people. I love it. It’s one of the things that’s keeping me level.

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Things I Don’t Want to Hear… and Things I Do

This might make you mad.

There are certain things that I, personally, don’t want to hear during my unemployment. Feel free to think these things, but when you say them out loud, they come off as rude and sometimes mean. Here’s a sampling.

“Oh, I’d love to have that much free time!” — Really? Probably not. Thankfully, I was raised by parents who taught me how to entertain myself for hours (long car trips to see relatives, etc.), and I have a few hobbies. This isn’t free time you want, it’s forced free time. Nothing is fun if it’s forced.

“Well, have you applied for anything?” — Yeah, all the time, and actually, applying to jobs is part of the requirements of my unemployment insurance. I’m not a slacker, I’m unemployed. There are conditions for that latter thing. Also, I’m not stupid. I understand that the usual way you get a job is to apply for one.

“Maybe you should stop being picky and just apply to everything.” — I don’t think I’m being that picky, but I have a master’s degree in a specialized, sort of academic field. I would really, really, really rather get a job that’s kind of related to my degree (and the massive amounts of debt involved with obtaining it) than get a $7/hour job doing something I could have done without 2 years of graduate school. I think that makes sense. Also, I have a rule: any job I get must make more per week than my unemployment pays me. I want a job, yes, but I need more money than I’m getting now.

“I know how that goes. I was unemployed for a month a while back.” — Short-term joblessness and long-term joblessness are two different beasts. I have been unemployed for 10 months, so I’m in it for the long-term. After about the 5 month mark, I stopped being entirely hopeful, and it stopped feeling like a fun vacation for which I was getting paid. I understand, people, I understand that you’re trying to relate something in your life to something in mine, because I do that all the time and it’s a very helpful technique when talking to strangers. But I know that this story usually ends with, “And then I found my dream job, so I know you’ll find yours!” I have not reached my happy conclusion, so that makes it hard for me to relate to your story.

Please try to understand that being unemployed has made me grumpy. I already had a tendency to get snippy with people, but it’s been magnified since I passed the 5 month mark back in October. I know that people say these things with good intentions, and that you, my friend, might have said one or more of these things to me. I’m not mad at you. Just be aware that I am trying my best to keep my head above water, and I’ve heard all the advice I can stand.

On that note, here’s what I want people to say when I say I’m unemployed.

“That sucks. If there’s anything I can do, please let me know.” — Because it does suck, and I’d like to not have to pretend that it’s sunshine and flowers for once. A sincere offer of help goes a long way, and it shows me that you don’t necessarily want to shove advice down my throat, which I definitely appreciate.

“I have a couple of contacts in [your field], I can pass your information along.” — Not everyone is going to be able to say this, but if you can, please do!! We all know that people get jobs mostly because of who they know, and evidently, I don’t know the “right” people. (However, I love the people I know. You are right for me.)

“Do you want to hang out sometime?” — Probably! I am out at clubs and stuff a lot for my awesome hobby (I promise I will tell you guys about it soon), and I’d love to meet up. Then maybe we can hang out during the day at some point. One hour, maybe two, of human contact during daylight hours can make my entire week better.

“You are awesome, and I know you’ll find something.” — Don’t even care of it’s just lip service. From time to time, I just need to hear that, eventually, it’ll get better. I’ll find *something* and be able to look back at this and hope it never happens again.

 

You don’t even have to say anything when I tell you I’m unemployed. You can pretend it’s a job in itself, which is sort of true. Most of all, try to remember that I have these conversations a lot, and I’ve heard, “Chin up!” so many times that I want to punch someone in their chin. I love you all.

Support System

I am fortunate in my unemployment, which is weird. You don’t really feel fortunate when you’re unemployed, because you see things going on around you that make you jealous. (Again, more on that later.) But a lot of people, myself included, have a lot to be thankful for when it comes to being without a job.

