Pining For… Substance

Delightfully Maladjusted

Charmed, I’m sure…not.

Just once, for just one teensy nano second I would like to know what living a charmed life feels like. I have reduced my entire life down to 10 boxes, 1 car and the contents therein. And really, I have no job, no home…seemingly no future (at least not one that I want). So now what? I have no idea. I suppose I could wax poetic about some minimal zen state, and about how the lack of stuff equals freedom and cultivates a free spirit…but “stuff” also provides a routine and comfort sometimes. There is something to be said for familiar surroundings, of which I have little experience with. Nomadic and stressful uprooting is all I know. And at 32 I am pissed that I am still on this poverty merry-go-round. This is a pivotal point in my existence where I am either going to parse out my future options into a wanderer who has no home but flutters on the whims of life or a wage slave with stability. Dreams, plans and career visions are out (and naive, I guess). I just don’t know. Save your platitudes I tell myself, problems don’t get solved that way. And I need to get to a deeper state than that.


Technology I hate You Today and Some Interview Tips for Newbies

Technology I hate You Today and Some Interview Tips for Newbies.

Technology I hate You Today and Some Interview Tips for Newbies

Well I am wrapping up a whirlwind week of interviewing with two different companies. I definitely have interview fatigue at this point and I don’t want to be “on” for another minute or answer any more questions about myself. That said, my first round interviews went very well. Well enough to secure a second interview with each company and a third with one of them. The pickle I found myself in this week was weighing out the pros and cons of each position. One company is very prestigious in my field and I would love to work there…in theory. The other company, a little less prestigious, but still very recognizable, offered a great hands-on entry level position in the marketing dept. After weighing numerous factors, such as cost of living in the job locations, the day-in day-out tasks of each, my best abilities and the amount of creative work I would be able to do I actually decided I would rather work for the lesser known company. The position at the less prestigious company offered a much more hands-on opportunity to get into the type of work I am most interested in, and in the end, that outranked working for a dream company in a less coveted position. The pathway was clear after a couple of days thinking it over and analyzing longer-term goals. So I was quite happy when company B asked to schedule a third and final round interview with the VP of marketing. At this point, I had phone interviewed with my would-be manager and the next manager up. So two interviews down, one to go.

Let me break down some mistakes I made at this point, just in case there are new grads reading this.

1. I assumed this interview was more of a courtesy/formality and would only last about 15-20 minutes, because my other two interviews had each lasted about an hour. I figured, what else could they ask? I have been asked, and asked, and asked….just about everything related to the job and my background. I figured the VP would not want to spend much time on me and mostly this was just a “personality” interview, and since it was via web-cam it was also to make sure that I am a normal looking person (i.e., no odd growths or pink hair).

2. I didn’t prepare anymore job/company related questions because, well honestly, other than salary, benefits, PTO I don’t have anymore questions at this point. I was very thorough in the prior two interviews and felt comfortable with all of the answers I received.

3.  I underestimated the mishaps of video conferencing and interviewing and didn’t think it through enough before hand.

So what mistakes were made during my final round interview?

1. I thought that all video conferencing platforms operated similarly to Skype, in that once you log on you can use the microphone in your computer to speak back and forth. Well I was horribly wrong about that. The company was using Go To Meeting to conduct the interview and you have to dial in through your phone and stay on it. So through the entire 40+ minute conversation I had to hold my crappy cheap cell phone up to my ear…WHILE ON CAMERA. So not only did I feel completely awkward, but I looked it too. Yes, my phone is a POS– it does not have a speaker feature, so I looked completely out-of-touch with modern technology whilst interviewing for a job that will be focused on maximizing the marketing opportunities of said technology. Ugh. Can you hear that cartoon-ish flailing happening in the background as the bomb drops?

2. Because I was having a hard time holding the phone, listening, smiling and responding I was not making good eye contact with the web-cam. Again, in some fields this may not be a big deal, but when you have a degree in New Media, knowing how to effectively use consumer tech is a big deal.

