Dispatch from the edge of recession: eight long months, and counting

I'm a real-life Hannah Horvath (from Girls), sans the dramatic friendships, awkward sexual relationships, and hopefully, without the terrible decision-making. I've got too much education and student loan debt, and not enough experience in anything to qualify me for any job. Oh, except retail -- Hannah's own post-liberal-arts-education job is as a pretty awful barista in a coffee shop. I work part time as a sales associate at Gap. As is the new game, I had an amazing full time job for ten weeks. It ends tomorrow, and I have no plan. I really really hoped, back in October when I began the seasonal gig, that by this time in the year, I would have found another opportunity and had something lined up for the New Year. I have my job at Gap; don't get me wrong, I am thankful for that.

This week, I've gotten two notices on jobs I've more than qualified for, that they are moving ahead with another candidate. Three weeks ago, I inadvertently turned down a job offer by honestly responding in a phone call that I could not leave my current job with only three-days' notice. By the time I called back a few hours later, to see if there was any way we could make arrangements due to a two-week overlap in work, I was told they had already moved ahead with another candidate. Another candidate, someone else, someone clearly better for this job. Don't worry, there are other opportunities. Let me know how I can help. 

I'm tired of false promises, and I'm filled with regret over graduate school. What was the point of training myself for a career field that has absolutely no job opportunities  while I could have gone straight into the work force and at least got some actual work experience? Now I'm stuck with a master's degree, but everyone wants that plus years of other accolades and experience. And I don't have what the hiring managers see as real-world real-work skills to even be an editor, or marketing or PR manager for a company. More and more I doubt the choice I made back in the summer of 2010, even though yes, the job market for new grads then was possibly even worse than now. But when you're down and out, you doubt and wonder.

I've been applying to jobs in earnest since January 1, 2012 -- a full year of exhausting, depressing job searching. Being on this side of things, I have so much sympathy for those who have been out of work for many months and years, because I understand how absolutely disheartening it is to hear rejection after rejection, if we hear anything at all. It's enough to make you throw in the towel and sit depressed on the couch. I honestly never, in a million years, saw myself as the graduate who would be in this position. I've always had multiple part-time jobs and worked hard for good grades in college. If there were idiots and slackers all around me, I was in the ten percent who was not. But it looks like I am still not out of the rough post-graduate phase.

I am not under any illusions: I don't expect to be in charge, have my "dream job" or be a shoe-in for a position. I just want an interview, a chance to prove my skills and articulate my passion. And I just want a job that remotely relates to my career field (seriously, I could argue almost any kind of work) for a pay rate slightly above the poverty rate. I would like to be above the poverty level in 2013. I've been out of school now for eight long, confusing, disheartening, scary, real months. And counting. Floating between part-time, contract stints, full-time temporary.

 

Dispatch from the Edge of a Recession: Hit Me When I'm Up

After eleven weeks out of the workforce, I started a job this week and got slammed with a $100-boot on my car (for the first time in my life) all at once. Way to get hit when you're (almost) up. On the way up, we'll say. The most painful part of this incident: I was parked for about 8 minutes to get a $1 sub sandwich. I haven't received a paycheck in eleven weeks, have been barely hanging on, relying heavily on my credit card to make end's meet. Then I get my measly weekly unemployment check the same day I park in the spot that gets me a $100 boot. (I actually didn't even apply for unemployment until about three weeks ago, didn't even realize I could get money to help me during this phase. Man, it would have helped the whole time... but oh well.)

I'm rationalizing the sickening amount of wasted money by not getting a few other things. I've lost some weight since I've started running, and the actual width part of my bras is too loose. I really need new bras, to be perfectly honest; they're already a old. Instead, I've taken them in, with some unprofessional-looking, but very effective seams on both sides of the clasps at the back. I was going to get a desperately-needed haircut--my bangs are so long their not bangs anymore--but I'll keep the weird hippie look for a few more weeks. Hey, they already hired me, right? I could always use my old, dull barber scissors and take to my own hair.

I will be getting my first check at my new job (which is full-time but temporary up to the week of Christmas) next week. So that's a good thing. It was just so painful to have this incident now, as things are looking up. Why me, why me?

I was angry. I was yelling, and shaking, and sobbing, and cussing at these two men--all of these things, except the sobbing, are quite unlike me. And I was wayyyy late getting back to my new workplace, which is awesome. 

But then I had to get back into my cheerful elf voice, writing on the marketing team at the Christmas publishing company where I work. I honestly felt like calling it a day. But I kept it together because, first, now I needed all these hours more than ever, and second, these people are still getting to know how I operate, and it is imperative that I not fall apart and seem like one of those people who always has drama and is always crying at work. I am not one of these people, so today, when I get my first car boot, would not be a day to appear to be one of them.

Every time I thought about what happened this afternoon, my eyes would well up and I would feel sick. I thought about it over and over, what could I have possibly done to make those guys' jobs the absolute worst? I hope they really hate that job. Because if I had to stand there while some woman lost it--truly lost it--in the parking lot, and scream at me, I might hate my job.

I'm still not over it, but as the day has worn on, this raggedy, awful, headachy day, I just had to let it roll off of me. Ok, so it hurts now. It won't hurt forever. It's like back when overdraft fees were at their peak, and I was an undergrad, getting hit with fines multiple times a year. Nothing brings naseau faster than not having money you thought you did and seeing that red balance, or walking around the corner to find a $100 fine attached to your car. I hope there is a time in my life when I'm not at the bottom of the barrel scratching and can pay my monthly bills without my account balance zeroing out around $6 when they're all paid. I'm thankful to pay my bills, but even these last few months, that has been hard.

