Go West, Young [Wo]man

Remember all those boxes I told you about, the ones sitting in my garage waiting to be unpacked? Well, here’s the good news: I’ve finally unpacked everything I brought home from college. The bad news?

I have to pack it all up again because I’m getting kicked out of my house.

Now, I don’t want anybody to jump to rash conclusions or call Child Protection Services (that still applies to me at age 22.5, right?) because it isn’t my parents who are kicking me out. In fact, my parents would be totally fine if I stayed at home, continued looking for a job and saved the pitiful income I’m raking in from a string of odd jobs. As glad as I am to have this option, though, it feels a little too easy right now.

Therefore, I’m kicking myself out of the house and moving to Seattle in two weeks.

I’ll be the first to admit, though, that just up and moving to Seattle probably is not the best idea I’ve ever had. First of all I’ve never even visited Seattle, so I don’t actually know if I’ll like living there. Of course, everything I’ve read so far makes it sound like a fantastic place to live but you also don’t see me packing my bags for Mars just because I thoroughly enjoyed reading Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles last week.

I’ve also heard a rumor that it rains a lot in Seattle. You know that song “Age of Aquarius” from the play Hair, with the chorus that goes “Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in”? I actually used to think they were saying “Hail the sunshine, hail the sunshine” and I would think “That’s me! I’m a sunshine-hailer! I live for the sun!” And honestly, if I weren’t tied down to this whole Judaism thing I’d probably be a full-time sun-worshiper so I’m not quite sure this sunshine-less existence is going to work out.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I don’t have a job waiting for me in Seattle. Yes, I know it might seem like a pretty bone-headed move to put myself in a position where I will effectively be paying to conduct a job search, but  I’ve come to the conclusion that I value my independence much more than any potential financial drawbacks.

I have to admit, though, it took me awhile to reach that conclusion. When a friend from college first emailed me to say she had taken a lease on a house in Seattle and was “looking for a third roomie and I know this is less than a 0.1% chance, but if you feel like picking up and landing in an awesome city, you are totally welcome to be her!” I of course had many romantic daydreams about heading West like a modern-day pioneer on the Oregon Trail, only driving a U-Haul instead of the team of oxen that would have pulled my covered wagon.

And so I laid awake for a few nights after receiving that email, listing the pros and cons of a cross-country move in my head. When I couldn’t stand to toss and turn in bed any longer, I would get up at 3 or 4 a.m. to practice saying “I’m moving to Seattle!” in the bathroom mirror to see what if felt like. I researched whether it made more sense to fly or drive cross-country. I wrote out a list of important questions to ask myself, including musings such as “How will I say goodbye to everyone on the East Coast?”, “How much will it cost to move?”, and “Is it worth moving out of a rent-free room to go to a place where I don’t have a job?”

The next logical step, of course, was to tell my parents I had decided to vacate their house. The only difficulty with this step, though, was the fact that I’m awful at having Important Life Conversations. I actually happen to be a fairly horrendous verbal communicator so the thought of saying “I’m moving to Seattle!” aloud  was slightly terrifying, especially given the frosty reception my other proposed life plans have received from Mom and Dad over the last few months.

Therefore, instead of saying anything I typed up a 10-page report outlining my thoughts on the subject and presented it to my parents during a special Family Meeting I called to order during dinner one evening. In the end my parents and I had a good conversation about me moving out, I told my family and friends about the upcoming move and I’ve already started packing for the mythic land of Starbucks and Nirvana.

And I know this isn’t a perfect plan; as another friend wisely pointed out to me, the newness of Seattle isn’t going to last forever. While I might escape the suburbs by moving West I won’t exactly be escaping my joblessness. Crazy as it might sound, though, that’s not a drawback to me. My gut is telling me that it’s the right time to kick myself out of the house and I am more than happy to just go with my instincts at this point.