3. Which brings me to my other HUGE mishap…thank you Dell for making the worst web-cam ever! I have changed the settings numerous times to stop face-tracking and auto-focus but the web-cam just continues to do this! So of course in the middle of this interview the camera starts to zoom in and out sporadically, giving my interviewers an up-close view of my ear, or cheek, or eyebrow or whatever stupid thing the camera thought it should zoom in on. Again, most people could laugh this off, but it makes it seem like I am completely out-of-touch with modern tech tools for communications jobs. I mean, geez I would be thinking–this girl has an old phone, isn’t using a speaker at least, isn’t looking into the camera properly and can’t figure out the settings on her web-cam…and she wants to run our social media platforms, good grief. I am not out-of-touch on purpose, I simply cannot afford a smartphone, or even a nicer phone right now and I had to settle for this Dell laptop because it is what I could afford when my other laptop crapped out on me. If I had the extra cash, sure I would have an iphone or a macbook, but I dont.

Thankfully the vp interviewing me also made a bit of a tech error when she muted the call on accident and couldn’t get it working again…so that tipped things in my favor.

So at the end of the interview when the VP asked if I had any questions for her specifically I stammered out some question that would have been great for, say, the person who would be managing me, not so much for the VP. And as expected, she deferred the question to the assistant mgr. while remarking that she wouldn’t be managing me directly so… So I felt pretty stupid there…

Anyway I tried to answer the questions the best I could, but honestly at this point I was just burnt out on interviewing and with the embarrassing distractions, I fear I didn’t do very well.

Lessons learned:

1. Never assume that the third or later round interviews with the higher-ups will be brisk and perfunctory…prepare for in-depth and possible new questions about your background and goals. And be prepared to regurgitate the same info that you discussed in the prior interviews as though it was the first time you have been asked, even if some of the same people are present this time around too.

2. Had I taken a moment to really think through the whole webcam interview process, I could have most likely plugged my ear-buds into my phone so that I would not have to hold the phone to my ear the whole time…I could have just lifted the speaker closer to my mouth when I was speaking. If you are interviewing for jobs out of state, make sure you are fully prepared for phone and webcam interviews- think about your background, audio, right height for the laptop webcam, lighting and any weird glitches you are aware of before hand ( such as a stupid unnecessary zoom feature), make sure you dress the part from head to toe…just think what would happen if you wore a blazer and dress shirt with sweatpants thinking that they will never see your lower half…what if something went wrong? What if you had to get up to plug in your phone or laptop b/c the battery is dying or change locations because the lighting is bad, or  you need to get up and go retrieve your resume or some notes you jotted down but forgot to put in front of you, who knows…it is unlikely that you will need to get up during a webcam interview but be prepared in case you do.

3. Make sure you think of a couple of questions that would be relevant and appropriate to ask someone in a higher-level position (VP, Director, CEO, CFO, etc.) they are not going to be interested in discussing the details of the job you are applying for, ask more broad questions about the branding direction, or company mission, etc.

4. Be prepared to be asked again over and over why you would want to move to -X-, people will ask, and ask again and again. Mostly I think they just want to be extra confident with out of town candidates that they won’t get homesick and flake out on them a year into the job. Find a reason you want to be where this job is and stick with it every time they ask. Now when I am asked I do a combo of, ” I am happy to move anywhere for a position in my field as an entry-level candidate, but I also like where this position is located because I have friends and family closer there than where I am currently. ” Or whatever, if you are currently close to family and friends then go the other way…say you want a new adventure…yadda yadda yadda. You get the idea.

5. Be okay no matter what. Both of the jobs I interviewed for would be good and great entry-level positions respectively, but even if I don’t get either one I made a decision, not too long ago actually, to be okay with what happens. I did my best, I messed up a bit in some areas, but overall I am doing just fine and overall I will be just fine no matter where I land. Actually, once I decided to stop punishing myself so much and being unhappy about my job situation I started getting interviews. Part of growing up for me lately has been discovering that being in a good mood is a choice. I have always left that up to the whims of the day, but when you decide how to feel, rather than react to everything, well there is a great freedom in that. I encourage any new grad, or long-term unemployed etc. to try and find that for themselves, no matter what, no matter bills piling up, pressure, family tension, depression, bitterness-NO MATTER WHAT IT IS- just stop, and just be. It really helps. Things could get worse, things could get better, you don’t know, but life is not stationary and something will change for you and very likely those changes will be good and bad at various times. Know that there WILL BE good times for you again, even if things seem completely hopeless now, accept this crappy time of unemployment as a rocky, turbulent transition, because that is all it is- it is not your WHOLE self or life.

