The Unemployment Diary Part 8: Lies My Parents Told Me
When we last heard from Angela, she was just entering into the scary and unknown terrain of the “starving artist” lifestyle. Unsure whether she would sink or swim, she turned to drugs and alcohol to help her cope. Just kidding — she can’t afford any of that sh*t anymore. Read on to find out how she survived her first summer as a writer, and what awaits her in the fall. Hint: It includes large quantities of peanut butter.
A 100-degree day in July
Just got off the phone with my mom. I don’t know what I would do without that woman – after whining and panicking at her into the phone for an hour, she’s not only buying me a vacuum for my apartment but is knocking off a couple hundo from the money I owe her. She told me that she’s still expecting me to be successful and that once I’ve “made it” I can pay her back. Little does she know that as soon as I make my first million I’m planning on putting her and my father in the nicest retirement home in all of New England, where instead of daily sponge baths you’re just licked by kittens every day. Actually, that doesn’t seem so bad.
It’s not the “not having a job” thing that’s freaking me out, it’s just that I’m not into living a life of frugality. I’m a Taurus, I’m a glutton. I like to be comfortable. I go to concerts, go out drinking, get brunch, take cabs. Quality of life is just as important as paying the rent, and if I can’t have fun then I can’t enjoy life.
Since entering into the world of unemployment, two questions have been grating on me:
1. How come jobs that you apply for NEVER CONTACT YOU BACK? OK, maybe i’m not qualified to be the editor-in-chief of the New York Times (says who?), but common sense indicates that when one sends a potential employer their resume, the potential employer can at least do them the courtesy of rejecting them via email. Lord knows I’ve been rejected enough in other areas of my life (pssst, i’m talking about with men!), I think I can handle it.
2. How come throughout your entire adolescence people are filling your head with lies like: “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything,” and “You can be whatever you want to be.” I think I can say with certainty that this is not true. I can’t even get a freakin’ unpaid internship and I have a college degree in journalism, do you really think if I study hard enough I can go into NASA? Let’s face the facts: if you don’t come from a family with money your life will always be a struggle, and you should just give up your hopes and dreams now and settle for a soul-sucking office job in which your only joy is surreptitiously stealing Post-Its and toilet paper rolls from the supply closet. Not that I’ve ever done that…
A Week Later
So I landed an unpaid internship and also found some freelance writing work on the side. This came after I resolved that no matter how poor I became, or how little of a social life i’d have to have, I refused to get another job in my previous career field. I don’t care if I have to turn to waitressing or odd jobs on Craigslist, I’d rather tickle an old man’s feet while dressed like his dead mother than give up. Naturally, rather than viewing my opportunities as a step in the right direction, my crippling neurosis has found a way for me to turn this into a fear of failing.
The Majority of September
There’s a big difference between having a job that you hate but are good at, and having a job that you actually give a shit about and are still learning at. My internship is the latter, and while deep down I know I’m the shit, I can’t help but be rife with terror that I won’t be able to perform. (That’s what he said?) There’s also a big difference between having a job and having an unpaid internship. That big difference is known as a paycheck.
By the end of September, almost three months since I began collecting unemployment, there have been two instances in which I received a letter from the New York Department of Labor requesting my presence in their office located approximately an hour away in Flushing, Queens, aka China. Both visits required that I sit in a classroom — filled with people like me, people like you, and people like that guy *points over there* — while a man in broken English tells me that Gmail is a free email service, and Google is a search engine. This is both degrading and hopeful, as I totally already knew about Gmail and Google, therefore have an edge above the competition.
I stare into my laptop screen at the excel file I have lovingly saved as “Angie’s Finances.” In the last three months, I have become the Queen of Budgeting, and looking at my obligations for the next three months I know with confidence that I do not have enough money to fulfill all of them. I lose touch with friends because I can’t afford to take cabs to Brooklyn (and everybody knows that Brooklynites will never leave their borough). I lose weight because I have no money for frivolities, therefore have nothing to do on the weekends but workout. I no longer find homeless people to be a nuisance, and instead respect their entrepreneurial spirit. I scrape together coinage to put in the Metro card machine. I skip lunch and opt to eat spoonfuls of peanut butter to save money on groceries (in all fairness, I would do that regardless of whether or not I had a job). Faintly through my windows I hear the sounds of a child’s laughter, playing with his friends, awaiting a home cooked meal and an apartment they don’t have to pay rent on. I whine, finish my jar of peanut butter and write this article.
Will Angela lose all of her friends and any semblance of a social life before she becomes gainfully employed as a writer? Will her habitual peanut butter eating further ostracize her from the rest of her peers, specifically her roommate who probably finds the habit disgusting? Will she have to turn to the “odd jobs” section of Craigslist to make rent? All signs point to yes … or do they? Stay tuned to find out.