Featured Image: The Georgia O’Keeffe copy I made because I was too cheap to buy a print.
I’ve had trouble being unemployed, even though I’ve only worked full-time for less than two years. But as someone who has trouble with abrupt change, losing my job, my friends, the guy I was seeing, and turning 25 was a bit much for me to process all at once.
The day I got fired, I called my mom, cried, and then went to Oyster Bar for happy hour while I searched for flights and wrote down the cheapest ones on the paper tablecloth. Once I filed for unemployment, I packed up and flew to Florida, my teddy bear in tow for emotional support. I ending up having an overall strange experience. I went to a strip club and got my first (and second) lap dance. I made out with a stranger after we talked about institutional racism. I got the high score on a Pacman machine at the bar. I saw a shark. I snorkeled and saw a barracuda. I listened to the wildest dreams of the most chaotic man I’ve ever met.
When I got home, I realized that I actually have to fill my time. I went for several hikes in the area and walks around Providence. I spent hours in various bookstores. I read several books and several pages of several books that I never actually finished. I spent 8 hours making a ceramic butt. I spent 30 hours on a Halloween costume. I spent 10 hours painting a Georgia O’Keefe lookalike. I watched Dune by myself in theaters. I went to the RISD museum by myself. I talked to the rats. I talked to myself, A LOT.
I made a new group of friends and got invited to barbeques, shows at The Fete, The Parlour, Dusk, Pub On Park and others, a camping trip after a wedding where we ate tomahawk steak and used starbursts as gambling chips, a festival in nowhere-Vermont where it rained for 30 hours straight, and an adult prom where we played with one of those parachutes from when we were kids.
I went on a few dates. One of them tried to ghost me and then became Facebook official with a girl six days later. One of them gave me a urinary tract infection that lasted a month which took two rounds of antibiotics to kill it, and a steroid for the allergic reaction I got from said antibiotic, which gave me mild psychosis for four days. (Thank you for that, and you owe me $110 for my medical bills and $1,000,000 for emotional damages.)
I also spent a lot of time in bed. I struggle to get out of bed most days, and at night my mind goes on a rant, and I can’t get it to shut up. That’s the part no one tells you about free time. When there’s too much of it, there aren’t enough things in the world to fill it (unless you’re rich and also have an infinite number of friends that also have free time). And so you lay there, and you lay there, and you feel guilty about laying there but cannot for the life of you get yourself up.
I’ve applied to over 50 jobs and have only received one interview and 10 flat-out rejections. Indeed gives an approximate number of applications for some of the jobs I applied for, and some said 16-30, many said 200-400, one even said over 2000. One of the “16-30” jobs was the one I got an interview for, but I cannot compete with 200-400 people. (There is no such thing as a “labor” shortage, don’t let the media fool you, there is only a shortage of people who are okay with earning less than their life is worth.)
I’m on my 15th week of applying for unemployment and haven’t received a dime yet. Thankfully, I saved enough money during quarantine and living with my parents that I can still afford rent and food. But some people are not as fortunate as me. And I don’t know how they do it. Actually, they don’t. They’re homeless (over 552,000), and they’re food insecure (over 38 million). I see them on the corners in Providence all the time. Once, I gave a man a few bucks, and his sign said that he had lost his job, so I said, me too. He sighed and said “it’s tough”. And I cried as I drove away in my goddamn 2020 hybrid, feeling like I was a piece of shit for feeling sorry for myself for even a second.
And that’s the general feeling — feeling like a piece of shit. I should be writing, but I can’t. I should be doing my dishes more often, but I can’t. I should be leaving my apartment more often, but I can’t unless I’ve been explicitly summoned. Instead, I pride myself on being able to do one thing a day– like making a nice meal, or cleaning, or grocery shopping, or a creative pursuit, or applying for jobs.
But it’s okay to take a break; I probably won’t get a break like this until I retire (or get fired again). It’s okay to feel kind of sorry for myself and also feel like a piece of shit at the same time; I went through a lot, but I also have it pretty good. It’s okay to just exist as a human being for a little while and not a cog in the capitalist machine.
If you can, make sure you have some sort of savings. I would be evicted by now if I didn’t. You may never get fired, but layoffs happen all the time, and we’re in a volatile economy right now. I never expected to be fired; my savings were to buy a house. But, as my favorite reality show always says, expect the unexpected.