Internalizing the Economy

RR

The other day I wrote this as my status on Facebook: I spend hours and hours and hours sending out resumes only to be ignored. I volunteer my time hoping it’ll bring paid employment. I am asked over and over to give my labor away for free. I watch friends move in and out of jobs and wonder what they are doing that I am not. I read articles about how to find employment. I network, coordinate, and collaborate to no avail.

I AM VALUABLE. MY LABOR IS WORTH A PAYCHECK.

After I posted it, I could feel my mood plummet. I got so discouraged, so angry, so depressed. I started thinking to myself

You’re an idiot. This is what you get for thinking you had a right to an education.

You have done nothing but make bad choice after bad choice and now you’re living the consequences of those poor choices. It doesn’t matter how many resumes you send out, you’re stupid and you’ll never get anywhere. You’ll never be an employee of a nonprofit because no one wants you. You’ll never work up the ranks to Executive Director. You’ll never do anything of consequence because you have no value, no inherit worth. You, Michelle, are a fucking idiot who has no one to blame but yourself. You got too big for your britches thinking you had a right to an education and a right to a career, a job even.

Then I took to bed and cried myself to sleep.

When I talk to people about how I am internalizing the economy I get the usual responses “you’re not stupid. You’re not an idiot. It’s the system. It’s the economy.” While I appreciate their effort, their words are hollow. Worse is when I look in their eyes and I see pity. Worse still is when they walk away knowing they have a job and I do not. Instead of getting angry I just work harder. I know the old saying “don’t work harder, work smarter” but it just doesn’t seem to apply. Try as I might (harder or smarter) I just cannot find work. I apply for positions but never receive a call for an interview or acknowledgement of my resume. Every position gets so many resumes I get lost in the shuffle. Since I know this is happening I did something I have never done before: I asked someone to drop a dime and put in a good word for me. Actually, I asked two people to do so. It’s my belief I should be interviewed and hired on my merits not on who I know. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

Each time I send a resume to a potential employer there’s an upsurge in my body, like adrenaline being dumped. And as time goes on and I receive no response the despair is a little lower than the next time. If I do get an interview the upsurge increases substantially. But when I get that rejection (if I get one at all, usually silence is what follows) the despair is worse than the last time. Further and further I fall into that pit.

As the unemployment continues I try to keep myself busy. As I stated in my status on Facebook, I volunteer my time. But I found I’m being taking advantage of. Not on purpose but still it’s happening. The organizations I give my labor to are progressive and work hard for equality. I was contacted by one asking me to do something for them. At first I agreed. Then, remembering crying myself to sleep the night before, I asked how much I would be paid. The organizer said there was no budget for such. I responded with “My labor is not free. Just like you, I need a paycheck. If your organization is not going to pay me then I cannot accommodate their request.” Then I put this on my status: I did it! For the first time in my life I asked “and how much will you pay me” when I was asked to do something for an organization. It was scary to be that assertive but I will no longer be taken advantage of. If an organization wants something from me they will have to pay me. This is especially true if the organization has paid staff, staff paid well enough to buy a house. It was a terrifying moment for me. I like to feel needed and feel useful. I’ve always been afraid to say no because I want to be part of the solution not the problem. But I have a breaking point and it was reached.*

There is not much for me to do but continue doing what I have been: prowling the job websites, sending out resumes, trying to keep myself from slipping into the dungeon of depression, keeping back the hounds of envy when I look at friends and family being able to go on vacation, buy clothes, go out to eat, get a haircut, and trying really, really hard not to get angry and lash out.

*Now my fear is I won’t be called at all, that I will get a “reputation” as being difficult and I’ll be rejected and ostracized. It’s a lose-lose situation: I do what they ask and I’m left unpaid. I don’t do what they ask and I’m rejected.

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4 thoughts on “Internalizing the Economy

  1. Soli

    First, I am sure you know this, but talking to yourself like that isn’t going to be a help. In Kemet (ancient Egypt) it was known as heart eating. The last thing you want to do is contribute to what our culture wants to push on to you.

    Second, NOTHING wrong with networking and people dropping in a word for you. In my field it’s the best way to get a job.

  2. Michelle

    Thanks Soli. I know intellectually what you’re saying is true but emotionally I’m struggling to believe the words I hear.

    I do think it’s unethical for someone to get a job because they know someone else. I feel this way because I’ve watched many get jobs they were unqualified for or didn’t care about. For people such as myself who very much want the position (whatever the position may be) and work hard to get said position, I feel like I’ve been slighted in favor of someone who know another. Even if the other is well qualified and wants the job I still feel they were chosen because they were “in the know” or “in the clique” or similar sentiments leaving people such as myself un/der-employed merely because we didn’t know someone or someone powerful enough.

  3. Soli

    Unfortunately, until we can put together a true meritocracy that is going to happen. I have been learning that as you move up in to more professional positions, it’s a mix of knowing people and being qualified. Don’t be afraid to work both.

    And keep in mind I say this as someone who’s hunting for her first “real” job in her profession. It’s tough.

  4. dominique.field@gmail.com

    I think you speak for more of us than less. You are not alone. Many of us are hitting our heads against a wall going this is interesting. But I try to remember that many of my ancestors went through hard times too and draw on their strength and courage. I am not sure this helps, but for me, sometimes it is the only thing I can draw from. bb

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