Honestly, I didn't see myself becoming a victim of the current economy: one of those recent-grad, lots of student loans, can't-find-work demographic that is touted and studied and reported on. With a boot. Today was a reminder that yes, you might be seeing some good news, some professional success come your way, but don't think that means this is the end of the roadblocks. They are all over, they are hidden and often conniving to stack up all at once, and they will never let you off the hook. I resign and concede to the inevitability  of the occasional really awful boot.

A collection [On National Geographic love, and deciding what to keep]

Since I began subscribing to National Geographic in 2004, as a  sophomore in high school, I have only paid for the issues that I get via my membership to the Society. But I acquired an enormous collection, every additional one having been gifted to me. That meant that a good friend would find a singular old copy in a thrift store and pick it up for seventy-five cents, or my Mom would buy me a few if were somewhere together where they were a decent price.

Twice it meant that a retired person was looking for a place to pass off their collection--decades of being a Society member and magazine recipient--once it had grown so massive.

I know exactly what they felt like.

Through these two sizable donations of magazines, I had a spotty collection of 1958 through about 1982 (with some years almost complete, others almost incomplete) as well as an impeccable, full-run of 1990 through 1999, packaged neatly in brown leather containers, two per year. My Mom and I trekked to Macon for that collection, answering an ad in the newspaper that anyone was welcome to the collection, no charge, if they came to get them. We drove. Add to that the years I have, uninterrupted, from 2004 to 2012.

Basically, this was a huge number, a massive group of famously dense and beautiful magazines. I had them stored for years in my parents' barn in Rubbermaid containers filled so high I could not even lift them. If I moved them, I had to solicite help from my brothers. No one tells you how unwieldy a collection can be, how cumbersome it can be to store, keep, and move giant colletions. I can see how old packrats would just never, ever move.

Well, my parents are mobile people, and we move a lot--my independent self included. In 2011, they sold their 4-bedroom home--finally empty-nesters--and downsized to a one-bedroom converted loft in an old brick building on Main Street in Dublin, Georgia, as part of their larger plan to move into the mission field in Europe.

This meant I was faced with the task that most adult children handle in the wake of their parents' deaths, weeding through everything they own to determine what you want to keep, what goes where, who gets what, and all those other, kind of difficult questions. Because we do have issues, as humans, with the stuff we have, the things we keep, the things we carry.

Do you keep the dolls you played with, so that in a decade or more your own daughter can play with them? That's a long time to keep dolls for an eventual purpose. Will your daughter even care to play with them? They take up a lot of space. (They are American Girl dolls, and yes, I kept them. They occupy a stuffed Rubbermaid in my coat closet now.)

What about sweaters hand-knitted by your grandmother? Dishes, quilts, paintings, the Christmas ornaments we made as kids, which are basically old faded construction paper and popsicle sticks, glue peeling off ... you can only say its sentimental so many times, before you are inundated with too much stuff. We had some difficult sessions. And my Mom kept those old Christmas ornaments, just some of the best ones that were still in mostly one piece, in a separate container with the Christmas stuff.

Anyway, I got rid of a huge amount of my National Geographic collection. There were just too many. I kept a few dozen of my favorites from the 1958 to 1982 collection, and then all of the 1990 - 1999 and 2004 to present collections. This is still, probably, far too many for me to have. But I'll see to that when I need to.

They went to a good home, a center that helps children in Dublin. They were certainly not fit for the trash, with so much knowledge, culture, history, science, perspective on the world, and beautiful, classic photography. I get nostalgic, but then I remember how many I can still see in my house right now. I guess that's why my tattoo is an homage to that yellow-bordered magazine, that opened up my high-school, teenage perspective to the world, deciding what my goals would be in life.

 

Life, at this moment

How can anyone resist a survey, right?
Right now, I am...
:: marveling at my new, beautiful set of rings from an amazing silversmith in Jerusalem, Israel--they feel perfect
:: tired of weekly assigned readings for my classes. I'm truly, honestly over reading for class.
:: laughing because that is what you do when things are out of your control and you just have to embrace the moment, and the unknown beyond it
:: overwhelmed by the effort, art, and never-ending disheartening search for a full-time job after graduation
:: pleasantly surprised that there is a cupcake kiosk right near my office that is better than any I've been able to find lately. dangerous.
:: wondering where in the heck I will be living in 4 months' time (also, what I'll be doing...)
:: grateful for my boyfriend
:: hearing silence, one of my most favorite sounds
:: going to the coffee shop down the street soon, since I skipped breakfast and my regular morning cup earlier
:: planning an art project
:: digging deeper every day into the history, activism, and modern-day issues surrounding HIV/AIDS and its devastation
:: creating new friendships (by being brave enough to seek them out)
:: listening to something greater than me, trusting that having no plan is OK right now
:: saying less is more
:: inspired by every square I view of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and the stories and lives behind each
:: happy to be in Atlanta, Georgia
:: delighted that my capstone project might actually work
:: waiting to see what meaning I can create out of my passions, interests, and talents -- is there a job that suits all I seek to do, be, change, in this world?
:: being the person I am, each day at a time