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Screaming Inside My Heart

Originally posted on The $76K Project on 11/21/2020

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about looking for a new job. I focused on how I'm going to find employment that plays to my strengths and experiences! And pays me some real money for once! And doesn't erode my mental health! I'm not compromising this time!

I'm back to say that 

1. these are all good thoughts,

2. but we are in a pandemic

3. and if I thought job hunting was hard before COVID, haaaaaa. 

Because now? It's soul-crushing.

Job hunting has never been easy, but in the past, I've always been able to get promising feedback and at least a few nibbles within a few weeks of putting some effort into it. In the past month alone (please note that I have been looking for work since March, although I've ramped up my efforts lately), I've applied for 55 jobs. In every case, I met at least 90% of the stated qualifications. Also, I currently have a part-time job that supposedly looks good on paper and that I've held for more than a year; according to traditional employment wisdom, that should make me relatively attractive as a job candidate.

I've received a grand total of one interview offer since August. The interview didn't happen because the HR person ghosted me after I replied with my availability.

I understand that this takes time and that I may need to submit hundreds of applications to get anywhere. I also understand that we're in a period of massive unemployment: millions of people are looking for work, and my field has been particularly decimated.

But knowing these things doesn't make this situation easier. This past week was a nonstop struggle inside my head: how did I get here? Why is everything so hard? Why haven't I been more successful? 

Followed by rumination on the long list of choices I made that seem terrible now in retrospect.

It's hard not to worry.

First of all, there's the basic concern of HAVING MONEY TO FUND EXISTING, which is almost impossible not to obsess over if you don't have a job or, like me, are massively underemployed. Time seems to fly by in Coronaworld, and soon it'll be March, when we have to decide whether to keep renting our current place (which we cannot afford unless we start making more money) or find another, cheaper place to live in our town (aka unicorn hunting) or move to another town/state altogether (I don't know where we'd go, and also, moving is expensive). 

A few people have told me that I should focus on the moment and not concern myself with the unknowns of five months from now, but if you're on a train with no brakes and the train is heading towards a wall miles down the road, good luck not thinking about the wall (even as you're grasping at passing tree branches and assiduously trying to slow your roll).

Second, there's the pesky issue of feeling like a completely worthless failure. I've been lurking on Job Reddit a lot lately, so I know this is a very common sentiment amongst people looking for work. The general advice seems to be, Keep your head up, stop those negative thoughts, you silly cow, and go back to night school to become an electrician! 

But now that I am in the thick of this job-hunting situation, with people constantly telling me I'm not qualified to do things I've already successfully done (or even am currently doing now, WITH SUCCESS), I'd like to say that a) it is hard not to feel like a CWF and b) it's better not to offer these shallow, useless suggestions.

Third, there's enough stress to go around even without the job hunt: avoiding COVID, making sure my kid is actively participating in remote learning and not having a nervous breakdown behind my back, being around other people 24/7, maintaining relationships with people I haven't seen in almost a year, wondering whether our democracy has completely fallen apart, worrying about family members across the country, watching the death toll increase exponentially, and basically grappling with the fact that we're dealing with the worst crisis in more than a century. That's MORE than enough to handle. Stack employment worries on top of all that and it's too much.

Finally - and excuse me for shouting here - but

WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK IS THE GOVERNMENT DOING

People are out of work, struggling to pay the rent and buy groceries, and we're supposed to be grateful for the $1200 that we got back in ::checks notes:: May? As a taxpayer, I want Congress to stop throwing my money at the Cheetolini's golf trips and start giving its citizens some real financial support. 

But oh wait, I forgot. If we don't have work, we're just not trying hard enough to find it! And besides, we were all supposed to be prepared for this singular global catastrophe! We should have more than a year's worth of savings in our healthy bank accounts! Heck, if we'd made any effort at all, we'd already be financially independent and retired early! 

Unfortunately, many of us were too lazy ten years ago to get a six-figure job, ride the wave of the stock market, and invite Our Lord and Savior Mr. Money Mustache into our hearts. So when our landlords evict us and we wind up camping out in our cars, eating cans of cold Hormel Chili with plastic spoons we stole from Micky D's, we need to remember that we deserve it. We brought this upon ourselves. If we had just been better prepared, we, too, could be using this unprecedented opportunity to invest in Tesla and purchase vacation property.

Anyway, where was I?

Right. My point is, after nine months of this pandemic, I am extremely stressed out, disappointed, resentful (yes, I am, I'm not ashamed to admit it), angry, and sometimes scared. 

I think a lot of us are wondering where the recourse is, and whether there will ever be any, because of course we're supposed to do it all for ourselves, by ourselves. It's hard to feel hopeful right now.

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