Don’t get me wrong: it has certainly been a challenge to find ways to keep myself busy during my last few months of joblessness. At the same time, it has still been a pretty cushy life and I think I’m ready for the real challenge of paying my own rent, navigating a new city, cooking my own meals and – who knows? – maybe even finding a job.

***

Note: Seeing as I’m still searching for a job, and seeing as this blog usually tends to be about more than just my job-hunt, anyway, I’m definitely going to continue writing after moving to Seattle. Be on the lookout for some travel writing and photos, too, as I get to know my new city!

Advertisements

The Dangers of Seaside Soul-Searching

It has recently come to my attention (thanks Mom!) that I have no idea what I want to do with my life. There, I’ve said it. I had inklings of this purposelessness when relatives or friends asked me about the type of job I’m looking for (“Uh, I dunno, something with writing and, uh, helping people”) but for the most part I’d been able to ignore the lack of direction in my life. Sure, it made my job hunt rather difficult when I didn’t actually know what type of work I was looking for, but things have a habit of falling into place, right?

And while I now feel comfortable with the idea that I need to just pick a direction and go instead of sending out two resumes a month to my dream jobs, this was not the case a few days ago.

You see, it all started earlier this week after I spent a morning at my local library conducting another job search. I was feeling jazzed about the potential tutoring positions I had found in Washington D.C. (because why not?) but my mom didn’t quite seem to share my enthusiasm. As she pressed me for further details about the openings I had researched, I flopped face-first onto a leather couch in our living room next to the ironing board where she was pressing the wrinkles out of my dad’s work shirts. After mumbling a few answers into the couch cushions I sensed my mom putting down the iron and picking up another shirt.

“Now, I’m not trying to be facetious or anything” she said, as the iron exhaled a puff of steam, “but do you have any idea what you want to do with your life?”

And that was when it appeared: one of those black clouds that hangs over your head to signal the dreaded what-am-I-doing-with-my-life-funk, which in my experience can last anywhere from a few hours to multiple weeks. So partially out of spite, and partially because I didn’t have an answer, I laid there silently until I got up a few minutes later and did the most adult thing I could think to do:

I got on my bike and ran away from home.

Call me delusional but I thought maybe, just maybe, taking my Black Cloud by surprise would deaden its effect. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered it’s not the sort of weather pattern you can escape by simply sneaking off on your bike, even if you are tearing around the suburbs at top speeds of six or eight miles per hour.

Fine, I thought logically, maybe I can’t out-bike this funk. But there’s no reason I can’t hide from it. And you know what? I really did make a valiant effort to fall off the face of the earth, at least for a few hours. Because after my ten minute dash to a local park, I locked up my bike and began to follow a well-pounded path to the beach. I thought maybe I could lose myself in the forest and the ocean-side reeds, but those pesky thoughts of my directionless future just would not take the hint.

IMG_1511

Another ten minutes on foot and I arrived at the shore. In my experience at this particular park (read: I once watched my brother sink up to his knees in low-tide mud) I removed my beat up blue Vans rather than risk losing them to the muck. I began to trudge through the sand, squish across the mud and, when I was lucky enough, cross the marshy canals on a plank of driftwood left by some thoughtful beachcomber who came before me.

IMG_1534After I picked my way through various sea grasses and narrowly avoided getting a piece of sea glass lodged in my foot, I came to a small river that I eagerly forded and, plopping down dramatically on the sand, heaved a sigh of relief. I had finally arrived at the island my younger brother and I discovered a few years ago, a secluded beach where we had seen decaying signs of human life but never another flesh-and-blood human amidst the scores of swallows and egrets.

As I sat staring out at the bay I suddenly realized I didn’t even know what I was doing there. I wasn’t sure if I had fled for the beach as a means of ignoring my purposelessness, or if I had hoped the beach would create the sort of tranquil environment that I imagined might be conducive to discovering one’s purpose in life.

IMG_1604

Dammit! I thought. Not only am I wandering around completely purposeless, I don’t even know how to be properly angsty about my purposelessness! I turned this conundrum over in my mind and, as I dug my heels into the sand, decided I wouldn’t leave until I’d resolved the issue and found my purpose.

