Tag Archives: unemployment

The Stormy Psychic Seas of Job-Huntin'

The thing about the unemployed-becoming-self-employed-or-something lifestyle is, it’s fight-or-flight, feast-or-famine for a while.
It’s a reactionary life. “What’s out there? Jump! Get it! There it is! Don’t let it escape!”
When it’s about job-hunting, other pursuits in life tend to get dropped while opportunity gets pursued.
At the moment, that’s where I’m at. I have to work as much as I can RIGHT NOW because I don’t know what’s coming tomorrow. I could sit around and collect unemployment insurance and do nothing, but I’d rather be working. I’m thrilled to have the chance.
When it comes to taking jobs, I’m old enough to know that not just anything will do. When it’s 25% of your weekly life, including sleep, you better fucking like what you do, or at least who you’re doing it for and with.
There comes a point in one’s life when one should realize a job interview isn’t just about them interviewing you, it’s about them being good enough for your commitment. This is the first time I’ve ever been patient enough to see it that way and I’ve come close with some amazing opportunities, some of which aren’t yet played through.
Unemployment is a hard, hard road. I don’t care who you are or what you’ve been through, if you don’t learn new things about yourself during unemployment, dude, yer doin’ it wrong. Most of us, it’s probably one of the toughest tests, and most educational passages, of our lives.
I’ve been that person in the past who gets laid off, then the next day has a new resume, and nine days later has a shiny new job. I’ve done that. And it was one of the worst six months of my life. Including my mother’s death. Seriously. Bad choices equal bad results.
Getting A job, ANY job, is easy. They have books on it, you know. It’s a method. Look pretty, smile, be funny and warm and engaging, do stuff during your life that looks good on a resume, learn the answers, know how to talk, and really give a shit. It ain’t for everyone to master, no, but it can be learned.
The right job? Whew. They’re like blue moons and honest politicians, they’re out there — it’s just real damn hard to come across one.
Me, I’m in an era of transition. Whatever happens in the coming days will shape my year(s) to come. And it’s totally up in the air.
How often do we get to enjoy THIS? Uncertainty, hope, possibility, unpredictability, the unknown, variety? Most of us, we find a groove in life and off we go. That’s the path we tread for months, years, and even decades: Routine.
I called a dear friend on the weekend and told him a situation I had to decide about. Do I press forward despite the personal risk? He took a deep breath and sighed, we batted the idea around for a while. At the end, he commented, “I’m jealous: The unknown. I don’t envy the choice, but I’m jealous of the possibility.”
For years, he’s gotten up, worked at the same store, same people, same routine. For years, I had, too.
There’s a comfort in such a routine. It’s not exciting, but you know your bank account empties and refills, ebbing and flowing like any river of life.
This fluttery what-will-I-get confusion and possibility I’m living under these days, it’s driving me sort of insane, but it’s also something I know I might not experience again for 5 or 10 years. If ever.
All that being said… I’m glad I’m getting closer to resolution. I’m ready for a new chapter. I’m ready to work on other areas of my life. I want my financial picture clear and reliable so I can move back to feeling, and being, creative — with abandon.
The long things drag on, the more I feel like I should censor my creative efforts. @Smuttysteff who writes The Cunting Linguist? Sure, that says “hire me.” Well, actually, unbeknownst to some, it does say just that. Still, I’m not a fan of this creative apprehension.
A year ago, the Olympics were rolling into Vancouver. Since then, I’ve grown a lot through taking chances, confronting fears, and believing in myself in a quietly persistent way through some trying times. I’ve had refreshers about what’s important in life — and who.  A year ago, I didn’t know I was about to lose my job. I never would’ve predicted the year that followed, but there you have it.
Even now, I’ve no idea what’s around the corner, except that it’s hurry-up-and-wait time.
But what I can tell you is, I hope I never forget some of the lessons I’ve learned this year, or the old ones I’ve been reminded of.
Adversity’s your friend. Suck it up, buttercup. Become better. Find your weaknesses and replace them with strength. Unemployment is a relentless opportunity to discover who you really are and what you really need.
Unless, you know, you actually enjoy the living-and-operating-from-a-place-of-fear approach to unemployment.
It can be a long ride, man. Best advice is, buckle up and see where the hell it goes. It might just be an end destination you never woulda seen coming.
With that, it’s on with my unpredictable-yet-not week. Oy vey.

