This is the last installment of the Unemployed Series on Gawker. It's so heartbreaking. I feel so strongly about this, because I was very much in her shoes a few years ago. Unemployed, lost, disillusioned, alone. Trying to find room for the things you love in the trunk of a car. Worried about a beloved pet. I lived in a motel room, on friends' couches, air mattressses, in their glorified basement/garage 'guest rooms,'—the list goes on. I slept on a hardwood floor for 9 months, using old blankets and winter coats to cushion/cover me.
I cried in the middle of really this. I want to tell her that it DOES get better. She can come back to the place she loved and who she was. It takes a long fucking time to come back from the abyss—and not just materialistically. Mentally, it's a long path to pull yourself out of of the dread and panic.
I can only write this now...after a two-year and seven-month unemployment odyssey that has literally drained me of my home, my life and myself.
I was laid off in August of 2010. Publishing. Publicity. Do the math. Neither industry has done well with the state of the economy. I should also note that I'm 40, and I'm the only child of a single mother who passed away when I was in my twenties. I have no family. No father. No aunts or uncles to count on. No grandparents. When I say that I don't have a single family member to turn to, I don't mean, "Oh, I don't want to have to ask my parents!" I mean I literally have no one.
Immediately after the layoff, I found on a temporary assignment, covering a maternity leave, while looking for a permanent job. I thought that maybe I'd be looking for three...four months max. In the past, I'd usually been offered a position after interviewing with only one or two companies. I aced interviews. In fact, it was almost like a sport to me.
By the time my temporary assignment had ended four months later, I thought that maybe it would be another month before I got an offer — which would give me some time off for the first time in my fifteen-plus year career to just relax. I had a decent severance package and with unemployment, I had no problems paying my rent on my Brooklyn apartment.
I relaxed, but I also began a diligent search to find my next job. I applied above my title. I applied beneath my title. Three months went by before I had an interview. I was told that I was wonderful and talented...but that I was a little too experienced. Interviews began to pick up, and I heard that same phrase over and over again — when people actually took the time to follow up with me. So I took my graduation year off my resume and deleted the first few years of my career.
There were, of course, jobs I thought were mine. I'd aced the interviews. I liked the people. I'd do my follow-up. One e-mail...two e-mails...three. And then, I'd never hear from them again.
I had registered with over twenty headhunters. I'd check in with them weekly. Not a single one of them ever sent me out. I had registered with several temp agencies. Again, I phoned every week, and nothing. I searched a second, third and fourth time just to make sure I'd contacted every temp agency in the city...and most of them required serious administrative experience. I re-wrote my resume to try and fake it. Nothing.
In September of 2011, I broke what little I had in my 401K to cover my rent. I had a very nasty landlord who was quite verbal about his desire to sell the house. I didn't have a lease to protect me.
By that point, I'd been on close to 100 interviews...and nothing. I'm a good publicist. With solid contacts. And years of experience. Apparently 15 years too much experience. They wanted kids right out of college so that they didn't have to pay them what someone at my level should command. I'd beg — I'd tell them I can live with less. Still, no offer.
One year went into two, and my cash was gone. I was still getting unemployment, but I'm single. I lived alone. I couldn't possibly cover the rent on a mere $405 a week. I asked my landlord if we could work something out — if he could just cut me a break because I was trying so hard. He sent me a nasty letter in return, copying everyone but Jesus.
My eventual debt of nearly $5,000 from friends who helped me to pay the rent for the first six months of 2012 began.
I begged everyone I knew in the industry to help me find some freelance work. But it's amazing how many of your so-called "friends" disappear once you no longer have a job.
In between severe crying spells, interviews and worrying, I began to think of how I might commit suicide. I began to plan. I'd read about a guy who left his final note on his blog, then downed a cocktail of anti-freeze and Gatorade. I'd decided that I'd mix mine with Mountain Dew.
However, I had one thing to attend to before I made any move like that...I had to find a home for my cat. I envisioned I'd just drop him off in his carrier with the doorman at my friend's building — she'd take him in and at least find him a home. I'd leave her a note. I'd shut my phone off. Then head home for my cocktail. I'd be dead, I reasoned, before the cops broke the door down...
[By December] I didn't want to live. I put a notice up on Facebook, asking if anyone could — or knew of anyone — who could provide a good home to my cat. If that failed, I was just going to resort to my initial plan of dropping him off with my friend's doorman.
One of my friends from college called me that night. She said that she and her husband were coming to get me. Pack up. Bring the cat. I had less than a month to sort and box the last twenty years of my life. I threw out a lot of memories because there would be no room to keep them.
At first, I didn't think about it. I just made the decision to do it. I could keep the cat. I'd have a roof over my head. And maybe — it was time to shake things up a little. I'd have food, shelter and the cat would be fed.
What I didn't realize is that they lived on a dirt road in the middle of horse country. I have no license, no car. I lived in New York City, and there was no need. I thought I'd be living there my entire life.
Every other day, her husband lectures me on a variety of topics — usually it involves getting my license. However, I needed money to do that.
I have been stuck on this hill for three months. My friend's elderly mother is also living here, and to say that she drives me crazy all day is an understatement. She's Passive-Aggression's best friend forever. Even though I had no money the last couple of years living in NY, I could at least go for a walk...or hop on the subway and visit a friend. Here...I have nowhere to go but the front porch.
I did finally land a job — in my industry. But the pay is low. Twenty thousand dollars less than what I made at my last full-time job. I keep reminding myself that I have no overhead right now. But I'm not going to be able to afford a car, insurance and rent on that salary.
By the time all of the totals were in, I went on nearly 175 interviews and registered with 25 headhunters in a time frame of two years and seven months.
I miss my friends terribly, and I cry every time I see New York on television. There's no phone in this house — and I certainly didn't have the money to call the friends I miss so desperately on my cell phone. I needed my minutes to search for a job.
I've got a job. But I'm still just as depressed. I pray every night that God will just take me. I'm a shell of my former self. I don't even remember what music I used to like, or what my favorite shows are.
I live and breathe by the rules of this house alone. I spent my entire life answering to no one but myself, and now I have to answer to someone else's husband and mother. My only connection to the life I used to know is the Internet. But it's just so damn upsetting to know that my friends are still surviving and thriving in the city I called home.
All I had ever wanted was to live in New York and have a career. I worked hard in school to get myself out of a small town to do it. My mother worked just as hard to get me there. I promised her on her deathbed that I would never leave the city. And now I feel like I failed both of us. Or maybe New York failed me.
All I had ever wanted was to live in New York and have a career.
OMG you can still do that! You're 40. 40!!!! You're not dead. Anything is possible. Anything. My mother came to New York City speaking barely four words of English and could only get work cleaning bathrooms and she never gave up.
You shouldn't give up either! You haven't 'failed'- you're just in a place at your life you didn't expect. Life isn't a board game that you win or lose at. It's a crazy, fucked up adventure, and sometimes it takes us to batshitcrazy places we never wanted. You can have a wonderful, amazing life. You really can.