Month: April 2012

Planning

I’ve always been a planner. I might like making plans better than I like actually doing stuff. This is weird; I get it.

As a job-free person (doesn’t that sound better than unemployed?), making plans is key. If you don’t have something to look forward to all week, it’s going to be long, slow, boring, and slightly sad. For example, today is Monday. Mondays are hard, because I get left alone again after spending an awesome weekend with Mr. Something. However, I already know that I’m having dinner with an awesome friend on Friday, and then we’re going to a show to dance our blues away. I know I’m hanging out with people on Saturday, too! These small social interactions fuel me, before and after. I look forward to plans, and then I get to reminisce about how awesome my plans were.

I make daily plans, too, like going to the grocery store and doing laundry. Less exciting than dancing with friends, but still pretty okay. (I like food and clean clothes, so it works out.) The key is to have something, however tiny, to get excited about. Maybe the grocery store will have samples! I could find money in Mr. Something’s pants pocket! We have a rule where anything left in pockets goes to the person doing laundry. I’ve made around $1.50 so far. See? Exciting!

I make my own fun.

 

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Giving Up (Just a Little)

I gave up this week. I sort of cooked dinner once, when usually I cook every night. I did laundry once, but I haven’t folded it yet. I didn’t vacuum. I mostly just sat here, in front of the computer, and pinned things on Pinterest. It was not a fun week, for the most part.

I gave up because I was in pain the entire week. The. Entire. Week. My lower back is super messed up (my entire spine decided that being relatively straight was for losers), and it affects my pelvis and hips sometimes. My bones felt like they were on fire, and my muscles were sore from trying to compensate. Everything hurt (and still hurts). Leaving the house took so much energy that I had to psych myself up for it. Ibuprofen wasn’t doing anything. The heating pad just made me feel sick.

This happens every month and a half or so. My back always hurts, but this week was particularly awful. I’m so tired of being in pain.

So it’s okay to give up a little from time to time. I know that my back will always be a source of pain for me; I have scoliosis in a pretty bad way. When it feels like this, I want to have someone bring me fried foods and set me up with a blankie, a cat, and a movie. I couldn’t always do that, and I won’t always be able to do that, but I appreciate the hell out of the fact that I can do that right now if I so choose. I’m in the convenient/inconvenient position of having nothing to do, and it’s exactly what I want.

The Attitude of the World

I ran across this on Pinterest just now. Someone commented, “So if you’re unemployed, you’re nothing?” That’s how it feels a lot of the time. It’s one of the first questions we ask when we meet someone new: what do you do? We don’t mean, “What do you enjoy?” or “In what activities do you partake?” We mean, “What career fulfills your life?”

Tying one’s career so closely to one’s worth and one’s identity is unfair and unwise. When someone asks you who you are, do you answer with your job title first? Or do you say you’re a parent? Or an amateur juggler? Or that you’re a Tarantino aficionado? Why do we conflate our job status with our abilities as human beings?

I think it sucks. The fact that so many people repinned this image and that so many people commented positively makes me sad. It’s awesome if you love your job; seriously, props to you! You are so lucky, and I hope you realize it. If you don’t love your job, or if you don’t have one, realize that there is so much more about you than your job status. You are fantastic, unless you’re a serial killer or something. (Stop that.)

The Internet is Magical

I am unemployed in the age of the Internet, and for that, I am incredibly thankful. I was already an Internet nerd, but this experience has increased my love for this Web of Worldliness tenfold.

If I’m feeling sad, there’s millions of pictures of adorable kittens and videos of otters holding hands. (I love those otters.) My friends back in my hometown (in a different time zone) are a click away, and in a less formal way than calling them up. I’m not a phone person, anyway. I can learn about pretty much anything, and I’m always tackling random knowledge projects. (Learn everything about the Titanic? Learn all about marsupials? Learn all about Dadaism? Working on it.) I’m a curious person by nature; the Internet is my playground where I can explore and learn and dream.

Yeah, there’s a whole real world outside, but as I’ve mentioned before, the combination of my sad bank account and my anxiety makes it difficult for me to actually explore. And exploring by yourself isn’t nearly as fun as exploring with a friend. I have many friend adventures planned for the future. And this summer, I’m going to take an introductory German class, because Mr. Something speaks fluent German and it’d be neat to actually travel to visit his European friends someday (and understand what in the world they are talking about). Right now, though, Internet adventures are okay by me.

Worrying about Success

I’ve been unemployed for such a long time that the thought of getting a job seems abstract. It’s not really something that’s going to happen to me, right? It’s so strange to have a goal for such a long time and not have a clear idea of what, exactly, you’re going for.

Every time I apply for a job, I get nervous that I’ll actually get the job. What in the world is wrong with me? Getting a job is sort of the point of my existence right now… so why am I scared that I’ll succeed?