Interdimensional Limbo

When I transition through phases in life, I tend to find myself sort of mentally overwhelmed, and my response to it is that I find one thing to focus on, to just get somewhere, then I can take a look at the larger picture from a better place.
Or, you know, something.
I’m onto a “me” phase out of necessity. Things are in the works, big change is afoot for this here writer.
Coming up on July 1st, I’m officially un(der)employed.
Happy Canadian independence (repatriation, if yer picky) day, indeed.
The Canadian system allows us to earn about 25% of our working salary on top of unemployment benefits, legally and without financial penalty. It makes life much, much easier — puts the food on the table when benefits only cover my basic costs of living, not even food.
I’m lucky, I’ve got that 25% worktime on my hands. My present/former employers do love me and I get work when I need it / they have it. So, you know, I eat. I like this.
Do I want to go back there full-time long-term?
Well, I’m faced with knowing I’ve given the last 10 years of my life to an industry that is at the mercy of international currencies, cultural trends, taxation policies, and government legislation.
Time and time again, I’ve gotten the ax. It’s unpredictable.
“Well, why do it,” you ask? Working in film is a lifestyle choice. The people are hip, fun, cool. The jobs are plentiful in variety and come in waves. It’s creative but structured. It’s an industry you work in because you’re a fan — anything you can do to be a part of film? Yeah, diggit. You contributed. You’re a part of art immortal, a member of a creation team.
But I’m too old for this shit.
Being Canadian, there’s lots of great options available. As a worker in a long-tenured position, I can return to school — which I’d have to pay for — and receive unemployment benefits for up to 2 years. I’ll be looking into some options in the coming weeks, but sort of know what I’d like to pursue.
What a time of change, though.
Never coulda seen this coming last year. What a wild ride the last three months have been. I already know some of what’s coming for the next three, too, and it’s just more of a wild ride.
When I lost my job, my attitude was “Well, I can’t change that, but I can be open to what this time brings.”
I see some people resisting the change life’s thrown at them of late, acting from a place of fear instead of empowerment. I ain’t judging. I’ve been there before.
There’s a certain salty confidence one gains from hard times. Lord knows I done seen mine.
I’ve never been as confident in myself as I am now, but I’m also at an absolute loss to tell you what my life will entail. I know aspects of it, sure — writing, speaking, doing comedy, losing weight, looking for clients, et al… but where it’ll lead? Who knows.
It’s the mystery that makes it fun. It’s the intrigue that makes my eyes sparkle with curiosity. I’ve loved the weird detours I’ve had so far, and can’t wait for whatever unexpected discoveries come my way.
As long as I’m eating month to month? Well, hey, man. Let’s see.
If you’ve never read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, it’s one of those books that’s in that crowd everyone should read in college — Siddhartha, Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, etc. It’s a book about a young shepherd boy who dreams of achieving his goal one night, and sets off in search of treasures in far away lands. It’s a fable, and it’s a wonderful little novella.
Along the way he is frequently told “Maktub,” which apparently translates from the Arabic to mean “It is written.”
Beautiful thought but I’m not so sure I agree. I can’t believe the strangeness I’ve endured year in, year out is written.
Life seems like a game of celestial pick-up sticks to me, my friends. Throw what you can, get what you can, and see what you can make of it.
Perhaps, though, life is written. Perhaps I just need to have a sly smile and know my life will take me the right places, because I know myself and I know my dreams. Perhaps, in that way, it really is written.
Life really is a gorgeous mystery sometimes. It’s nice to believe in the mystical, to think there’s some cosmic puppeteer helping to orchestrate incredible happenings of rich experiences, if you’re willing to play the role and follow the program.
The last time my life began moving in strange and mythical ways, I landed my ass in the Yukon for a year — living in the land of the Midnight Sun, reading dead writers, learning about writing, and experiencing my dream of seeing Northern Lights night after night.
There’s a lot to be said for sitting back and telling life to take the wheel for a while. Who knows where it feels like goin’?
It ain’t the destination, it’s the journey. If you’re always fucking with the navigation and the “right” way to go, there’s some amazing unexpected happenings you’re liable to miss.
Chill, Winston. Enjoy the ride. Have a destination in mind but be open to detours. It’s the best way to travel.

