Now that the semester has ended, my students’ grades are in, and I have not been offered but one course in the winter, I am officially unemployed. I have also run out of my E.I. benefits. The second and third job interviews I’ve had over the last month have either lead to dead ends, or have been put on hold until everyone settles into the New Year.
While I am technically experiencing poverty (and learning a ton from this experience), I am much more privileged than most people in my position. I come from a middle class family who loves me, and helps me out financially and emotionally. I have fantastically supportive and wonderful friends, and a great boyfriend. So, my experience, while completely sleep destroyingly stressful, is certainly more manageable than most people’s experiences of unemployment.
That said, being without an income is terrifying at any point, but the holidays are particularly marginalizing. Going out into public (and most public spaces are consumer spaces) is fucking triggering. Being in a mall, for example immediately makes you feel like an outsider looking into your former culture. I find myself sizing up rando Christmas shoppers, carrying bags, and thinking to myself, “I’m smarter and cuter than that that guy. Why does he have a job when I don’t I have a job?” Or, something as simple as being asked “are you done your Christmas shopping?” can make you feel like a total asshole loser.
Lately I have been exercising a lot of self-restrain in such scenarios. When politely asked about Christmas shopping by a stranger, I have an intense urge to commit premature disclosure. I instinctively want to reply with, “I actually can’t afford to buy any presents, because I don’t have a job right now. I have a Master’s degree and most of PhD, and I was working at this College until I arbitrarily, for no reason at all got slowly phased out, so…” But then I realize that a) nobody actually cares if you are finished your Christmas shopping, and they certainly don’t want to hear why you haven’t, and b) I sound like one of those crazy people you have encountered in public transit… the ones who manage to disclose way too much about their lives to you. Within the geographical span of 4 blocks, you leave the conversation knowing their dog’s name, their former dog’s name, and that they have a gluten sensitivity. Then you spend the next half hour pitying them.
But, there are some upsides…
Is it *that* bad that I’m actually kind of pumped that the Salvation Army is on record saying crazy old-timey homophobic shit about Gay parents, because I get to feel self-righteous when I walk by, muttering “homophobe” instead of dropping a looney in their clear plastic ball? It’s like a little gift to me this Christmas. I get to feel a little agency.
Another silver-lining- – I get to watch what seems like an infinite amount of 1990’s Christmas B-movies during the day. My favourite? This one where a teenage girl (clearly based on Cher Horowitz, but who the hell are you kidding? There is only one Cher Horowitz) gives Santa a makeover and turns him into George Hamilton.
So yes, being unemployed sucks. But, homophobic charities and movies with dubious plot lines and recycled characters keep the Christmas spirit alive in my heart.