I will be a bit anxious this weekend waiting to hear back about these jobs, but I am also looking forward to other things too, like a good movie or a new recipe or the fact that the sun was out here in Seattle (wow!), just other things too. You know that old adage about love happening to you when you are not trying so hard to find it, well I firmly believe that karmic law applies to just about everything.

Good luck to everyone out there (unless of course you just applied to one of the two jobs I interviewed for,  in that case I  hope you get the next one, hehe >;)


A Tricky Little Pill

A Tricky Little Pill.

A Tricky Little Pill

Last night, er morning, in one of my frequent bouts of insomnia, I was thrashing about in my bed in a half-haze of would be, could be, should be self-talk. I have been driving myself well past the point of nail biting-furrowed brow-hair pulling-my god my life is a joke- anxiety for some time now. In fact, I think the highway of anxiety has given way to the bumpy dirt off-road of perilous clinical depression with cyclic bouts of insomnia, hyper-somnia, excruciatingly harsh negative self-talk ( my mind likes to play this little movie of every terrible thing that has ever happened to me), and well the whole dirty Petri dish of mental and physical ailments that go along with deep and dark depression. My body aches, even though I don’t do much. My mind is on a loop of “I’ve failed” all  the time. No really, all of the time (and can you believe I don’t drink or do drugs..nothing numbing the pain here, well maybe ice cream). I punish myself incessantly for being unemployed. Everything I do, say, think, long for, wish I could have changed, every little damn thing I want to buy (coffee or breath mints or safety pins-NOT in the budget!)–it all circles back to being unemployed right now. Every single thing I do or don’t do is weighted against the fact that I have failed to get a job in my field after some 250 applications and a decade of plugging away at a degree,  and that the degree I did earn is not even close to being as impressive as the masters and PhD’s many of my peers have managed to acquire in the same amount of time or less. I feel guilty for laughing even…there’s no laughing in unemployment! Then, of course, I had the “now what” talk with myself. Now what job will I take? Instead of what career will I launch. Pastry chef, court reporter, florist? What? What can I do, if I can’t do what I like, besides work in a cubicle tending to work that makes my brain numb? But everything, no EVERYTHING, is competitive now. There is no niche you can snuggle up to…gone are the little corners of the workplace where one could wander in, look around and say, “why yes, yes, I think I’ll do this…will you train me?” Apprenticeships in the blue collar world are being replaced with expensive certificate programs and no guarantees of placement afterwards. Perhaps if you know somebody in an industry you are interested in, that still works as an “in”, but I am a loner and my networking skills are as smooth as popcorn ceilings. I am so bad at it…actually not just bad, I am completely inept at networking. If I read one more article about job searching and networking…well I don’t know what I would do, but it would probably involve something that would not make me “marketable”. My BS sensibilities just can’t handle it.

And so comes the thoughts of financial stability…health insurance…starting a family…buying a home someday…and those are the big things…never mind the little things stability affords like magazines…road trips…movies on Friday nights…sushi dinners… expensive shampoo and a general good mood. Yes, never mind those things. I have been without them for so long I have learned to let go of much of that, but damn if I don’t miss high-quality hair care and quality food. I damn sure do and I would like them back. And when I think about those things the cubicle starts seeming tolerable…but is that just a mirage…is that just how the whole system is set up…a tricky little pill to be swallowed in desperation?

Perhaps. But the more I absorb stories about how other people approach life and the more I look around without the youthful ticker tape of “I want a career I am in love with” I feel nudged to settle. It is such a pointy precipice. Could I be happy with passions developed outside of a career I enjoy? Will it be a relief to let these lofty notions go? Is letting go of your career dreams growing up or giving up? Am I going through some sort of rite of passage? I am not sure yet.

But as I tossed and turned there was this little part of me that spoke up quickly in a whisper before the unemployed monster beat it down into silence. It said, “be outside of THIS agony”. It seems as though I have, yet again, allowed myself to be programmed to tie my entire self worth into someTHING, in this case what type of job I have (or don’t have as the case is). It seems as though it’s something I fell for, a scam of sorts, much like the notion of upward mobility (despite the battles of socio-economics and cyclic poverty), or the value of a college degree in 2013. And the unemployed monster piped up and said, “well you are just telling yourself that because you are FAILING!”. Perhaps, but either way that little whisper is the one piece of my self worth that is hanging on here. It loves me, it wants me to laugh and find happiness without guilt even if I don’t have a damn job. It wants me to recognize myself as a whole being, not just Laura-unemployed. I have turned off every other part of my life in search and suffering over a job I want to love, and I think I am finally just sick of it. I am not giving up on searching in my field, but I am giving up this constant anxiety reel playing in my mind. I don’t know if I will ever land a job in my field, and if I don’t that is going to hurt, and I will mourn it for a long time.