A Sly Smile Kinda Morning

The sky is an iridescent grey, at once inspiring and eerie.
My day is stretched before me with a loose idea of all the things I have to do, mostly of the meetings-and-appointments sort. A murky mess sits at the bottom of a mug I wish was filled with fresh black coffee. I just shrug at its emptiness and type on.
Inside, calmness has settled in. A calmness I probably haven’t felt in a number of years.
It began yesterday morning with a kind of prescient feeling about how much I could or would get done during the day. I blew that out of the water and settled my to-do list with great authority, meeting and beating all aspirations for the day.
At the end, I decided I’d finally take a look at my finances. For the first month of my unemployment I’ve applied the Ostirich Approach to my situation — only after I’d taken a hard look at the bottom line of what I would need to live on each month, and had the vague notion I might be okay until June. Then, I buried my head, spent as little as possible, and just did my shit, with the assumption that Spending Almost Nothing was all I needed to do.
Much of what I did spend was covered by “found” money — gifts from a couple kind people. (You fucking rock.)
I knew when the month started it would be tight and was 95% sure I would either be deferring my loan payment or telling my landlord I needed an extra week to pay the rent. I mean, the reality is, the first month of unemployment is ALWAYS the hardest.
I was in the situation of having had a bad-spending winter, followed by the Olympics crushing my savings, and had NO idea that a complete lay-off loomed. I thought I’d lose a day of work a week — I was praying for it — as we’d applied for the Workshare program (spreading a lay-off throughout the company, with the government paying 55% of the one day a week each employee gives up).
I never thought I’d be laid off entirely this year. And after a year spent rehabbing a back injury and two years of having to replace entire wardrobes with every season due to weight-loss, and that I’ve been making lower-middle-class income in one of the world’s most expensive cities… well, yeah, no savings either.
But I managed to get enough ducks in a row as soon as the “OMG, lay-offs might be coming” fear that hit around March 24th, before finding out on the 25th that I would be entirely laid off, likely the next day, that I sort of had a fighting chance.
I was also insistent with my employer that the additional 3 days of work at the end of March would make the difference between me surviving until June at least.
And it did.
I finally scrounged up everything I had last night — not including a little emergency money I’ve set aside or what’s on my Visa — and know I can pay rent AND groceries until the middle of the month, without even receiving my government employment insurance benefit. AND I keep what little safety net I have intact.
That changes everything.
I feel like it’s the stamp of approval. “Go forth, Steff,” it says. “All will be well.”
I know, I’m supposed to be all embarrassed that my money’s this tight.
I’m supposed to be ashamed.
Wealth is a sign of success and position and talent and brains, isn’t it?
Fuck you.
Fuck ANYONE who thinks I need to be ashamed that things have been so close.
I’ve NEVER been irresponsible with money. All I’ve been guilty of is being average with money. At my income, spending an additional 10% every month cripples you in a hurry.
I am NOT my adversity. FUCK that.
Try losing 70 pounds and having to buy new wardrobes every three months, or getting so severely injured you spend a month laying on a floor and for months have to take cabs and pay 20% more in groceries  just for the convenience, because you’re in too much pain to bus from a further, cheaper store.
That I’m even paying rent tomorrow without any interceding forces makes me more proud than you’ll ever fucking know.
Fuck anyone who thinks money and whether someone gets through a jam financially is a reflection at all of that person’s intelligence, ability, talent, or resilience. Money is as much about luck and selective adversity as it is savings abilities.
Some people just have more things to overcome. In my life, money was always the villain. That line between getting by and barely surviving is thinner than most people might realize.
For once, money doesn’t feel like my villain anymore.
I’ve got rent, baby. And food. And I’m gonna buy me some wine and a steak tonight to celebrate.
[shaking head]
Yeah. I don’t know… I feel like I have to say more:
So many of you need to feel what kissing poverty is like. You need to feel how much it hurts inside when you’re terrified about paying the rent or you’re sure you’ve got to resort to drastic measures to get by. You need to know what it’s like to think hope is too expensive a luxury for your position. You need to imagine what that fear’s like when it’s not just you it affects.
You need to know how hard it is when money’s not within your grasp. Everyone needs to feel that.
I hope I never feel it again. And I hope I always remember that pain. I hope I always have the empathy I wish more people had shown me earlier — but so many are showing me, even showering me with, now.
Today is a day of gratitude, goodness, and calm. For me, at least. You? You can choose that, too.
Take a minute to think about what you really have, and pray you never come close to losing it.
Some fears aren’t fit for anyone. But gratitude is one-size-fits-all.
Beyond the talk of money? My future’s looking great. What a ride this summer will be. Stay tuned.
PS: Methinks unemployment might’ve been the best thing that ever happened to me. Wait’ll you get a load of me, baby.