A few minutes into my brooding, though, a beautiful seashell caught my eye and I obviously felt the need to wander over and inspect it. I actually became quite preoccupied with rinsing the sand out of my shell and attempting to poke out the rotting remnants of whatever used to live in there, thus ending any pretense of further soul-searching that day. Besides, the sun was setting, the IMG_1564 (2)park would close at dusk and an army of sand-fleas had launched an attack on my bare ankles and feet. As I pedaled the familiar route back to my house, I couldn’t help but think that no matter how existentially lost I feel right now, there’s comfort in the fact that I always seem to know the direction home.

No way, I mentally scolded myself. That is damn cheesy. Don’t even think about ending a blog post like that.

A Gen Y Fairy Tale

I know many of my peers have mixed views about moving in with their parents after college, and I’ll admit I was also a bit skeptical at first. But let’s be real, there are plenty of excellent things about living at home again: I have a rent-free room, there are home-cooked meals galore and spending so much time with my parents has allowed us to develop a really mature, adult relationship (read: today marked the seventieth time my mom asked me to “Please unpack all of your college stuff that’s been in our garage for FOUR MONTHS”).

In all seriousness, my mom has a point because my mess has gotten the tiniest bit out of control recently. So earlier this week, I decided to take a break from the job-hunt and tackle the garage.

It was mundane work, really; I spent most of my morning separating dishes and silverware from hiking boots and headlamps, looking through old photos and unpacking some books. As I sorted through stacks of textbooks and decided what to keep and what to sell, I found a dusty volume buried at the bottom of one box. “How on earth” I thought, as I brushed off the cover, “did my favorite anthology of childhood bedtime stories end up in here?”

I sat down on the cold cement floor and flipped through the book, suddenly lost in memories of my childhood.  These were the tales that had defined my youth and I couldn’t believe how long it had been since I’d taken a few hours to reread them.

And if you don’t mind, loyal reader, I’d like to pause here and share one of my favorites with you:

“ONCE UPON A TIME, in the faraway land of Long Island, there lived a little girl who loved to read. The little girl would read whatever she could get her hands on, including everything from Mary Poppins and Nancy Drew to the advice column in her local newspaper and the back of her shampoo bottle in the shower.

The little girl, quite luckily, also happened to attend an elementary school that sponsored an annual reading contest. All across the school district, little boys and girls and everyone in between competed to see who could read the most pages in just one week. And to ensure that all the students participated fairly, each parent or guardian had to sign a canary-yellow piece of paper every night, affirming which books the student had chosen and how many pages had been read.

During the first few days of the contest, the little girl devoured a stack of Roald Dahl’s novels overnight and burned through all five of the Hardy Boys book she owned. Night after night she would find a cozy spot in her family’s condo and lose herself to a world populated by witches and detectives and evil villains who were always thwarted by the Power of Good just in the nick of time.

When only one day of the contest remained, the little girl looked around at the stacks of completed books around her and felt that victory was as good as hers.

On the day the contest ended, the little girl walked confidently into the school building amidst an unsettling buzz of gossipy whispers that slowly turned into nervous chatter. When the little girl finally overheard the news, she couldn’t believe her ears. Earlier that morning, a boy in her grade had turned in a reading sheet claiming that he had read over a thousand pages. The little girl thought he must have been lying but she saw that the boy’s parents had signed his sheet and, wanting to avoid any gossip or drama, she kept her disappointment to herself.

A decade later, the little girl who loved to read had grown up into a college freshman who still really, really loved to read and write. One chilly February Sunday, as the college freshman laid in bed all morning annotating Breakfast at Tiffany’s for her English class, she realized that she was thoroughly enjoying her homework. The college freshman didn’t know it was possible to love her work this much and realized in that moment that she had found her calling. And so the college freshman declared a major in English and decided to spend the next four years pursuing her dual passions of reading and writing, future job prospects be damned.

