Video from BuzzFeed via YouTube
At the end of 2012 and into the beginning of 2013, I watched as my younger sister grappled with the consequences of quitting her job. Around Christmas, she felt she had outgrown the company she was working for (to put it in the nicest way possible). I witnessed the stress she dealt with when she realized she still had Christmas presents to buy before she could return to Baltimore and find a new job. She had to face the probing questions from a firing squad (also known as our fairly large extended family) on Christmas Eve. After the holidays, my sister embarked on a harrowing monthlong journey that few could relate to. Exactly one year later, I found myself in the exact. Same. Boat.
In the United States, the major difference between quitting your job versus being furloughed or laid off is that when you quit, you are ineligible to collect Unemployment. My decision point came in November; I moved to Los Angeles with a goal to work toward: the ability to support myself as a full-time photographer. A goal which is difficult to attain while waking up for work every day at 3:30am. So I made the decision to part ways with my company, which was a month ago (as of yesterday). Today I saw the above video on BuzzFeed (while “working from home”) and for the first time in 31 days, I finally felt someone (besides my dear sister) could relate to me without simultaneously shitting on me.
So I give you the Conor Clancy List Of 10 Awkward Moments When You’re Unemployed in Your Twenties. And please, anyone who has been in/is currently dealing with this situation feel free to share YOUR 10 Awkward Moments!
#1 – Everything Bad and Expensive Will Happen NOW
Being back on the East Coast for three weeks was a breeze. Returning home is like entering a fantasy land; a place where your only financial worry is how to successfully balance your bank account around Christmas gifts and your inevitable three weeks of binge drinking. Those costs were manageable and expected because unlike my stomach, I’d already lined my savings account with enough moolah to pay rent and live for three months should I be forced to face the worst-case scenario. If you think you have your jobless days financially planned, the Unemployment Gods will not let you off that easily. Upon return to LA, the largest foreseeable hit to my checking account was my enrollment in bartending school. I had a comfy pillow of cash lined with a high thread count safety net, and I was ready for bed. The following day, I was violently uprooted from my five-star-hotel cash plan and bounced down first to “Best Western off of I-95 in North Carolina” status before finally being thrown to my fate at “Youth Hostel in Romania… the dirty one” status. I was forced to put almost $600 into my “new” 1998 Toyota Camry to deal with repairs, as well as getting the fucker Smog Checked (which it failed), registering it in California AND buying new insurance. All of which occurred within 48 hours. Of course I didn’t need new tires last year! That would have been to easy because I was employed back then!
#2 – Feeling Like Society is Judging You
This is both true and false. Some people are judging you, heavily. Since the economy crashed it has been rough for everyone to find a job, and there are a few people out there who will try to make you feel shitty for quitting a job. Take a step back and conform to the old adage: “It’s not me, it’s you.” Occasionally, I find myself feeling like friends are judging me because I’m actually judging myself. You obviously left your job for a good reason, and that reason is only your business; not your neighbor’s business because they’re stressed with their own life.
#3 – You Feel Like You’re On Vacation
Ooof this one’s a doozy. Especially considering I was on vacation for almost a month before returning to Los Angeles. A majority of my first five days back were spent on the couch watching every episode of The Real Housewives that I could find. That was the first symptom. It wasn’t until the next day that I became victim to full-fledged adult onset CPD (Couch Potato Disorder).
DO NOT START WITH NETFLIX!
Seriously! I blacked out while binge watching Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock. When I came out of my television-induced stupor 9 hours had elapsed and I was still in my fucking pajamas. When confronted with my self-diagnosis of CPD I was in denial. My excuse for my newfound addiction: “Well I can’t enroll in Bartending School until my check comes.” Risky behavior right there.
#4 – Social Availability or Codependent?
