Ovid Quote

Ovid is my homeboy.

There comes a time in every job search when you start awakening with a start in the middle of the night, covered in a sheen of sweat and vague recollections of a nightmare about working at Starbucks and maybe at some point you were bottle-feeding a kitten that morphs into a baby piglet. This time usually coincides with the last few weeks of your unemployment checks, right around the time you’re cataloguing every mistake you made looking for freelance work during the past seven months and my God, why didn’t you apply for all the jobs, just to be safe?

Gentle hints from loved ones about maybe getting a full-time job and freelancing on the side will also start making you reach for the Xanax you don’t take because you’re an alcoholic and as such have forfeited every privilege involving anxiety relief except for yoga, and let’s face it, yoga is a bunch of bullshit when you’re contemplating admitting you’re a failure because you’re nothing if not dramatic when you’re panicking. Also, you’re conveniently sick, so physical activity of any kind is strictly out of the question.

Never fear, reader, because I have a fail-safe plan for talking yourself down from the recurrent thoughts of how to instigate your own death and make it look like an accident.

Take twenty deep breaths and slow exhales. For reals. Then, remember these truths:

  • You are not going to die from unemployment
  • There are worse things than working as a barista at 29 31
  • You’re not in rehab
  • You’re also not drunk, so go you!
  • Praying makes you feel better, so go do that for a while
  • Music makes you feel better, too. Put together a playlist that makes you insanely happy, the songs that make you feel like you can do anything. Even if that list includes Katy Perry, no one is judging you (and if they are, well then fuck them). You’re trying to save your ass while minimizing the frequency of panic attacks, and if that means bubble gum pop music that offends your snooty musical preferences, then shut up and stop being a neurotic priss about it.
  • You are not going to die from doing stuff you may not want to do. This includes reformatting your resume for the eleventieth time and perhaps squeezing back into your business casual slacks for more nine-to-five. You may hate it, but you won’t die. Maybe you’ll even collect a good story about which you’ll write your first bestseller, because deep down beneath all the cruddy crud you’re secretly an optimist disguised in a dark swathe of irony.
  • You have already lost everything once in your life; if you had to, you could do it again.
  • You are the queen of your own life, so start acting like it

Perspective, bitches. That’s what this is about. When you’re about to throw in the towel and indulge in a nervous breakdown, remind yourself that nervous breakdowns are a luxury working class stiffs cannot afford. You should know, you had several during your twenties and each time you had to wipe your tears, tie on that green apron and go make the rich ladies lattes from four in the morning until nine am.

Remember, you’ve done harder things than this. You’re made of strong stuff. You’ve got this.

Now do this twenty times a day, or however many times it takes for you to not freak the fuck out.


Comments

How I Talk Myself Down: An Unemployment Checklist — 78 Comments

  1. Drinking helps me at times. Blasting music? Definitely a big help. And sometimes, just getting the hell away from people and so-called “responsibilities” for a personal day is a huge help too. Doesn’t make everything instantly better but it calms down the soul and the panic ridden mind.
    Kim recently posted…UP Big Boy No. 4014 Headed HomeMy Profile

  2. I’ll have you know, working at Starbucks as a barista is my plan for when we retire and need the medical insurance. I mean, I love lattes–so why not?

    You got this, Natalie! You’re right. You won’t die. And on top of this you’ll make great stuff happen!

  3. I can’t believe how you and I are so much alike. I feel like I should feel so accomplished because I created a magazine but really, since it’s not making any money I feel terrible. The negativity in my head is overwhelming most of the time. I have gotten good at Photoshop, though- so if you want me to make you a festive Photoshop resume, I will do so at once. I hope you know that I admire you. Often times when I’m losing it I know somewhere out there you are feeling the same way, and suddenly not having a job doesn’t seem like such a personal attack on me. Then I think FUCK- what if I did have a real job? Then I’d have to wear a bra and it’s been so many years since I worked in a real environment I think I wouldn’t enjoy it! Isn’t that hilarious?

    • Yeah, it can be pretty overwhelming. And yes, why does being jobless feel like such a personal attack? I’m trying to build a business and it has not been easy.
      And I’m not looking forward to bra-wearing, pants-not-optional days. *shudder*
      You’re inspirational and you always seem to know just what to say to make me not feel quite so alone, Heather. Thank you so much.

  4. Some day, when I have all the money, I’m going to give some of it to the people I care about so that they never have to worry about shit like this again and can do what they love. I just need your address so I know where to send the check*.

    *That check isn’t coming any time soon, FYI.

    Great post.

    Also, I listen to Pink. She tells me I’m perfect.
    Michelle Longo recently posted…Making Mountains.My Profile

  5. Totally , totally, totally! Perspective is everything and it seems like you’re skilled at maintaining a healthy one. Or at least you can recognize when your perspective needs to change. When a former boss and I had to do tasks that completely sucked the joy out of life she would always say, “we just have to put on our big girl panties and do it.” And you’re right, the horrible tasks and situations don’t last FOREVER.

