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Ezra Klein's powerfully pointed Washington Post column this morning has stayed with me all day. The piece digs into a portion of Romney's video-taped statement which immediately bothered me most, but has gotten less mainstream press than other bits.

“The worst of Romney’s now-infamous comments about “the 47 percent” came in this couplet: “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

I've read plenty of other great responses to Romney's 47% remarks but this bit resonated with me something fierce:

“The poor use up an enormous amount of their mental energy just getting by. They’re not dumber or lazier or more interested in being dependent on the government. They’re just cognitively exhausted.”

Today was one of those Big Picture days where I unintentionally got a glimpse of my family's future, and felt sick with dread. Enduring insecurity is paralyzing and I do my damnedest not to focus on it but after three and a half years, the toll it has taken on us is indescribable. On days like this one, I am quite honestly mystified as to how we've even made it this far without giving up altogether.

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Big shock, it feels like working. The good news is that it feels like the RIGHT kind of working. The good kind of working. I now find myself juggling a variety of plates but even at its most hectic, I manage to remind myself that these are tastier plates than I have ever juggled before. (Ok, so there was that period of time when ONE of the plates I juggled had some super-yummy stuff on it, but it was seriously watered down by the bland paper-pushing bullshit that filled the accompanying plates.) Right now though, I'm chock-full of challenging, creative, sweat-of-the-brain-and-brow kind of work. I could not be more delighted.  

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On Friday morning, I officially gave up on the job market which long ago, gave up on me. Having done so feels both freeing and slightly terrifying. At this point though, the only thing I regret, is not having given up sooner. Before you you write me off as a quitter or a complete failure, please allow me to explain.

I picked up a booklet of recipes last week at one of the local discount markets. Unlike the usual glossy, advertisement-filled versions you find at the supermarkets, this one was simple, four sheets of stock paper stapled down the center and with a crudely colored drawing just below its title; “Feed your family for $3 (per person) a day!”. THIS is indicative of the economic environment, of how and where we are living. With the unemployment rate locally hovering around 17% for nearly three years now, the job market is glutted with desperate job seekers and precious few positions to fill. As businesses lay off employees in response to lowered demand, it becomes a vicious circle, with more and more people having less and less to spend. They say that the recession is over. The stock market has recovered. The money makers are making money again. Meanwhile, out here in the real world, we continue to struggle, trying to come to terms with the fact that many of our jobs have disappeared and are not coming back.

For nearly three years now, I have been without a job. I am what they refer to as a 99er or “the long-term unemployed”. According to June’s U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 6.3 million of us nationwide and we now account for 44% of the total unemployed. While that is a staggering statistic, numbers alone cannot convey the mental, emotional and financial devastation we have endured. After filling out hundreds of applications, mailing off thousands of resumes and sitting through dozens of interviews with nothing to show for it, I realize now that I wasted so much energy and time, and moreover, surrendered my power and future to a job market that simply isn’t there any more. As so many people have figured out, some before me, and others, perhaps alongside me, I can no longer wait for a job to save me. I am going to have to invent one for myself. Read the rest of this entry »

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I want to not be invisible anymore.

I want to get up and shower and have somewhere to go.

I want to punch the people who talk about the recession being over.

I want to not have to choose between toilet paper or dog food.

I want to take back all the money I spent on the education that does me no good now.

I want to stop mending the waistband of five-year-old sweatpants.

I want to not consider two tacos for a dollar at Jack In The Box a splurge.

I want to walk into a job interview not reeking of desperation.

I want to be able to afford a simple goddamned urn for my daughter's ashes.

I want to pay just one bill on its due date, not have to wait until the FINAL NOTICE.

I want to be able to drive across town to pick my kid up so he doesn't have to walk in the rain.

I want to have a shit job to bitch about.

I want to not panic every time the doorbell rings unexpectedly.

I want to shop at the Dollar Store because I'm thrifty, not because it is the only way I can afford luxuries like body wash, toothpaste and laundry soap.

I want to split a tab or treat someone to something.

I want to wear contact lenses again, instead of these wobbly old glasses.

I want to be able to buy a present for my goddaughters.

I want to go to the theater to see a movie and pay for my own damn ticket.

I want to drive a completely legal car legally.

I want to not have to choose between buying tampons or a pound of ground beef.