I have a support system. I live with my awesome boyfriend, Mr. Something, and my/our two dumb cats. They’re always there for snuggles and comfort. Then I have a fantastic group of friends who have seen me at my lowest and at my most magnificent. They listen to my ranting and make me feel like I’m not alone in my anxiety. My parents are rad, too, even though I know it makes them sad that I haven’t found something yet. Well, it makes me sad, too. Unfortunately, I don’t have the support or comfort or security of having insurance or health care, so I constantly worry that I’m going to get sick or hurt. I actually would love to go to the dentist (I haven’t had dental insurance for 5 years, so… there’s some stuff going on in there)! On the bright side, I’m generally a physically healthy person.

I’m grateful for what I have. Many people don’t have this type of support when they are unemployed, and these people have my sincere sympathy. I can’t imagine being in this situation without having my support system there for me. Thank you, friends, for listening to me rant about my anxiety and my non-job life. This blog is also part of my system, a part I created for myself. Thanks for reading. <3

Social Interaction

I am a social person. I’m bubbly and friendly (most of the time), and I like talking. If you know me in real life, you are probably laughing right now, because yeah, I talk a lot. I’m comfortable talking to most people about most things. Or I used to be.

My unemployment has had a nasty side effect of making me a hermit. I mean, I leave the house to go to the grocery store, to go to the fabric store, to eat lunch sometimes, to have drinks with friends. I go out. I have a hobby (more on that later) that forces me to leave the house and be very comfortable around lots of people. I am superficially social.

I was out on Friday night, sitting at a bar, waiting for my friends to show up, and I realized that I was having an incredibly hard time interacting with the person sitting next to me. They asked, “How are you?” and I’m pretty sure I said, “I’m okay, how are things with you?” but it felt weird to say. I’m not actually okay. However, no one at a bar on a Friday night wants to hear that. We chatted a little about the show we were there to see, and other life stuff, but the entire time, I was aware that I didn’t know what to do with my face. Do I smile? Do I look bored? What kind of stories am I supposed to share with this person? I can usually fake all this stuff if I have to, and I’m sincere about it 90% of the time, but all of the basic human social cues that we take for granted flew out the window and I felt like curling up into a ball.

So I left the bar area and went to sit by myself in a corner. It was very pathetic and it made me sad. Social situations have always been complicated for me, because in addition to my myriad of “life issues,” I also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (HOORAY). Despite those usual complications, I typically enjoy social interaction. I have an anthropology degree, for crap’s sake! On Friday, I felt like I failed at being myself.

The cure to this new social anxiety is to be around people, right? And since that’s sort of the last thing I actually want, I am forcing myself to be social until my skills return. Yes, I’d like to have lunch. Yes, I’d like to go for a walk. I am saying yes because saying no is no longer an option.

 

Housework and Feeling Useful

Since I got laid off last year, I have tried to embrace my new position as de facto housekeeper. Mr. Something (aka the Patient One) is off at business school, being responsible and fancy and such, and while he helps out around the house, he’s got his own thing going on. I actually enjoy cooking, baking, and laundry, so I don’t really mind that much. Dishes and tidying are my least favorites, but they get done, for the most part.

One of the most emotionally damaging things about being unemployed is that you don’t feel useful anymore. I don’t really contribute to society at all, in a traditional career sort of way. I hate feeling useless, like a waste of space. I have things to contribute, work to do, and because I don’t have a paying job, it’s sort of hard to do that.

When I cook an awesome meal, or bake a really good cake, or do all the laundry, or clean the kitchen, I feel like I’m helping. I’m helping Mr. Something get through business school without eating fast food every night, and I’m helping myself eat delicious things and live in a nice place. I’m improving my surroundings in a way I can control, and when it comes down to it, control is something you don’t have when you are without a job.

So I take control. I put on (a lot of) Buffy, I swivel the TV so I can see it in the kitchen, and I scrub ’til it shines. I made my own Bisquick the other day. I’ve rediscovered the crock pot. I get a sad amount of satisfaction from vacuuming (and a similar amount of satisfaction from spelling “vacuuming” correctly on the first try). I have an arsenal of delicious recipes that I can make for dinner. I’m proud of these seemingly simple and basic achievements. When you’re trying to come out of a crushing depression that makes you sit and sit and sit and sit, doing stuff feels like you just ran a freaking brain power marathon.