I can’t continue to put my well-being aside until things go well, and really I think I have been doing this my whole life. I just want to be me, the whole me who used to laugh, cook, dream, listen to music, and do a million other things that have nothing to do with my job status.  Just me, not me +1 unemployed monster. It is a cancer and it has got to go.

There is a delicate, maybe even experienced-only, balance between acceptance and seeking. Knowing when to move from one space to the other in your mind is a hard task and a tricky little pill to swallow, but that’s it, I’m getting a glass of water.



When will this end?

When will this end?.

When will this end?

Congress has approved an extension for unemployment insurance for 2013, so we get a reprieve for a couple of  months. Two more months of a place to live that is our own and two more months to keep looking for work. I got that news shortly after, yet another,  job rejection. I interviewed Thursday and received the form letter e-mail rejection on Monday. I have applied to 221 jobs since the end of July and I have gotten six, yes six, whole interviews. I don’t know what I am doing wrong, it seems as though the stars are aligned to fuck me over, as usual. Sometimes I think I was born simply to amuse the universe, as it watches me struggle and get back up, and get kicked down again, and again. When will she stay down? I don’t know. Maybe I will give up soon. I have been approved for food stamps. I am so glad I tried desperately to pull myself out of childhood poverty by working since the age of 16, sometimes working 3 jobs, plugging away at a college degree so that I could end up, at 32, on unemployment and food stamps. It’s just fucking dandy, really. Maybe I should have just dropped out of high school and gotten knocked up. That bizarro world version of me would still be better off than this version of me right now. At least trailer-park-knocked-up-teen-smoker-dropout Laura doesn’t owe 30 thousand dollars in student loans. And while it is in my nature, and well because of a severe case of consuming depression and misery, to blame myself for the outcome of these interviews, there is still a part of me that says, no. No, these interviews were a bit fucked up in their own right, which means I am attracting kooks with my resume. Great. I still have enough objectivity to be able to say that other people really fucking suck a lot of the time, especially during job interviews, when the power balance is so out of whack that the person could basically set you on fire and you would still be trying to smile and make eye contact with them. I need to relive these interviews, if nothing else than to make the anonymous reader chuckle, but also as a catharsis to reassure myself that I am not completely out of touch with reality, and sometimes the interviewer is not all there. So let’s reminisce, shall we.

Interview 1: No Smartphone, No Job

I was so thrilled to get this interview because it was for a magazine I actually enjoy. It was my dream job, editorial assistant at a sizable publication. The interview was done via Skype (the job was in Kansas) and I practiced for days, researching the company and the publication and testing my skype set up for kinks. So interview day comes and the woman interviewing me asked me many questions…from a script. Yes, every single question was from a typed script, and she never bothered (or learned) to make eye contact with the camera. And the questions were fluff crap, such as: would you rather go to the moon or to Europe? Mac or PC? But, the question that killed my chances (I’m pretty sure) was: what type of phone do you have? The job was for the web services team, and part of that job was to work on content for mobile devices and social media accounts. Now, I have a communications degree with a social media emphasis, meaning much of the writing style I was taught was with web 3.0 in mind. But, and BIG BUT, I do not have a smartphone. And to this interviewer it was a death sentence for me. And why don’t I have a smartphone? Well, seeing as how I do not have any income, having food and a roof over my head pulled rank over the newest ifucktard phone. But 20- something-editor just could not wrap her head around the idea that I could STILL write for mobile devices and do the other tasks the job would need without actually having my face stuck in a smartphone 24/7. I am sorry I am poor, you must have no idea what that means, dear interviewer. Well Good For You! She never bothered to follow up, and when I did she told me they were “going in a different direction”, also there were three, yes count them, three openings for the same title…ouch. Me and my no smartless phone self were not good enough for one of three entry-level positions.

