Being unemployed is like a daily battle against the seven deadly sins.
I haven’t had a job in two months, and it’s not for lack of trying. I apply for positions constantly, but while I’ve had a few recent interviews, the only work I’ve picked up thus far has been odd jobs and one-offs. My varied background probably makes me look like a flake (library, tech support, private investigation, editing, social media…), which isn’t helping. The truth is, though, that I’m a total homebody when it comes to employment, and would happily settle down with the right job and spend the rest of my life sharing meals with it while we watch Netflix. Metaphorically speaking.
People seem jealous of my current state of being, and I can sort of see how it might appear ideal. I have a S.O. with a high-paying job, so even though the last of my savings has dried up, I’m still sheltered and fed. I work out constantly and spend a lot of time swimming, concocting new barbecue sauce flavours, and obsessively cleaning. But is it really all that you think it might be?
The first thing I did when I stopped working was stop spending. No more shopping, no road trips, none of the obvious things. But even further, no unnecessary expenses. No social events, no groceries outside the necessities, and no driving unless I have to. My last job didn’t pay well and I was already used to scaling back, but now I’m basically a little hermit with decent biceps. While I’m good at keeping busy, I’ve become pretty envious of my friends. All those Facebook posts about nights out singing karaoke and dancing, all the trips and the concerts and the VIP lists and the shiny new things… It’s not that I don’t want them to have all that stuff. It’s more that I’m lonely and worried that I might have to wear the same pair of jeans for the rest of my life.
I may work out a lot, but I also eat a lot. At first it was good, healthy food. Now I’m too unhappy with my apparent lack of worth to take the time to prepare meals, while simultaneously eating my feelings. I actually had to go through the cupboards and put all of the leftover Christmas and Easter chocolate into the compost so that I couldn’t make myself sick. I’m obsessed with the Chinese takeout from the nearby food court. Not even a legit restaurant – a FOOD COURT. I’m one glazed chicken morsel away from asking if they’re hiring. My girlfriend is a shift worker, and when she’s really tired it’s easy to convince her that takeout is the way to go. Last week we actually got some while I still had leftovers in the fridge. I’m terrible. And now I’m hungry again…
I’ve been blessed with the ability to be both a morning person and a night person. I wake up perky and bouncy and ready to go, like an aerobic jumpsuit-wearing Olivia Newton-John fairy of mornings. Well, I used to. Now that I have nothing to get me out of bed in the morning, my body has given up. I wake up later and later every day, and the late nights of Netflix and Candy Crush Saga don’t help. How many series have I watched from beginning to end? I’d rather not say. I love Netflix, don’t get me wrong. We have a special relationship that might just be the “forever” kind. Movies and TV shows have always been my soul food, but now they’re more than that. If you ask me what I did today, the answer is probably “lifted weights in front of Netflix, ate Chinese food, and spent a lot of time staring at my laptop screen with a forlorn look on my face”.
It might be the unhealthy food and lifestyle, or it might be all of the feels that I’ve been trying not to feel for fear that they are warranted… but my temper has definitely become a scary beast. Messes make me mad. Changes of plans make me mad. People who don’t reply to emails make me mad, and people replying-all to emails make me madder still. People with a serious lack of enthusiasm, people with too much enthusiasm, biting nails, fidgeting, making loud noises in public, the fire truck sirens that go by every ten minutes, my cat sucking his toes right beside my face while I’m trying to write… I’m always one tiny spark away from bursting into a raging inferno of anger. Don’t eyeball my food; that makes me mad, too.
I MISS THINGS. I miss wanting a new pair of rainbow space kitten leggings and then just treating myself to them. I miss buying food that I’m craving. I miss trying new variations on black liquid eyeliner just to see if there is a better one out there. I miss adding to my collection of really cute boots. I miss buying presents for friends and family, or showing up to barbecues with food and drink to share. Sometimes I just really hate the stains on the dish towels and want to replace them. I know that it’s not right to covet material things, but that doesn’t mean that I can just turn off that part of my brain and never again press my face against the display glass at a shoe store while a tiny bead of drool forms at the corner of my mouth.
This is the most difficult feeling to deal with, and the most constant. There are two ways in which I experience it, and both of them suck. The first surrounds the subject of money. I’ve been independent and paying my own way since moving out at 19 (except in a few times of desperation caused by massive car or cat repairs). Now I have no money but all of the same adult bills and expenses. At the best of times I feel hopeless. My amazing S.O. often tells me that if I want or need anything, all I have to do is ask. I can’t. I can’t ask someone for some trivial little thing. If I don’t need it, it feels stupid, and furthermore, it makes me feel like less of a person to need help. Success is my measurement stick, and I’m getting shorter every day.
Then there’s my employment situation. I’ve had two amazing jobs at the library and in tech support. The only reasons I left were to further my education and potential salary, and to try to find something permanent where I could start leveling up. Unfortunately, it’s been a downhill slide since. The last employer I interviewed with offered $12/hr, which is half of what I used to make. I can’t do it. I can’t be older and supposedly wiser and worth so little. I can’t have worked so hard and taken so many courses (and still owe so much money for them) to be making less than I did at sixteen. My self-worth shouldn’t have a dollar sign next to it, but it does, and I can’t sell myself and all of my experience and skill to a company for less than the cost of a burger and fries.
If you think after all of that I have any lust whatsoever, you would be incorrect.
Luckily, I’m a total optimist. This is a big bump in the road, but whatever is on the other side will probably be that much better. I’m tired and frustrated from spending so long trying to climb over it, but at least I have plenty of time to build up some wicked climbing muscles.