Unsurprisingly, the college freshman majoring in English quickly became a college graduate without a job. As she puttered around her parents’ house, the college graduate quickly began to realize how a first job search can be one of the most difficult and demeaning rites of passage into adulthood.

‘I don’t understand how to exist in this limbo between wanting to have a plan and the immobilizing fear of committing to just one path when there are so many to choose from,’ thought the college graduate. ‘I know everyone says “Just pick a direction and dive in,” but what if I dive into the wrong thing? Is it really better to plunge blindly into any direction simply because it’s a direction? How much longer can I afford to sit here paralyzed by indecision until I decide to figure out if that advice – to just pick any direction – is true?’

Because the thing of it is, the college graduate most definitely wanted to contribute Important, Good work to the world; she just didn’t know where to begin. And so the college graduate searched unsuccessfully for employment and convinced herself that blogging was enough of a job because money wasn’t all that important as long as she was practicing her craft, right?

Her parents finally kicked her out of the house on her 27th birthday. The End.”

(Dear God I hope this fairy tale’s real-life counterpart has a happier ending.)

Started in the Burbs, Now I’m Here

As one of my generation’s greatest poets once stated: “Started from the bottom now we’re here… / I was trying to get it on my own / Working all night, traffic on the way home… / I just think it’s funny how it goes / Now I’m on the road, half a million for a show.”

Now, I can sit here and make fun of 26-year-old rapper Drake all I want but the fact of the matter is that Drake probably does rake in “half a million for a show,” while my income over the last two weeks has actually been negative thanks to a few weekend jaunts to New York City combined with, of course, my lack of a job.

Shockingly enough, different incomes aren’t the only thing separating me from Drake. As Drake tells us he “started from the bottom” and now he’s “here,” a rap superstar and a living example of the classic rags-to-riches trope. And me? Well, eighteen years in a middle-class suburb isn’t exactly starting at “the bottom” and graduating from college without a job isn’t quite the top.

But now that I’ve detailed the subtle differences between a Canadian rapper and a jobless English major what, you might ask, do we have in common? Believe it or not, Drake and I are actually pretty similar where it counts because by definition we are both members of “Generation Y.” Members of Gen Y, or “Millennials” as we’re often called, were born between the early 1980’s and the early 2000’s and typically share the traits of entitlement, narcissism and an inflated sense of self.

And though it might come as a shock, some employers actually have reservations about hiring members of Gen Y.

The author of one article recently published on The Street, a website devoted to finance and business, promises to offer up “4 Ways Gen Y Workers Can Improve Their Terrible Image,” while U.S.A. Today recently ran a piece bluntly titled “Gen Y Managers Perceived as Entitled, Unpolished.” These two articles, among many others that have popped up in various outlets over the last few weeks, are largely based on “Gen Y Workplace Expectations,” a study recently released by American Express and Millennial Branding, a consulting firm specializing in research on Gen Y. Their study essentially details the conflict and “workplace drama,” as one author put it, when Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials have to share office space.

And while I understand there are numerous statistics and plenty of evidence to quantify Millennials’ apparent inability to function in a workplace run by Baby Boomers and Gen X managers, I can’t help but respectfully disagree.

First, these articles seem to assume that most Millennials aspire to ascend the corporate ladder and I think it is a stretch to assume that an entire generation has the same career goals as their parents or grandparents. My closest friends from college are now pursuing endeavors as diverse as teaching English in France, attending medical school and working with refugees in Jordan, in addition to those who have happily pursued jobs as programmers or consultants in the corporate world.

And I know what you’re thinking: even if all Millennials don’t have the same career aspirations, don’t they still share a universal childhood defined by the same political, economic and cultural contexts that allows us to talk about them as a homogeneous group of people?