    “…how to instigate your own death and make it look like an accident” because life insurance doesn’t pay out on suicides. so then not only is everyone sad because you’re gone but they’re also pissed because you left them with all your bills. Guilted into living…geez.

    And dance parties are a definite MUST.30-second dance parties are the best reward for completing a disgusting task.

    Oh, and I really like the way you write, too. Syntax is awesome.
    Chenille recently posted…If only they were black laceMy Profile

  6. Natalie, you do have a handle on this, I can feel it in your words. Keep dancing and keep writing. I believe you are right about finding that bestseller in a story from working nine to five. Every experience we have, good or bad (and sometimes it is the bad) gives us more fodder for the writing. You’ve got this!
    William Dameron recently posted…Snow Away-A Braided EssayMy Profile

  7. Natalie, you have so much talent and insight. The answers you are seeking are right there in front of you. Just keep writing through it.

    Starbucks doesn’t sound bad in a pinch. After all, you would get freedom, flexibility, health insurance, and coffee. As you know, I’ve done worse jobs ; )

    Yoga blows. Just thinking about yoga makes me feel like a failure – a non-stretchy failure.

    Oh, and you should probably get a pedicure. Attractive toenails always make me feel more hopeful.
    Karen recently posted…“S” is for StalkerMy Profile

  8. There are not words to tell you how much I fucking love this post. Be the queen of your life, Natalie. I loved this, especially as I’m still reeling from my lay-off in 2012. Oh, hugs to you. And I listen to the Katy Perry station on Pandora when I’m cleaning the house. <3 I know it may not be PC to admit this, but you totally have my vote this week!

  9. God, I have so been there. Graduating law school just as the recession started heating up meant I spent over a year doing document review, working strange odd jobs and even being a nanny for awhile. I had to remind myself at least twice a day not to freak the fuck out, and that running after a 5 year old when the ink on my law degree was barely dry wouldn’t kill me. I just get it. So much
    Sam Merel recently posted…Where A Morning Ritual Becomes Something MoreMy Profile

  10. That sounds like a great list. I find that cuddling with my dogs tends to help me feel at least a little better; maybe your cat can cheer you up a bit.

    On an unrelated note, I love your blog. Your writing style is clear and emotionally engaging, and your content inspiring, real, and often amusing.

  11. I don’t know if California requires you to have a masters in Ed. to become a substitute teacher, but if not (or if your credits are close), it might be something you should consider. I’m done. I don’t want to teach full time or part time anymore, I want to sub. and write. It really gives you control of your life. Want to work that day? Probably can. Want to write instead? Just deny the jobs. The money is not fantastic, but it is good for the hours. Working is stealing all my creativity. Substituting is like the best of unemployment and working at the same time.
    Chris Plumb recently posted…A Passivity to Burn: An Arson StoryMy Profile

    • I should look into that more now that they’re hiring more teachers. Last time I checked, there were so many unemployed teachers in line ahead of me, which looks better than someone with just a degree and no credential.
      I hear you, Chris, about all of the above.

  12. Dude, this speaks to me. I’m still working part-time at a nonprofit in a new city I moved to for my boyfriend. A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I broke up. So, everything is unsettled right now. The situation is ripe for panic attacks and nervous breakdowns. I’m trying to scrape myself off the ground by applying for jobs, going out dancing, and spending time with friends. And reminding myself I’ve been through worse and survived. It’s bootstraps time! Thanks for this awesome pick-me-up, Natalie!
    Quinn recently posted…Dusting off the tango shoesMy Profile

  13. You DO have this, Natalie! Here’s to you for making insanely happy playlists, knowing that being a barista isn’t going to kill you and realizing that working in an office might just give you the extra character you need for your kickass best-seller because you’ve definitely got the writing talent and humor and outlook needed. I’ll buy it.
    Kristi Campbell recently posted…The worst community service jobs everMy Profile

  14. Oh, I love that line, “you’ve done harder stuff than this.” Yes, it’s okay to do something that may not be your passion because you also have to pay the bills and it sounds like you have an incredible amount of perspective on it all… good luck to you and stay strong!
    Sarah | LeftBrainBuddha recently posted…{p.s. I love you…}My Profile

  15. You rock—-> “You have already lost everything once in your life; if you had to, you could do it again.” So much wisdom in every item on your Talk-Down list. And yeah, sometimes yoga is bullshit when you’re truly freaking the F out. You are going places, sister. I can’t wait to read your book. xo
    Stephanie @ Mommy, for Real. recently posted…ParentZ Bop: Eat SomethingMy Profile

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