At 23, J.K. Rowling was broke. Tina Fey was working at a YMCA. And Oprah got fired as a news reporter. At 24, I will be unemployed. I say “will be” because technically my last day is tomorrow. I don’t want to be unemployed. And to be honest, I probably stayed at my soon-to-be previous job longer than I should have because of the fear of not having an income and being unable to pay my bills.
To me, the fear of unemployment is paralyzing. I have bills (and Seattle rent) to pay and no way to pay it. I just hooked my talons into some semblance of financial security, and I don’t want to let that go. Ever. Ideally, I wanted to have new employment lined up when I left my job. But that’s some “Fun with Dick and Jane” shit that isn’t in the stars for us.
See Anne run. See Anne panic.
Growing up entrenched in financial insecurity, I learned how to spend and stretch a dollar. I remember the stress it put my folks under and how it affected them. It still does. Blowing through retirement and knowing which calls to screen because they’re definitely credit collectors. I remember watching my father go to interview after interview and coming home empty-handed. Mom would be a little more stressed than usual on those days. I promised myself I’d do everything I could to make sure I would never again have to feel the anxiety I felt growing up and saw my parents experience as well. I didn’t have a choice.
As soon as I sent my two-weeks’ notice, I kicked the job search into 5th gear. I had already been applying for a few months to jobs that I thought would help my career path as well as a few choice front desk positions. Now, anything I do that isn’t directly related to the job market or making money is in some way unacceptable. Reading? Only on the bus rides to interviews. Computer games? Only if I’ve applied to four jobs that day and have exhausted all other job sites (and when The Roommate politely reminds me that I should take a break). Tv? Makes for great background noise while I work on my cover letters.
Bring out the Control Freak.
When any aspect of my life spins too far out of my control, my reaction is to pour myself into my work. In this case, looking for work. In my application frenzy, this led to a total of eight interviews in one week. I applied to anything and everything I could possibly be even a little qualified to do. Front desk, customer service, call center, office jobs, temp agencies, and anything I could apply to quickly without a cover letter. I figured the bigger the net, the more likely I am to catch a goddamn job. Beggars can’t be choosers.
And just in case the twenty applications I sent one week don’t turn out to be fruitful, I have taken an entrepreneurial route to unemployment. If I can’t work my way out of future debt, I’ll just sell some shit. I switched from donating to Goodwill to squeezing $5 for a “vintage” tee on Poshmark and Facebook. I finally put some Harry Potter books on eBay that I’d been saving for a rainy day.
And while I’m not making any money, I can’t be spending any money. My body tends to physically revolt against anxiety, and I can’t be sick and unemployed. I get one or the other. So, my new budget consists of only basic necessities. Groceries (not exceeding $25), Diet Coke (don’t you dare judge me), and bus passes to get to job interviews. It’s like I’m ripping off the world’s largest financial band-aid: It hurts, it’s pulling out all my hairs, and there’s probably going to be some gunk leftover to scrub off even after it’s gone.
When I tell people about my newest “Adventure”, I receive pretty positive responses. And while outside validation shouldn’t be the end all be all when making your own financial decisions, it certainly does help. Maybe it’s because I immediately follow with my game plan and ensure them (and myself) of how strong my chances are that at least one of these applications will turn into an interview and a paycheck. I’ve taken this turn of financial events as an opportunity to reach out. To my family as I have Financial Panic after Financial Panic and to my friends as I ask for job leads. Sure, I may not have a financial safety net, but I have a people safety net, and that’s pretty reassuring on its own.
Now, maybe I should have looked before I leapt. Maybe I should have weighed the pros and cons of leaving my only source of income. But sometimes, you have to push The Universe’s hand as well as your own. Sure, someone without a Plan B or formidable bank account to call home shouldn’t have jumped off the cliff into unemployment. As I said, I have bills to pay and Diet Coke to drink. But I also can’t stay on the Safe Side my entire life. There come times when you have to decide what is and isn’t worth the risk.
I’m going to be a five-foot-two-and-a-half-inch bundle of anxiety and nerves for the foreseeable future. I’m not okay with that, but I have to live with it. Part of making an irresponsible decision is owning up to the fact that I did, in fact, make this decision being of sound mind and body. And at the very least, you gotta respect the hustle, right?