I have been so incredibly busy for the past 8 months that I rarely checked Facebook in-depth. Occasionally I would look at the first few stories on my News Feed from my iPhone when I had a break; keeping up-to-date with my closest friends. In the past week, I have congratulated three people I went to high school with on an engagement, a pregnancy announcement, and on someone’s promotion to Assistant Store Manager at GameStop on Long Island. These are three people I’ve not spoken to in eight years.
When I’m really in need, I now go through my phone book and systematically call around 10 people to tell them about my day. This list includes both of my parents (whom I call during their work days), my best friends back east, my aunt, my sister, and my ex-boyfriend. When you start leaving a lot of voicemails, it’s time to move on. I didn’t have time to answer my phone at 1:00pm to talk to my friend about how they got a piece of falafel lodged in their sinus cavity, so why would they?
#5 – Chores Become Fun
I’ve taken breaks from building my business model to load the dishwasher, do my laundry, re-organize my dresser, and clean my car out. However, I still hate food shopping. I still leave that to the last minute. In fact, I had a slight panic attack at Trader Joe’s last week. No length of unemployment will make food shopping seem desirable.
#6 – You’re Suddenly “The Cheapskate”
Don’t throw my fucking coupons out. I don’t care if Carls’ Jr. makes me violently ill; I better have looked long and hard at those before they go in the garbage. Like the BuzzFeed video highlighted: if you venture out of your cave to meet a friend for dinner, you find yourself furiously searching through Groupon, ScoutMob, Living Social, etc., for a two-for-one-type deal. I have shamefully guilted a friend into buying me drinks on the pretense that they owed me money from a previous tab, because I am in no place to be spending my money on liquor even though that’s about the only thing I want right now.
#7 – You Find Yourself Staring at Your College Degree
Questions begin to circle in your mind: “Why did I even think about pursuing a BA in Theatre Production & Management?” “Maybe if I’d shown up to my last class sober, I wouldn’t be in this mess.” “Is my alma mater hiring a staff photographer?” “I wonder how much that would go for on eBay?”
I would just like to hope that my degree means something. (Side note: Marymount Manhattan College still has not given me my physical diploma. I graduated in December 2011.)
#8 – You’re Mastering the Art of “Selling Yourself”
You’ve got it down pat. So much so that you probably feel like you’re speed dating… or worse… you’re becoming a hooker. Interview after interview goes by; you start adding any facts that will make you stand out. Because you can crochet now, because duh, you’ve picked up that skill while waiting for the last six companies to call you back. Your résumé has been redesigned around three times in one month, and your new “Most Visited Websites” are now an amalgamation of Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Craigslist, and Monster.com. You’ve begun to actually answer calls from telemarketers because the 800- or blocked phone number “might be the job.”
#9 – You Have New Hobbies
Me? I’ve never liked working out nor did I feel the need to do so. Now since I’m not spending eight hours on my feet walking back-and-forth on a sales floor I have to. Now I hike, which means 1) I have become more of an Angeleno and 2) I secretly hate myself. I have started blogging (obviously); I now have the time and attention span to read a book cover-to-cover. I went through a 3-day phase in which I “was destined for YouTube stardom” (which was probably a side effect of seeing that my favorite YouTube star Grace Helbig was on Forbes‘ “30 Under 30” list which is inversely something no one in our position should be reading).
This stage of unemployment may be crucial as you may find something you’re incredibly interested in and run with it. So searching Pinterest for new clean eating recipes may lead to a self-discovery that you love cooking and you’re going to change your career path completely.
#10 – You Actually Have Been Productive
This is probably not something you will realize until after you get the job (and you will, I promise… as bleak as it looks now). Being forced to exit your daily routine eventually subconsciously jump-starts your brain into hyperfocus. Getting out of bed and getting dressed is the biggest hurdle. Once I’m ready for the day, I’m not going back to bed and ruining my hair. I’m notoriously harsh on myself so I have to push myself to reflect upon my day at the end. In one week (during which I thought I was doing nothing), I have completely set up my business to run seamlessly while I work a second job. I did something I never had time to do… and I still got to watch three episodes of Vanderpump Rules.