Friday, September 2, 2016

A bit broken

This week while scrolling through LinkedIn in the vague hope of a job lead, I saw a post which said (to paraphrase) "I'm unemployed for the first time in my life...until next week when I start my new amazing job"

Hahaha you're bloody hilarious.

Actually no, you're an utter cockwomble. I'm pleased you have a new job random stranger (it was one of those you see a connection's comment moments) and by all means shout it from the rooftops-I'm serious, yes be pleased you've probably earned it (or just got lucky, I don't know you). But don't be a cockwomble. In any climate making fun of those less fortunate isn't nice, in employment terms many good, hardworking talented people are struggling to get a job, and to them 'I'm unemployed hahaha' just isn't a joke.

People think 'unemployed' and they think either of useless bums watching Jeremy Kyle (or indeed on Jeremy Kyle) who don't want to work. Or they think perhaps of a down on luck person who is actually having a quite nice break from work until a job reappears. The number of times 'Oh what I'd give for a nice break' has been uttered in my direction.

Two things, firstly, yes a break of about a month between jobs is very nice thank you, long enough to feel like a proper pause, not long enough that you either run out of money or indeed things to do. Longer and things aren't as great. I also get a lot of 'well you should write your PhD book' or 'Use the time productivly'. I do use the time productively, in looking for a job.

An average day involves getting up, probably going to the gym then a day of searching for jobs and applying for them. Some days searching can take much of the day. Others its writing an application, maybe two if they're quick. The searching takes so long because you have to go through all the sites you know are useful. Bookmark the potential ones. Go back, read over them. Eliminate a few with things you realise aren't suitable. Go back again, read in detail, establish which ones might be suitable, make a list of deadlines. And repeat. Often of all that searching you'll get one viable job. This I do for between 5-7 hours a day. Sometimes yes I break it up with an afternoon gym trip or a break to meet a friend, but usually I return to it a bit in the evening too. I would LOVE to have dedicated this summer to writing but the reality is the need for a job outweighs that, and the pressure to find a job means I can concentrate on little else.

And yes, I haven't been a recluse this summer. I'm lucky in that I review theatre for various publications, so I get to go for free in exchange for my reviews. And that due to planning ahead I have several (paid for) events in my diary. And that I have many friends who are equally broke and happy to meet for a coffee or a cheap drink. But without work, and being careful about social engagements, days are long and it feels like the world very much carries on without you. And it can be incredibly lonely. It can feel like you've dropped off the face of the earth and nobody would notice if you ever reappeared. And it starts to feel like nobody cares anymore.

And it's a drain. It wears you down. And I confess this week I reached rock bottom. The above was an average day. Do you want to know what I did on Tuesday? I cried. I cried from around 7.30am to around 1pm. I went for a run, I cried some more. I cam back and stared at my computer screen. I did nothing. I got up the next day feeling horrendous for wasting a day.

It's not just the three months of job hunting that has worn me down-though it's enough to make anyone miserable. It's four years of a PhD and a year of the worst job I ever had. And it's broken me. I have no confidence left, and I am genuinely scared to take risks, take a leap on the next thing, whatever you want to call it. Because I have had just 7 or so years of it all going badly.

My PhD was an unmitigated disaster from start to finish. Looking back, seeing how I was manipulated into it, and had that held over me by an older male academic for the next 5 years (there's a blog on that some day). To having revolving door supervisors (one through no fault of their own who I respect greatly), to supervisors falling out with each other, to being rejected by supervisors who refused to carry on supervising. Then there was the internship I worked on remotely for six months, with the promise of a summer placement in New York. I saved up, booked accommodation and flights and it got cancelled the week before. Leaving me with no summer work and massive debt. Then there was the time my then best friend got me fired from a job, for reasons I still don't know. And finally the job where I was bullied by colleagues, and nobody cared.  A job where people threw out my food and unscrewed lights above my desk, and stalked my Twitter (hello there if you still have nothing better to do). A job where the entire office felt my role was useless and indeed my whole discipline was a joke. Back in academia, there was finding a group of academics I finally fit in with, only to have their 'Queen Bee' take a dislike and drive me out. The constant rejection and realisation I was never going to be good enough finally wearing me down to give up. All of this, the last 7 years, and I am broken. And I am done.

All of that to say, it's not just three months out of work and an incredibly frustrating job search at that, which has made me the frankly miserable bastard I currently am. It's cumulative. It's not just being fussy about a job, or being an idiot, or immature or whatever label you want to slap on it. Anyone who has done a PhD knows it takes a psycholgical toll, even if you have a really good expereince. It takes time to move on from that. And I was spectucularly unlucky in that and what followed.

Being both unemployed, and the afore mentioned miserable bastard, does teach you a lesson in who your friends are. I'm lucky to have some wonderful friends, who will listen whether in person or from afar. Who will reason with me, or reassure me, or just send me a video of a seal playing a saxophone (true story). And there are wonderful people on twitter who share this experience and reach out time adn time again in solidarity and for that I'm so grateful. But it's hard. It's hard when you feel very much alone, and there's no end in sight.

And then you add to that the idea that you are sitting there in your PJ's watching Jeremy Kyle. That somehow you're not working hard enough even though you're going cross-eyed from formating applicaiton forms. Or when it feels like everyone else is getting ahead but you.

I have tried this summer to keep my metaphorical chin up. To keep going. To be cheery. To know it will get better. To just keep at it.

Well this week Autumn arrived (ish) and I'm a bit broken now. I know it will pick up again, I know one day it will be all right. But that doesn't mean it isn't utter, utter relentless crap now.