Being just shy of forty-five, I have worked a lot of jobs.
A lot of jobs.
I started working when I was a teenager, doing occasional yard work for a neighbor for $5 an hour, which at the time seemed pretty amazing. From there I worked with my sister cleaning a couple offices my dad was connected to and I have worked every since. I grew up a spoiled kid but not one that didn’t appreciate that you had to work in life.
That’s just how the system is.
So, I worked.
Which is not to say that I LOVED work but that I did what I had to do, even working three jobs, seven days a week, for a brief run.
Through all those jobs, all that time, I had never really been fired.
I had been essentially laid off when there wasn’t a need for me but it was a matter of – we’re closing the store – or – we just can’t afford to keep you. Which isn’t a great feeling, but it’s one that I could shrug off.
I had never really been fired, not even when I wasn’t brought back on an interim job. It was frustrating and angering but the term of service ended and I wasn’t brought back, that was it.
I had never been fired.
Not until six months ago.
It was a job that I didn’t love, that I didn’t excel at, and that I didn’t feel like I fit doing but it was a job and at my age, that’s the prison we put ourselves in. The hell of it was that the people I worked with were pretty nice, I liked the work we were doing, and it was good to be part of something working in the community. I went into something I didn’t know, didn’t quite understand, and wasn’t fully trained for and did the best I could.
It wasn’t good enough.
And I get it.
I got it.
I saw the writing on the wall long before the big day but it didn’t make it easier. It’s hard to give a damn when you know you are doomed. It’s hard to help when you know that your time is almost up. I had gone through the drawn-out death of my mother and then the awful death of a puppy we had just adopted and then work started to go downhill and it’s hard to keep your head up when you are drowning.
The worst of it was how it went down.
How isolating it felt.
How needlessly cruel.
How I knew I was about to be fired when I was told I was requested for a meeting with my boss on Tuesday for the coming Friday.
Everyone knows what Friday meetings are.
I hated the game.
I had to be a part of firing someone in the program I was an admin on who had been caught stealing.
I was going to be expected to attend a full staff meeting of our division the day before I was to be fired.
It was like there was a secret that I had overheard.
And when it happened, and it was all done, the year and change I had worked there, with these people, was gone.
I was gone.
A break-up like any other.
I had been unemployed before, been in the system before, but not for the duration. Not until it ran out.
They definitely made it easier, made it more streamlined than it used to be, but it’s still a huge system that you fall into and try to navigate.
How people are expected to survive on unemployment I can’t say. Were I not married and with an understanding father that owns the house we’re paying off, I’d have been on the street.
It’s funny to read about how great the job market when we live in a gig economy. When we live in a time where people have to get multiple jobs to make things work. Hey, it’s a ‘gig economy’, we hear. It’s awesome to have to be a cab driver with no union, and using your own car. I have been looking for work, with a Bachelor’s Degree and years of work in professional offices, and I still can’t even get interviews.
I am at a point where I have started to look for work far below what I want or need to live because I am out of time and out of hope. I started to sell some things. I lucked into a side gig for a moment. I applied and applied and applied, to over a hundred jobs in six months hoping something would come through. And it gets laughable, the things these places want for what they pay. Wanting administrative assistants to do work like website maintenance or marketing when those are professions on their own. It’s like there’s no investment in people any longer. The market shrunk and now it’s a buyer’s market. The idea that adults can live off of part time work, can survive without benefits or insurance, and can thrive on temporary work is insane.
We don’t care about the worker any longer though, it’s all about the corporate persona and its ever hungry leadership as they consume the wages and drive the company into the grave.
And when that company dies, the leadership pulls their golden parachute and heads off to another company to suck on its blood.
Wages haven’t grown.
Opportunity hasn’t grown.
The only growth is at the top.
We are no longer people, we are a collection of jobs and skills and people who know people.
We aren’t seen as investments, we are seen as parts for a larger machine which are easily changed out.
And I sit here, scouring ads looking for jobs that make sense, that I can do, that I might be able to get, and the hole feels deeper and deeper and deeper.
The past year has been an utter nightmare that I can’t find an end to.
I know it will end.
I know I will get through it but I just don’t know how or when or how I survive it.
It’s heartbreaking to know that all of my hard work, experience, and time has led to a dead end. It’s a shame that we’ve turned the workplace into a grinder, a beast that must be fed at all costs.
It’s a shame that we’ve accepted this ‘gig economy’ as normal.
I have yet to find the bottom of this hole but like every hole it will have one and from there I can only go up.