Interview 2: Let me tell you about the position, and the company, and never ask you one question about yourself

The second interview I got was for a company in Texas in the compounding pharmacy industry, working in event planning and PR. Not exactly a dream job, but I still gave it the proper preparation and attention and there seemed to be elements of the work I would enjoy. This was a good old fashioned phone interview. I should note that I live in the Seattle area. Seattle is not a city for entry-level people. I have not had one interview for a job here since I graduated, not to mention it is mostly IT, banking and healthcare jobs here, communications is just not a big hub. Non-profit is actually big here too, but I find it funny that an industry that pays the least wants the most education, and prestigious internships, etc. Forget about getting into non-profit work because you want to help and feel good about your work, because apparently you are a cliche and not good enough if you are an average person. Anyhow, all of the jobs I have interviewed for so far have been out of state and in the west. The east coast will not acknowledge my existence, and I get that. It is a too much of a gamble to hire some entry-level person from across the country, even though I am willing to pay for my own relocation. Not to mention there are plenty of people to interview for those jobs who already live nearby. Anyhow, back to this interview. The interviewer was nice enough and the call lasted an hour, but in an hour she never asked me one question about myself, my education or my work experience! The entire time she just gave me all these ridiculous details about the office (like how many floors, the layout, etc.), she spent lots of time telling me what they do and what the expectations were, but she didn’t even ask me the standard “what are your weaknesses” crap. Well, I never heard back from her. I still do not understand this…why contact me for an interview and then ask me nothing?!

Interview 3: Free therapy, and this job sucks, but I couldn’t make it in journalism

This interview was for a retailer of semi-high end comfort type shoes based in California. It was an entry-level marketing assistant position. Within the first minute it was clear that this woman had no idea how to interview someone. There were long pauses, and I had to initiate the line of questioning, and yet again, very little interest in me as a candidate. In fact, this one barely even told me about the job itself. She spent most of the interview telling me that she had hired a recent grad who had never worked before and it was a huge embarrassment for her because the girl did things like throw popcorn over her cubicle, make typos on marketing materials and was a general idiot. I tried to interject that, although I am a new grad, I have years of professional work experience. But then she proceeded to tell me that she isn’t even supposed to be responsible for much of the work she has been doing, and that she used to be an editor at SELF magazine, and that she never thought she would end up in marketing– let alone for a shoe company, but journalism is so competitive and jobs are disappearing…right, okay, so I just listened and listened…and listened. That went on for an hour, and she never asked me anything about my qualifications or how I would handle the job, and of course I never heard from her again.

Interview 4: We are looking for “The Perfect Fit”

This interview held a lot of promise. It was in Washington, about an hour south, in a more affordable city. It was my first in-person post- college interview. I made it through the phone screen with the recruiter and was scheduled to meet with the director of marketing for a bank. Again, banking is not an industry I am interested in, but there were components of the job I was interested in, and it would allow me to strengthen my corporate communication writing skills. I spent 400 dollars prepping for this interview buying a suit, getting a haircut, manicure, and the gas driving down there. I researched and planned, and rehearsed, I even practiced my walk (in case there would be a tour of the office). I get there, I liked what I saw. The director comes to greet me, and oh by the way my team will be interviewing you as well. The recruiter never mentioned this, so while I was mentally prepared to meet with one person, I was now meeting with four people. This was the most professional interview I have had so far. They asked probing questions and there was a give and take to the information, I had them laughing here and there, I thought it had gone well. Then the director asked me what the highest level of math I had taken in college was. Stats. She didn’t like that answer, because the job deals with a lot of data…umm okay I can pull reports and analyze data…do I need to be a math whiz for this? I mean I do have a communications degree, and this is for a job in the COMMUNICATIONS dept.  So there was that hiccup, also there were two employees there who seemed friendly and engaged but one was just giving me the bitch-face most of the time, so there was that adding to the anxiety level. Then the interview started to get a little murky, inside jokes were starting to be snickered at and references were made to things I had no idea about…I just tried to smile and nod even though they were not actually talking to me. Despite those couple of odd moments I though the interview went well, it lasted for over an hour. Then it was time for the skills test. Basically it was a 60 question test on grammar and writing aptitude. The director says to me, “okay the test is 60 questions and you have an hour, but I don’t expect you take that long, most people are done in like 30 mins or so.” Okay, no pressure. Well, it took me the full hour. And the test is timed by the computer, it was designed to take one hour. 60 questions, 60 minutes. I answered every question, but I took the full allotted time…and apparently that was no good. I mean I did read some things twice because I wanted to make sure I was right, not fast. The director checks in with me, when I have about 5 questions left, and her tone is like…aren’t you done yet? When I asked about the decision time frame she tells me that it’s “sort of fluid” and they are not sure because they want the “perfect fit”. Well I am not perfect, you are not perfect. No one will ever be a perfect fit, someone will be the best fit, with some perfect components and some things they will have to work around. I am just an average person looking for a fucking job!! I am not perfect, but I don’t completely suck either! I am loyal, a problem solver, creative, funny, passionate about work that I am interested in and still willing to give my full attention to the boring shit about a job too. I can deal with difficult people, I can roll with the punches, I am not a high maintenance employee…seriously…I am just solidly good, not perfect. Well, of course, I didn’t get that job.