My life has not involved that many formal challenges in the past year. I haven’t had a boss tell me, “Do this better,” in a while. Everything that I’m trying to improve and change about myself is triggered from myself; I’m my own boss right now. I’m overwhelmed and worried that I’ll fail, that I’ll get fired again, or that I’ll be treated like crap. I’m afraid that I’ll hate my job and want to quit.

I haven’t had to be that accountable for myself, or been forced to “look busy,” in almost a year. If I say to Mr. Something, “Yeah, today I’ll take out the trash, clean the catbox, do laundry, and make dinner,” I don’t have anything restricting my activities except for a deadline of “dinnertime.” That gives me a lot of freedom. I can lounge around for a while, or catch up on email, or work out, or whatever, as long as I get my tasks done by the time he gets home. (A self-imposed deadline; he doesn’t care if I even do all the stuff I do, but I like to free up my nights by getting stuff done during the day.)

The idea of changing my incredibly lax schedule terrifies me. I’m totally fine with getting up in the morning, but wearing office-appropriate clothing for 8 hours a day? I don’t own any businessy stuff. I’ve lost a bunch of weight during my unemployment, because I eat when I’m relaxed and don’t eat as much when I’m stressed. Nothing that I own that is even mildly professional fits. I could get a job as a go-go dancer and be perfectly clothed, but a secretary? Nope.

I understand that these are all excuses, that I shouldn’t be scared of actually having a job, and that I could just go to the thrift store and probably find some clothes that would work for right now. It’s weird to imagine myself with a job. I’m used to answering the question, “So what do you do?” with, “I’m unemployed, but here’s an extensive list of my hobbies and daily activities.” I’m used to having some sense of righteous indignation about not having a job. I’m used to being allowed to be angry about my situation.

This might make it seem like I’m not looking forward to having a job. I am… it’s just that I don’t want my life to completely change from what it is right now. I want to have time to do burlesque, and time to cook dinner. I want to be able to wear whatever I want, and take showers at 2pm, and go to the grocery store before everyone gets out of work. I found out this past year that if I could afford to be a housewife-type person, and if I had some money for traveling, I’d absolutely love it. I like feeling useful and you know what? I can cook up a storm.

I’ve been weirdly successful at being a stay-at-home girlfriend, and I think, ultimately, what I’m worried about is that I won’t be as good at having a job as I am at doing what I’ve been doing. Does that make any sense? I feel like I need one of those really stupid motivational posters with a kitten hanging off a branch that says, “Hang in there!” or “You have to fail in order to succeed!” or something.

I’m used to being good at stuff. This is hard.

Pleasures

I’ve sort of touched on this before, but bear with me.

Everyone needs pleasure in their life. Everyone. I don’t care if you’re a priest: there has to be something that’s just for you and that makes you smile to yourself. It’s not selfish: it’s self-focused.

I have many things I take pleasure in, and that’s good, because when it seems like your life is trying really hard to make you mad all the time, you absolutely need something to fall into and get lost in.

Two of my favorite things in the world are red wine and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Mr. Something hasn’t gotten into Buffy yet (I’m working on it), so I usually watch it when he’s off at school. I’ve seen every episode of Buffy at least twice, and it never really gets old. The characters feel like my friends, the music reminds me of being a teenager, and the storylines still manage to pull me in, even though I know what’s going to happen. It’s comforting. This girl and her team of friends save the world episode after episode; it makes me feel like I can handle my day. If Buffy and Willow can solve the mystery behind Sunnydale’s latest evil, then I can definitely get out of the house and go to the grocery store. We all need to feel like we can kick some ass sometimes. I think I identify most with Willow (and a little with Anya), because I was always the smart, weird kid who said awkward things and would rather read a book than go to a rager.

I know that a lot of people will read this and think, “She’s a little obsessed with a television show from 1997,” and I get that, but stick with me. The writers behind Buffy understood the relationships between these friends, and wrote their interactions so realistically that you can’t help but care about them. I think you could take the vampires and demons out of Buffy and it would still be an amazing show because of the character development. I care about them, I mourn for them when they fall, and I get excited when they succeed. I can identify with them and that makes me feel better.

And red wine… well, it’s wine, people. A good Malbec or Rioja helps me relax and forces me to focus on small variations of flavor. It makes meals more delicious and conversations more spirited. It’s wine. I think I’ve made my case.

These pleasures might seem small, and that’s the point. It’s nice that I can talk about Buffy with a bunch of my friends who are also fans, and that Mr. Something is a bit of a wine connoisseur, but the truth is that I could enjoy these things all by myself and still feel a little smile on my face that’s just for me. I like that.

Career Changes

The title of this post makes me laugh. What career? I *could* make a career of being awesome, I guess.

Anyway, I’ve been giving some serious thought to going back to school, or getting a certificate, or something. I am overeducated for the jobs I am qualified for, but underqualified for the jobs I’m supposed to be able to get with my education. In other words, my master’s degree is not useful when wanting to get immediate employment, and my lack of actual library experience impedes me from using my degree for its intended purpose. (It makes a lovely leather-bound dust trap, though.)