Believe, Baby

I’m blogging so much because I don’t want to write my book. You realize this, don’t you?
That’s okay, it’s just temporary. I’m adjusting. Going straight to work on the book is too ballsy psychologically — it’s accepting I’ve really been laid off, and it’s acknowledging that I have choices I need to make about my future.
It’s also terrifying financially, because writing a book TODAY likely doesn’t pay for two to three years, if ever. But we don’t talk about “if ever” because I’m choosing to believe the hype.
Have you ever read my writing about believing the hype? Possibly the single most powerful line I’ve ever learned off a talkshow, that’s what that is.
Patti LaBelle was on an episode of Oprah that was all about Fabulous Women in their 50s or something, and the question du moment was, “If you could tell your 35-year-old self any one thing, what would it be?”
So, Patti grins and goes, “Believe the hype, baby. Believe the hype.”
I’m TRYING to force myself to have this point of view where I believe I’m All That, Yo, but it’s difficult. Let’s face it, some insecurities take a lifetime to get over. I’m working on things. But getting tossed from a job, even if it’s by a boss who’s so upset her eyes have been red all day, doesn’t do a lot to prop up the self-esteem, no matter how channeled you are into running with the unemployment opportunity.
This week’s about transitioning — it’s about resting and chilling, getting in touch with silence and not talking to people. It’s about thinking about things I want, and little things I need to accomplish. Mostly, it’s just finding focus, cleaning house, and recharging batteries. And lots of baking. Oh, lord. Step back from the flour, lady.
Not sure I’ve explained the particulars of my situation to y’all.
I’m in the awkwardly strange situation of being in an open unemployment.
I’m laid off indefinitely; they have three months to get enough work to give me my job back, but someone else has seniority. On July 1st, I either will be back at work or cut a fat severance cheque. If, however, I was to take a new job before that 3 months, I’d lose severance. If I decline to return to the job when I’m offered work again, I lose severance.
The uncertainty of this time off makes me wonder how committed I can be to it. It makes me think about choices I have to make. My bosses know theirs is the last job I ever want. Everyone knows I want to write a book.
I’m not good with uncertainty.
You tell me a thing’s a certain way, I’m head-down and moving on, man. Tell me what is, and I’ll show you how to accept it and get over it. But keep me in suspense, have me living in the unknown of this-way-or-that? A part of my brain’s always chowing down on the potentials to try to process the invariable “what ifs” that come with.
But when it’s What Is? Pfft, I’m down with that. I just need to know, then I make a plan and run. Otherwise, my focuses scatter and I’m a twitchy scattered fool too.
For now? All I can do is reduce the chaos around me as I try to figure out the direction I’m supposed to go in.
I’m pretty sure that direction is writing.
It doesn’t make it any less scary to be “pretty sure” of it. I’m fucking terrified.
Writing’s easily the hardest art to pursue emotionally, and that’s biased, sure, but every other art has buffers between you and it. Art can abstract and be only an aspect of a view into the artist’s mind. Photography reveals nothing of the picture-snapper. Music can be picked apart in 20 different ways and can be liked and disliked at the same time. “Great vocals, but the melodies sort of suck.”
But, writing?
There’s nothing HERE but my words. That’s IT. Hi, reader! See? Nothing. Me, you, my words. That’s what we got, that’s all that’s there.
Emotionally, signing up to write a book at the same time I’ve become unemployed and can’t afford a life at all, it’s just kinda like agreeing to take a long dark walk into the deepest parts of my mind that, y’know, I’m more than happy to avoid. All alone — very, very alone. And when I want a break from it? I’m too broke to take social breaks — just getting out of my Cube Ghetto costs $4.50 return.
I’m not scared of monsters, I’m scared of long dark walks in unrelenting caves. Like writing. And I’m scared of not having excuses. I gotta put my money where my mouth is. I hate that.
Work — the 9-to-5 rat-race kinda dealio — is an excuse. “Oh, I never do X anymore because of work.” It’s such a time obligation and mental distraction that it’s easy to buy or sell the “got no time, I’m a workin’ stiff” excuse.
Take work out of the equation, then what can you blame when you avoid it? Nothing.
You know what I got?
I got no excuses. You, me, the fat lady in the street, we all know it. I got no excuses. I got time, I supposedly got the will, I got skillz. I just ain’t got no excuses.
For now, I have the “but my house is a mess!” excuse but that’ll be dead and gone by Monday, I imagine. Don’t worry, I’m stretching that out.
Then? Yeah. Onward.
Belief in yourself is easier when it’s not the only thing between you and the street. I’m not well-monied. I’m one of those people who’s two cheques from the street at any given time. This city isn’t kind to the lower-income sorts, and fear’s something I’m pretty in touch with right now.
But I still got belief. Do I believe the hype? Nah. Not yet. But I believe discussion’s merited, and that’s a start.
[Oh, and I’ll point out the PAYPAL DONATION button top right. And if you think I’ve got gall for doing so, just remember who’s doing the writing. There’s nothing wrong with me believing my work possibly might be worth something to you. I’m also pretty aware not many people have money to give these days. There’s nothing wrong with me point out a link, is all.]

