It's been since June.
June - the beginning of a warm, delectable season full of promise for the upcoming summer daze ahead. For me, that concept of summer is still a bit endless. In that, I still don't have a fucking job and it's nearing the end of this try-to-polish-a-turd of a year.
I can sleep until noon if I want. I can wake up at 7am if I want. If I'm having a terrible day, I can take a nap and call my losses for the day, binge-watching Netflix and refreshing Instagram every 10 minutes. As someone told me recently, as bad as my day could be, I get to spend it in bed if I want, while they had to go to work. Sure, that's a form of luxury. I get it. But that inconsistency in little daily luxuries, such as working from home, is also the life of a freelance writer. Somehow I still haven't given up on that dream -- and that's exactly why I don't have a job.
Writing jobs, media jobs, freelance jobs, social media jobs, marketing jobs, assistant jobs, copywriting jobs, editing jobs, marketing jobs. I've applied to them all. Keeping track of every available position I've applied for from June until yesterday spans 29 pages in MS Word and 3,315 words. When I brought my typed work search log into the NYS Department of Labor, as per the requirements for the mandatory meetings for unemployment benefits, the advisor was stumped, and almost humored. As well as surprised I had put the time in to type my log instead of use a pen to fill out their age old forms.
"You picked a tricky field, here." They'd say. Yeah, no shit. To get paid to put words together makes me a sort of con-woman. For every person wanting to get paid to do so, there are 10 people who just want the experience, the clips and the cred.
I've been doing this blog thing for over 10 years now in one form or another, which at 24, makes me a total nerd with a one-track-mind that is convinced this will be my actual, real job again. I'd go the unpaid route again if I had to, but it'd have to be for a huge, international magazine or digital publishing company that my mom and even my grandma have heard of before. And even then, the sacrifice would be so huge, it'd be a bit unrealistic. I don't want to be ending my 20's living at my parents house, but that's an option that isn't ruled out for me because I want to make THIS career happen.
It's an interesting position to be in. I am overqualified for some positions, and under-qualified for others. I have a mix of skills and experience that is unique. Being a writer is all about being adaptive, and I've been everything from a dog-walker to an assistant for a fashion designer to someone getting paid to update a blog every day.
I've had friends say - just be a waitress. Work at a coffee shop. The book store. Work at a kiosk at the mall. Learn to bartend. Every person in your craft has done that before and will do that until the end of time. Those friends aren't wrong with that advice. But I'm on unemployment for another 7 weeks. This allows me another 49 days to be picky, to be stubborn and to be absofuckinglutely totally broke.
At the end of the day - we pay for unemployment with our taxes. This doesn't exclude me. Why not take advantage of being on unemployment while I look for work? THAT'S WHY IT EXISTS. However, extensions were cut in December 2013. This allows approximately 24 weeks of benefit eligibility, and when that ends, there is nothing anyone can do. That's a scary, scary idea for both people unlike me and for people like me.
If you think people on benefits have it easy, you have probably never been on benefits. It's a different kind of struggle for different kinds of people, in all different walks of life. This also does not exclude me, and I am aware that I could be in worse shape and thankful I am not.
I can get a job, I am capable. I've had several jobs before, and I'll have several different jobs again. But my chosen field is in media, english, journalism, etc., so for me to accept the first job to hire me just because it's a job offering to hire me still doesn't seem like that convincing of a reason if it's not in my field. And that is the #1 thing I am sick of explaining to people judging me for not having a job.
My rent is laughably cheap for the amount of space I can call home, all while walking distance to bars, restaurants, my friends apartments. I still have refused to turn my heat on. I am too stubborn to go on food stamps, although I qualify. My student loan is in deferment for another 7 weeks. I paid my car insurance last month, lasting me for the next six months. My credit card is maxed out, and has been maxed out. My computer loan has interest that is so high, it's laughing at me. My 1994 Honda Accord had work done to it recently, with the help of my parents, so it'll last me through the winter if I don't drive when it snows. All things considered, I'm very, very blessed. I know this.
People ask me all the time why I don't move home to my parents to save money. The only real answer I have is that I don't want to. Similar to why I don't want to be a waitress (yet) - I don't have to (yet) so I don't want to.
Contrarily, people ask me why I'm still in Albany. And then ask me what I'm going to do if I do land a job in NYC or Denver (the two main cities with opportunity for what I'm looking for that I've focused my job hunt in). While the concrete answers are unknown, it'd be in the realm of stay with friends for as long as morally possible (not that long, I'm too considerate to free load forever), save money, sublet, get rid of my Albany apartment, sell my car, take out a personal loan, roll the dice. It'd be complicated, but it's not undoable. Moving to a new city with $500 in your pocket is way less glamorous than moving with $5,000, but I know people who have done it with more, and done it with less. It all depends on your opportunities, and for me, that right now also means my luck, and I seemingly have had very little so far.
I don't know what I'm going to do. Being on unemployment is a daily thought and burden that runs through my mind. It can depress you, it can discourage you, it can make you feel like a total loser. To combat feeling lazy, I've been writing this entire time, and working for friends who are generous enough to have me assist them.
Unemployment gives you a lot of free time. Every day's a weekend. Some days I look at job boards for 8 hours straight like a crazed, obsessed dork. Other days, I apply to the first 5 media jobs I see and call it a day. But it's on your mind constantly when you have that much free time, and not to mention, not enough money to treat it like vacation. Why don't I have a job yet? What am I going to do? Why am I not using this time to write a novel?
The key to not going insane while on unemployment is to create a routine for yourself, to keep busy. But, again, given the fact that I'm unemployed, that routine changes (because it's not a strictly enforced one) and each day holds the potential to be different. Some more productive than others. Some more stressful than others. All I really know is that in 2014, I made less money than I ever have. I made as much money annually as some celebrities make in a minute this year. And I don't want that to ever happen again.
So, am I optimistic? No. Am I frustrated? Yes. Do I have $18.27 in my bank account right now? Yes. Will I make that work? Yes. Does it suck? Yes. Do good things come to those who wait, or those who work? Both. Will I look back at unemployment at times and miss it? Yes. Will I be able to adapt into being a hard worker with a set work schedule again? Dear God, I hope so. Am I worried? Yes. Will I be okay? Yes.
Thank you to everyone for supporting me during this strange chapter of my life. As it's my second go-around on unemployment via getting laid off for circumstances beyond my control from jobs I've enjoyed, I'm hoping third times a charm.
Keep an eye out for me, will ya?