Sunday, May 6, 2012

Funemployment is a lie

That might seem a little harsh. But I keep hearing the term "funemployment" and to me, it's wrong (it's also short-sighted and privileged; we can get into that in a bit). For me, being unemployed has not been fun.

Since I finished grad school in December 2010, I haven't been able to find a full-time job. It isn't for lack of trying or laziness, contrary to some Republican 1% views. I can't even begin to count how many applications I've sent out in the past year and a half. I've tried for jobs that seem ambitious, jobs that I think I'm overqualified for, jobs that excited me, jobs I'd have to acquiesce to performing every day, jobs withing my field, jobs outside but vaguely related to my field, day jobs like retail and bartending, basically everything you can imagine. I've considered NYC Teaching Fellows and the Peace Corps as back-ups.

I've had some freelance work and part-time gigs, but still nothing lasting or full-time. And then, in March, the job that was my primary source of income (but still part-time) informed me they were low on funds and couldn't pay me. So I was let go, though with the caveat that they'd like me back if they got their act together and I was still searching.

So aside from a once-a-week unpaid knitting column, two short (volunteer) shifts for a punk news blog and the occasional photo slideshow (the only one that pays a little), I've been unemployed for nearly two months. It sucks. I've been sending out my resume everywhere that I can, and I've had two interviews -- one was on the phone, and I didn't make the cut to in-person, the other got as far as a writing test, but I still didn't get it.

I know, there are a few perks. I can sleep late and run errands in the middle of weekdays when the city is less crowded. But that's about it.

Want to hear the downside? I am almost out of money. I'm still living with my parents with no prospect of leaving any time soon. I feel like a worthless human being, who contributes nothing to the world. Basically, it's like I'm in a waiting room, biding my time until my life starts.

So I'm going this week to meet with a staffing agency. It isn't a career move. They only do receptionist and office work, and just temporary assignments. But it's something. It gets me out of the house and making a little money while I work on finding a longer-term position. I hope it works out, because I need it to.

I said we'd get to why the term "funemployment" is privileged and short-sighted, and here it is: anyone who can use the term is very lucky. You've clearly got something keeping you going, whether it's a trust fund or savings from a past job, or a supportive partner, or whatever. Many people who are unemployed are far worse off. I'm not including myself in that because I have parents who let me stay with them for free. But there are millions out there who are unemployed and having no fun whatsoever. They are losing their homes, relying on food stamps to feed their families, and falling way behind on bills. They aren't relishing in sleeping until 11:00 and wearing sweatpants all day. So that's another reason I don't like the term.

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