What to Learn from Unemployment

I woke up with a smile this morning. I woke up unemployed.
It’s not permanent… yet. They have three months to hire me back. If they can’t, I get severance then. If they do, tickety-boo.  Just not for a while, please.
I’m so fuckin’ tired from runnin’ so fuckin’ long.
I need to stop. I need to breathe. I need to be.  I need to remember small things, simple moments, big dreams, little lessons, and good times. I need this.
Can’t afford this. But I need this.
I used to find stillness often. I’m that person who has literally sat still and watched light change on a landscape (during some midnight summer sun in the Yukon, a religious experience if you’re into that kinda thing). I used to know I could stop, just stand somewhere, just stare, just be.
Be someone doing nothing someplace for some time. Sometimes, it’s everything.
Then I got on a hamster wheel and just started running.
In the last year, I’ve finally forced myself to pull back — a lot. But my downtime has been nothing but fraud. Downtime? Not so much. Just… distraction. I was doing THIS, not that.
Years ago, I was hanging by the window on a ferry ride home, dreading that moment when I stepped off that boat and transcended island time right back into my rat race. This guy, I guess, saw something of that in me, and we got into this conversation. He commented that cities were built to distract us — “Hey, look at the shiny toy! You’re not unhappy at all! You don’t hate your job! Your boss isn’t a fucking prick! Your commute doesn’t suck balls! Hey, there’s a new nightclub — let’s go drink and pretend we’re anywhere but here!”
The city life, we’re all so busy rushing from the job to this to that and fitting him in while squeezing that in, and saving the date in case that other thing falls through, which depends on her contract panning out and —
Oh, Jesus. There are days I just want to stand on the sidewalk and shout at everyone “FUCKING STOP! Doesn’t it get TIRED? Aren’t you SICK of this endless shit? NOTHING EVER CHANGES. It just comes with new toys!”
But then I wonder if it’s just me, and I’m tired of checking into the same plastic neighbourhood and seeing all the same people with their shiny toys and lives of distraction, where nothing real gets said and everything’s all wink-and-nod.
Yeah. I woke up with a smile this morning. Yes, it’ll be hard.
But I’ve been wise to that distraction for so long. I see the veneer of happiness so many people wear every day, the air of lies and fakery that exude as people try to convince themselves that, YES, when they were six and daydreaming before Saturday morning cartoons, that THIS was a life they’d be happy to live — tied to a smart phone and plugging in detail of every single day, microprocessing life and yet never really ever stopping to remember what simply sitting still in a moment feels like. It’s all there in the subtle sighs and sunken shoulders, the trancelike moments where they fall away for just a — and then snap right back into this.
I think we’re all sucked into a “Is this all there is?” moment every now and then. Sure, we convince ourselves this is a pretty good gig, but sometimes the bigness of the world just magnifies the smallness of our lives, emphasizing how stupid it is that our daily grind should seem so immensely important when we know that 15 years from now all these stupid fucking appointments this week will mean jack shit.
I’m unemployed.
It’s time to recalibrate.