I want to buy a book that ISN'T on the 25-cent rack at the Thrift Store.

I want to stop avoiding my friends because they're pitying or worse.

I want to not have to invent new ways to rearrange my resume and STILL get no response.

I want to get my dogs their shots so I can take them to the park.

I want to drive to Santa Cruz to visit my dying friend.

I want to pay for a haircut, instead of using the kitchen scissors to “even up the ends again”.

I want to use good trash bags.

I want to wake up without dread that today is the day it will all come tumbling down.

I want to consider owning a spicebox and a mortar and pestle NOT a pipe dream.

I want a new bra.

I want to feel like a real person again.

I want to BE a real person again.

 

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Jobby Things

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I worked for six hours at the temp gig last Monday. The boss who hadn’t spoken to me beyond a clipped “hello” last week, was suddenly friendly and curious. Seems they had a position open up unexpectedly and she was hoping to slide me into it. Except that she didn’t want to tell the temp agency. And the position was not what I was looking for. Still, I agreed to consider being considered and she set up an interview for Tuesday. This wouldn’t have been a particularly unhandy move if I hadn’t already had two interviews scheduled for Tuesday. One with the County, for a position I knew virtually nothing about and the other, with a Health Care Facility, just a few blocks from our house.

The County interview was first, at 8:30 a.m. and it was a bust. Despite the fact that the position’s designation was the same as my job back in Santa Cruz, the first question poised to me was a dead giveaway that this was NOT the job I was looking for. Do you have experience in a high-energy sales position? Um, no. Did you even LOOK at my resume? I have never and have no interest in ever working in a high-energy (i.e. pushy) sales position. We were in there for ten minutes and at the end of the interview, when they asked if I had any questions, I responded with, “Yes, can you tell me what this position is and how it relates to the designation of my last job? Because honestly, they seem worlds apart.”

The Health Care Facility interview was longer. Forty-some-odd minutes in a small stuffy room with a long list of prying questions. There was a part of me, I think, that WANTED to flub the interview. Otherwise, why would I have answered that my greatest weakness was being overly compassionate, mere moments after they explained that one of my duties would be collections, a task that takes a certain bit of backbone. And why would I have off-handedly described myself in one word (is there a worse interview question ANYWHERE?) as “hopeful”. Still, they were very nice, and I thanked them as I left and drove out to the temp job where the day’s final interview was to take place.

Now I’d never before interviewed for a job that I knew up front I wouldn’t accept if it were offered, but it is an experience I now highly recommend if only for the look of utter confusion of the faces of the interviewers as I answered “I’m sure I would be.” to the question, “Do you think you might be bored in this position?”. I let them have their confusion for a full fifteen seconds before I burst out with, “Look, honestly, I’m only here because [my temp supervisor] begged me to at least meet with you, but as you’ve described the job and as you’ve looked over my resume, I think we all know it’s not the right fit.” They were very nice about it. They mentioned the possibility of a more suitable position opening up and I asked them to let me know if it did.

I arrived home Tuesday, exhausted and never ever wanting to wear my stupidly stiff interview clothes again. Two calls came in quick succession that night. The first, from the temp agency, with news of an interview with an Ethanol Company [hereafter EC] I’d been interested in, and the second, a job offer from the Health Care Facility [hereafter HCF] I’d interviewed with that same morning. I impulsively accepted both.

On Thursday, I grudgingly submitted to the background check and piss test for the HCF job. Of all the reasons I could give you for not wanting this job, I suspect, the fact that my maternal grandmother died in this same facility twenty-some-odd years ago is, in and of itself, enough. Still, four months without a real job is three-and-a-half months too long and I cannot turn down a decent gig in hopes of a perfect one.

Early Friday afternoon, I interviewed with a woman from the EC and was granted a second interview, tentatively scheduled for this coming week. This presents a possibly sticky situation, as I am due to start work at the HCF tomorrow morning. Is that everything? Yes, I suppose it is. On the jobby front anyway. I’ll be heading over to the HCF tomorrow morning to start training for the undesirable job, while still trying to figure out how I can squeeze the nail-it-or-not interview for the coveted job into a lunch hour before the end of the week.

There are other things I wanted to mention here. Important things even. But the night is aging and so I’ll leave them for another day. Cross your fingers. And pray I don’t get caught hoarding cards up my sleeve.