Interview 5: The Staffing Service BS

I found an entry-level comm position, in Seattle, to apply to! I was amazed. So I sent off my cover letter and resume. The next morning I got a call from this woman who spoke so fast I felt my heart start to beat faster while I listened. Anyway it turns out she was a recruiter for a staffing service and I discussed the job with her and she told me to come into the staffing office for an interview and to fill out paperwork. I was also asked to complete one of those skills tests online prior to the in-person meeting. Well that could have gone better, but I have not worked as an admin since 2008, so my outlook and excel skills are a bit rusty. So my scores were in the 70 percent range for Word and Outlook and 50ish for Excel. Also, my computer has version 2010, which looks quite a bit different from the 2007 version they used during the test. Well the recruiter never brought up my scores during the meeting. So we are chatting along and I filled out the paperwork and she begins to push me towards temp work, not mentioning the actual job I was interested in, so I stop her and say, look the only reason I came in here was to set up an interview with this company for the job I actually am interested in…remember we discussed it yesterday? I am not opposed to temp work, but if I can get a full time job that is what I want. She nodded and said a bunch of crap, anyway then she says someone from scheduling will call me to set up an interview…and I never heard from anyone in the staffing service again. I tried calling, but I knew it was just a joke and waste of time.

Interview 6: Our office is like a dorm room and we drop the F-bomb frequently

That was one of the first things this interviewer said to me. She then followed up to tell me that they know how to button up and TCB though. So I though okay, well at least they are up front about their work culture. This job was for a coordinator position for a membership organization in the beauty and fashion industry in Arizona. Then she says, unless you have some stellar examples to share from your past work history I am more interested in your internship. Well, okay, if you want to gloss over 10 years of work history and focus on 4 months of unpaid interning….sure. Of course I was able to chat about that for all of three minutes and most of the examples I  had to use for the “situation” questions came from my past work, not my internship. The truth is my internship was somewhat of a joke. I did learn some valuable nuggets of information but overall it was fluff and a whole other story. Despite this sort of elitist, your prior work means nothing tone, I thought the interview went okay, she asked me what kind of music I like and we bonded over that and there seemed to be good rapport. But again I had to reassure her several  times that I am willing to relocate. FUCK, what do I have to say to convince people. Dear manager who doesn’t think I am really willing to move: I need a fucking job, I would like it to be in the industry I have a 30 thousand dollar degree in, I am willing to live anywhere! My parents are dead, I have no real family connections to speak of, I have not spoken to “friends” in years, except for the occasional Facebook interaction, so I have no emotional ties to a location! And yes, I am engaged but I happen to be the “stable” one in our family when it comes to money and employment…so my spouse is waiting for me to land something so we can get settled, not the other way around! What the fuck else do I need to say to you people?????!!!!!!!!!!! Do not call me if YOU are not sure you want to hire someone from out of state, because I AM SURE I am willing to relocate. Anyway, I just got the rejection e-mail a couple days ago, I think it was a combo of lack of experience and the moving part. How am I supposed to get experience if no one will hire me….and these are FUCKING entry level jobs!!

I am not sure how much more of this I can take, not that I have a choice I suppose.