I’ve been toying with the idea of becoming a paralegal for a while, but the program is pretty expensive, even at a local community college. I have lots of research experience, and I like being helpful, so that could be sort of fun. I almost went to law school after undergrad… I think I made a lot of unwise educational choices, honestly. My degree, up to this point, has done absolutely nothing for me.

I read about my friends who love their teaching jobs, who love being nurses, who love being lawyers, who love being librarians, and I think to myself, “What will I say about my career? What am I?” I know I’m good at some stuff, like cooking and crafting and spreadsheets, but I wonder what my identity is. I can’t identify as a librarian without feeling this stabbing sense of guilt, like I’m co-opting a term I have no right to use. I’m not actually a librarian, even though I have a piece of paper saying I could be. (I also have a piece of paper saying I could be an anthropologist, so that’s not very encouraging.)

I’m not anything yet.

I’m surrounded by wonderful people who are doing great things in their professional lives. It makes me happy for them, as much as I can be, since I definitely have a problem with feeling and expressing joy for others. It also makes me jealous, sad, and frustrated. These people are established. They have colleagues. They are something other than their name and a list of hobbies: “Hi, I’m Amanda, and I like reading, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and performing burlesque.” I wish I had a clear career-oriented identity instead of a mish-mash of attributes.

I’ll continue to look into getting *more* education, because it’ll help push off my student loans for a little while longer, and it might open some doors for a career-filled future. Until then, I will have to settle for being a list and some pieces of dusty paper.

Some Spam Wisdom

This site has a spam comment filter (and I approve all comments before they’re posted, so that’s why it might take a few hours for yours to show up), and sometimes the spam is hysterical. I thought this was a real comment for the first sentence, but then it gets weird… and then it gets sort of nice again.

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The Things I Get to Do

Not every single aspect of being unemployed is terrible. Sometimes, it’s actually… fun. And yeah, I feel slightly guilty saying that, but you know what, I’m trying my best and I deserve fun just like everyone else. I have cats, not children, which gives me a little more freedom of movement than a lot of people. I’m thankful that my current responsibilities match up with my current abilities, if that makes any sense.

So how do I have fun and not feel *that* guilty about it? Today I decided I was going to make pasta sauce in the crockpot to go along with the meatballs I was already planning to make. I make awesome meatballs, by the way. To make this pasta sauce, I just needed a few things, so I headed to the store. Sound like fun yet? Well, it was. I blasted my music and rolled the windows down a touch and enjoyed how pretty it was outside. It was nicer than nice. The grocery store wasn’t even packed, so I could wander in peace.

I got home from the store and proceeded to plop things in the crockpot, but I needed some background noise. It gets too quiet in here. Netflix is my best friend in the universe right now–if you don’t have streaming Netflix in your house, you are missing out. I decided to watch one of my favorite movies ever, Ghostbusters. Yeah, I’m an adult and I’m watching Ghostbusters at 2pm while I dance around to the theme song as I squish ground sausage. I love that I can do this. I certainly wish I had a job, or a reliable income, or that I was in school (again), but for now, making meatballs and watching Ghostbusters is okay by me.

Being Self-Centered

I generally assume people don’t think about me. Not in a malicious way, but in a “why would they waste energy thinking about me?” kind of way. I mean, I’m not that thrilling, and people have their own lives going on. No hard feelings.

However, thinking this way has made me less than considerate of others. I assume they aren’t thinking about me, so I don’t really think about them. Again, it’s not mean, it’s just forgetful. Apparently all of this makes me seem self-centered and I don’t like that.

It’s difficult thinking about others when you are in a crappy situation yourself, especially when it seems like everyone in your life is doing something awesome and exciting. I’m honestly having a really hard time being excited and happy for other people right now, because I want some of that for myself! I am, and I’m admitting it, jealous of things and situations and opportunities that I don’t have right now. That jealousy makes it nearly impossible for me to seem genuinely interested in everyone’s fantastic lives.

My situation forces me to think about myself a lot: my work experience, my education, my skills, what kind of job I’d like, what would make me happy, etc. I’m alone a lot. None of this adds up to anything positive. It’s not good to leave me alone, thinking, for too long–I get angsty and I worry about everything. My anxiety is a self-centered beast, too. I’m not worried about things happening to other people that often, but I do worry about things happening to me.

I’ve been making more of a concerted effort to be a better friend lately, and a lot of it involves leaving my comfort zone of how I usually communicate with people. I don’t call people, I wait for them to call me. I’ve always been like this… and I’m realizing I have to change or I’m going to be alone a lot.

Anyway, if it seems like an unemployed/underemployed person in your life is being selfish, there are a lot of reasons why they are acting this way. Unemployment makes you examine why you don’t have a job and why it seems like you can’t get a job, and those are uncomfortable issues to probe. It’s vulnerable, and that makes me, at least, turn inward.