This apartment is not going to trap me. I will make it ours, and it’s going to be great.

The Letter

Every week, I get a letter telling me that my unemployment money has been deposited into my bank account. This is a happy letter, because it means that I will be okay for another week. Sometimes it’s not a happy letter, like today.

Today’s letter informed me that, yet again, my benefits have run out, and that I will find out soon if I will continue to get anything from the state. There’s some federal legislation floating around right now that could guarantee benefits for another year, but that doesn’t do me much good right now. It might seem dumb to not keep up with bills that could affect my (sad) financial situation. However, just like healthcare legislation, I don’t really want to get my hopes up and get excited about benefits I might not actually receive. I’m on a waiting list for my state’s healthcare plan (along with 100,000 other people). Hooray.

I was planning on going to the coffee shop next to my apartment to get a cappuccino this afternoon, do some reading, and most of all, get out of the house. At most, I’d spend $4. Now I feel guilty for even wanting to go, because I don’t have any more money coming in. I feel crushed and sad again, like I do every time I get this kind of letter. There’s the possibility that I’ll get another happy letter next week, informing me that my benefits have been extended and I can breathe again, but it’s not guaranteed. Instead of relaxing and having a nice afternoon with my book, I’m now panicking and searching job listings desperately.

When you are receiving unemployment, you live week to week, hoping that week’s letter will be the happy kind. I really hope that next week, I get the happy letter, and then I will feel… secure.

You know what? My sanity and happiness is worth at least $4. Guilt be damned.

Limitations

There are some self-imposed limitations that dictate my unemployment experience. I’m sure we all have them. We can’t be reasonably expected to move anywhere in the country or the world for a job–that’s ridiculous. Some flexibility when it comes to location is good, I guess, but when are we allowed to say, “No, I’d rather be unemployed and be in my current city/home/state”?

My boyfriend is in business school for his master’s right now, and he’ll be done next spring. Our lease will be done next August. Therefore, I can expect to be in my current city for another year and half. I’ve already been unemployed for almost a year, and I haven’t found many opportunities that I’m qualified for here (that wouldn’t make me miserable; we’ll talk about that another time). Another year and a half of potential joblessness? Ugh.

But what’s the alternative? Moving somewhere else for a job for a year and a half? Being away from my other half for a job? That would involve a second apartment, another set of bills, and oh, my car doesn’t work right now, so I’d have to get that taken care of. All of those expenses, both financial and emotional, aren’t worth it. I would rather be here, in my city, with my boyfriend, my cats, my friends, and the other parts of my support network, and not have a job, than move somewhere and leave all that behind so I can get a job.

It’s so frustrating. I see job postings for things I’d love to do, things I went to graduate school to do, all the time, but they’re always on the coasts, or in another state, or 5 hours north. That sucks. I live in an awesome place, and that’s why I can’t find a freaking job: everyone wants to live and work here. Go away, cool people. Wait…. Never mind.

The sad truth of it, too, is that my boyfriend (let’s call him Patient One) will make more money than me right out of school. So wherever he gets a job next year, that’s where we’ll go, and that’s where I’ll continue my quest for employment.

These limitations aren’t really restrictions… I’m placing them on myself so I don’t beat myself up for not applying for every job I see, regardless of location. These limitations are because I care about myself and I care about the people in my life. Limitations keep me sane.

Hi there.

Hello, you.

My name is Amanda, and I’m unemployed. That feels… crappy to say out loud. I’ve been unemployed for almost a year now, and it’s the worst thing ever. I mean, not literally the worst thing, but it sure isn’t fun, and it sure isn’t improving my life at all.

Since there are so many people in my predicament, I thought I’d share my little piece of the story with you, one annoyed post at a time. Trust me, this will help me, and if it doesn’t help you, I might post some pictures of my cats from time to time, and that will be nice.

Hooray for the Internet! But that’s for another day.

Until then, I remain:

Unemployed and Annoyed.