Life sucks, especially when you start from the bottom. Normally I would end a post with some sort of full-circle hopeful tinge, but I’m all out of that. The worse thing about this entire experience beyond the tangible sense of failure, constant anxiety, hopelessness and stress, is knowing now that upward mobility is an illusion. The worst thing is knowing that hope is a concept sold to the poor as a distraction, and for those of us who actually thought we could move up, well when you get there you realize that the prejudices and unrelenting obstacles thrown at you are enough to make you wish you had never “arrived”.

Food Stamp USA

Well, after 212 unsuccessful attempts to find employment and congress dragging their feet about the extension of unemployment benefits I am well on my way to despair. I have deferred my student loan (the small one from years ago, the BIG ONE comes due in a few months, yay), stopped paying on the one credit account I have with a balance, trimmed down my cable bill to the bare bones ( I am holding onto cable tv as long as possible, seriously, I am home all the time, I need TV), trimmed down our phone service, and cancelled our dental COBRA coverage (so now we have no health insurance of any kind).  The next step was calling community services to ask for food assistance. I’ve cut out or trimmed down our budget where I could. Without food stamps I have no idea how we are going to pay for food. I am going to try and squeak by for three more months by depleting our savings and hope for a job, but after that I am throwing in the towel and moving back to FL to live with John’s mother while he stays here to finish school and lives on campus for his last semester.

What a truly full circle moment in my life. I spent a lot of time on food stamps as a child, but this will be the first time as an adult.

Who says you can’t go home again?

Swan Dive in to Shit

Swan Dive in to Shit.

Swan Dive in to Shit

Thank goodness for blogging, because it truly is my only outlet for frustration right now. Zero readers, 100 readers- it doesn’t matter, I just need to journal. Don’t you hate that tired old saying…”well it could be worse right?” Yes, it could be, but this sucks pretty bad too. Honestly the last post I wrote about our cat getting sick and spending the car payment on her vet bill, well I stupidly jinxed myself by joking that the next thing to happen would be an expensive car repair or a hospital stay. Well hello expensive car repair! I was wondering when you would show up, please sit down, make your self comfortable, may I get you some ramen noodles (because that is all we have to eat around here) or perhaps some water from the leaky faucet?

The way John and I see it we are taking a swan dive in to shit. I am not sure what I did in a past life, but it must of been up there with pushing a child off a cliff or something, because in the past year I have gone from living a somewhat normal middle class existence- you know a person who paid their bills, looked forward to the weekend, saw a movie or went out to dinner sometime, someone who had hopes and a few dreams, yeah I went from that person, to the person who is facing homelessness in about 3 months unless I can land a job by then. I took a gamble and decided to finish my education and then look for a job I was qualified for without realizing that people these days search for jobs for years, not weeks. Oh well, I can’t turn back the clock.

It seems to be Murphy’s Law that when you are down on your luck, broke and out of hope, that’s when the shit start to smother you. And I know this, because I have been poor most of my life, when you are poor it only takes one or two punches and you are down for the count. So we are down for the count now.

A timeline of bullshit…

We have some savings (not really savings, but leftover student loan money we have put away for expenses/safety net) that we are trying to hold on to for dear life, but the universe must have other plans for that money. During my unpaid internship my computer (which I had to have to do the work) died on me, and it was illogical to get it fixed versus buying a new one because the costs were so close. Well, I couldn’t quit the internship because I needed the class credit to get my degree and I needed the reference to help me land a job, so there went $1000 out the door when combining the cost of the “diagnostic” for the old computer and the cost of the new computer.

Okay so 1000 down, we are still squeaking by. This was July.

John gets fired from his part-time job for being “too slow” making crap for a deli, we lose 800 a month. This was August/Sept.

Now we are scraping by on my unemployment only. I get a letter from unemployment, my benefits will end 12/31, even though I have enough credits in my account for 6 more months of payments. The state unemployed percent fell low enough that tier 3 has been cut for next year. That was Sept.

I have applied to 178 jobs and nothing has come of it. Three interviews, a hundred or more rejections. Lots of competition out there, not so good for a new grad.

We were planning on using money from the school this fall to move ourselves closer to John’s college (it is 50+ miles away, one way) to save on rent and gas.  We were going to find a cheaper apt and pay 6 months up front. Well, 3000 was yanked from John because he failed one of his classes because he bombed a math final, despite having a solid B in the class. So there went that plan. No one will rent to us on unemployment/without employment and we do not have enough in our savings to do this now without that extra cash. So we continue to live unnecessarily far away from his school costing us more in rent and gas…oh and enter the poor old car.