It’s time to break the hamster wheel.
There’s a gift, you know, in poverty.
Desperation can be a beautiful thing if you know how to channel it. Being forced to enjoy the simple and the free can remind one just how little it takes to enjoy a moment.
Yes, you might love the chef’s tasting menu at West and the flight of wine you had, but I imagine some sunsets with beer and buck-slice pizza, spent on a log at the beach, would blow your fancy-ass meal out of the water. The laughter, the comfort, the trust, the beauty… True ease.
You can’t buy that. You can trick yourself that it is up for grabs, but… you can’t buy that. It’s not for sale. Only the appearance of it is for sale.
I’ve had simple barbecues, a few good friends, an afternoon with no end pin-pointed, that have left every person there thinking “Yeah, no one’s enjoying their place or moment more than I am right here, right now. It’s this beer, that hot dog, this place, those people, and this feeling of weightlessness and grounding that comes with.”
I wrote once that I want the trappings of success but not the trap. You can keep your microscheduled, nanoprogrammed life of pace and panic. If it means you get the $80 meals and the lights and pizzazz, so be it.
I’m fuckin’ done, Martha.
I need me some time. I need me some mornings when I can roll over with a dopey grin and grumble into my pillow as I try to decide if I get up now and nap later, or sleep another hour, knowing the only other pressing conundrum is when to brew some coffee or start to write.
Other people have money, get to leave town, leave the country, find their fuckin’ selves. Well, some of us are stuck here, broke, hangin’ on a dime and a prayer, clasping at any five minutes we get without obligation.
I’m fine with that. I’m stuck here, broke, nothing but a vague sense I can get by and a will to write the best hardcover memoir you’ll read in 2012.
It’s like Ken Kesey once commented, something to the effect that, if you can’t find God in your backyard in Kansas, he ain’t gonna be found at the Egyptian pyramids, either.
In fact, I think “soul-searching” done abroad in fancy healing retreats may not be as beneficial as tackling those mysteries while trapped in your life. I think you have to earn it harder, you have to want it more, you have to dig for greater meaning. I think it’s too easy when you’re off at some yoga retreat. When you’re here, in your life, you need to make other people understand your search, you have to value yourself to do the work, and you have to balance the life you lead with the life you want.
It’s not easy and it ain’t for chumps.
Find your soul at home and you won’t have to worry about it falling away from you when you “return” to life.
This summer, I find my soul. I catch up with it. I figure out what the beginning after this end is supposed to be. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it better this time.
My life is a gift, man. My adversity is my opportunity.
It’s times like these I call upon this much-loved Bruce Chatwin quote I’ve posted on so many occasions:

“A white explorer in Africa, anxious to press ahead with his journey, paid his porters for a series of forced marches. But they, almost within reach of their destination, set down their bundles and refused to budge. No amount of extra payment would convince them otherwise.
They said they had to wait for their souls to catch up.”

Yeah. That’s right. I woke up with a smile. And you?