We have 2 cars, one old and one newer. One is paid off the other I make payments on (which I bought way before I was laid off from my job). We used to be pretty good about car maintenance, but now with money so tight we have let oil changes and tune ups go a little longer than we should. John uses the older car to get back and forth to school, etc.

The state of WA loves to screw people who have the misfortune of owning an older car. First, if you have a car that is over like 9 years old they require an emissions test in order to renew your tag and registration. So let’s add this up:

Tag + reg in WA for one year= 90

Mandatory emissions test in order to get your tag if your car is old= 15

Failed the emissions test, so now mandatory inspection and attempted repair/repair= 170 (the state requires you to spend a minimum of 150)

This was in Oct.

We thought, okay, surely nothing else will go wrong, right? Wrong.

2 weeks ago, cat gets pretty sick, vet bill= 262

I have one credit account left to pay off, they send me a note, Hey guess what, that card you thought was zero interest, well really we meant zero interest and then we tack on the year that was at zero percent, so we are doubling the amount you owe us and your monthly payment. Gee thanks. And it was a health care credit account so I could get some chiropractic work done…how wonderfully ironic..a pain in the neck indeed.

Yesterday, old car breaks down on the side of the highway. County tows it 5 miles away (no choice on our part) bills us 265 dollars and an additional 23 bucks every 4 hours it sits in the yard.

Car is now sitting in a tow yard about 30 miles north of where we live. Call AAA, guess what, membership is expired, that’ll be 123 bucks, thank you very much.

On the way to release the car from impound get pulled over for speeding (I was in a rush because another hour meant another 23 bucks owed to the tow yard), there goes another 150 to the state of WA.

AAA tows it to a mechanic, he calls, says $4000 to fix it, the engine is dead. Offers me a 100 bucks to “take it off my hands”, and fix it up and give it to someone who needs it (umm like us?!! WTF), I say no thanks, I’m going to shop around.

So now, down to one car, which is okay but let’s total up this landslide of bullshit since July.

New computer= 875

Car issues= 793

Sick cat= 262

Miscellaneous credit card nonsense= 700 and an extra 30 a month

Total bullshit= 2630, or about half of our savings

On another happy note, I got a call from my school wanting to know when I was going to get around to paying them the last 400 bucks I owe for my final semester because my loan didn’t cover all of my expenses. I also got a lovely email from my student loan servicer reminding me that I have a 6 month grace period now that I have graduated and my payments are estimated to be between 215- 300 per month. They have already tacked on $1000 of interest while I am in deferment and looking for a job. How kind of them, thank you.

Oh and I have no health insurance but my doctor insists that I come in by the end of the month so they can bill me 15o bucks to spend 6 minutes with me and then write me a prescription for my blood pressure medicine.

On the up side I had a phone interview for a job in Georgia yesterday, yep, as a paid intern making 5.15 per hour, with the added bonus of potential hire after an indiscriminate amount of time doing scut work for peanuts. Could be 3 months of slave wages and no benefits, could be 10 months, depends on the “flow of things”.

So here we are, 3000 miles away from anyone who gives a damn about what might happen to us (thank God for moms…well not my mom, but John’s), wondering what the hell we are going to do and if living out of the car might actually work for a while.

There you have it folks, the typical American story of late.

Things are pretty bad when you used to be able to rely on yourself for the most part and now you put all your hope in to getting approved for welfare or 1.00 deals on ramen noodles. And you know what else is stressful, getting an in person interview for a job, why? Because that means I have to find a way to buy a suit to look presentable. I can’t even get excited about that anymore.

Heading off out in to the wilderness and tent-living minimally doesn’t sound all that crazy to me anymore.

And I am dead, dead, dead, serious about that.


***I decided to add some articles from my favorite, oh you feel like shit, well read this crap, website-, co-misery, what can I say? I am not above it. There are 13 volumes of tales from the underclass & unemployed to read on the website. Follow the link I provided and then look to the right hand column for the rest of the stories. These stories are people’s reality every day in America. And if anyone happens to be reading this who is going through tough times, well read these stories, because you can at least take some comfort in knowing you are not alone in the shit pile.

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