For one thing, the “Millennial” moniker implicitly seems to refer to a certain subset of middle- or upper-middle class Americans, sometimes called “yuppies,” who typify those Millennial characteristics of narcissism and entitlement. This definition discounts, of course, all the so-called Millennials who were also born at the end of the 20th century but come from a greater variety of socio-economic, racial or religious backgrounds and defy the definition of a “typical” Millennial, an argument put forth by numerous authors in books such as Diverse Millennial Students in College, which challenges the traditional meaning of “Millennial.”

So yes, maybe I am a product of my generation’s narcissistic and entitled outlook on life, but when Generation Y is called out for its narcissism or entitlement it usually seems that people do so because it is easier to generalize about a large group rather than see everyone as individuals, and I firmly believe everyone deserves to be seen as an individual. Ignoring marginalized voices and underestimating the importance of diversity is certainly easier, but that does not make it okay or guarantee better inter-generational working relationships.

I guess I can only hope, then, that any potential employers will look beyond my Gen-Y status and will value my objective merit as a potential employee. And as the ever-poetic Drake once stated, Generation Y really is not asking for much; although Millennials believe their entitlement is well-deserved because “There ain’t really much I hear that’s poppin’ off without us / We just want the credit where it’s due.”

All Hail Eloise, Queen of Self-Employment

Have you ever had one of those days when you’re hit with an epiphany and, as you smugly sit back in your chair and congratulate yourself on unraveling one of life’s great mysteries, it slowly dawns on you that your epiphany is actually something millions of people have already written about, thought about and put into action?

Although I was surprised that my most recent epiphany wasn’t exactly earth-shattering – as my epiphanies are often wont to be – this breakthrough has still provided an interesting new lens through which to view my job search. You see, up to this point I thought of employment almost exclusively in terms of working for someone else, or looking at job postings on the internet, or contacting well-known companies to inquire about employment. However, I recently have become intrigued by the idea of self-employment.

Think about it: rather than forcing yourself into a mold or searching endlessly for the perfect job that might not even exist, there is the profoundly pleasing option to create your own form of employment. I wish I could be more enthused by all the openings I see for analysts, consultants and program assistants but the truth of the matter is that I would very much like my business cards to read “Alanna Tuller, Jeweler-Writer-Photographer-Tutor Extraordinaire.”

And as someone who has always prided herself on being different and quirky (how many people do you know who created an emu costume for Halloween in eighth grade?) I’m actually surprised I didn’t recognize this alternative path sooner. Sure, self-employment might mean missing out on the validation that comes with advancing through the ranks of a well-established company, but I often question if I’m really about that life anyway.

So let’s say I decide to follow this self-employment track. Where should I begin? While I recognize that my status as a directionless and jobless twenty-something means I could certainly benefit from a life coach’s guidance or the mentorship of a working professional, that’s not really my style. Instead I have made the informed and intelligent decision to turn to my childhood hero, Eloise, for advice.

For those of you unfamiliar with Kay Thompson’s classic picture-book heroine, Eloise is a tireless, mischievous and sassy girl of six who lives at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Eloise’s daily life at the Plaza often consists of taking care of her dog, Weenie and her turtle, Skiperdee, occasionally being home-schooled by her tutor, Phillip, crashing weddings, combing her hair with a fork and, perhaps most famously, plotting to pour a pitcher of water down the hotel’s mail chute, among myriad other adventures.

And I know, I know: a fictional six-year-old girl might not seem like the best person to turn to for life advice but after a rigorous, literary-critical analysis of Thompson’s text (see mom and dad? I am using my English degree!) I think I have gleaned two very important pieces of advice for dealing with a period of joblessness and establishing a routine of self-employment.

Firstly, and above all else, it is important to keep busy. As Eloise states: “My day is rawther full, I have to call the Valet and tell him to get up here and pick up my sneakers to be cleaned and pressed… Then I have to play the piano and look in the mirror for a while. Then I have to open and close the door for a while and as soon as I hear talking and laughing I skidder out and run down the hall” (36-7).

Granted, it might not be totally necessary for Eloise to have her sneakers cleaned and pressed or to repeatedly open and close her door, but the fact that she feels such a sense of purpose in performing these mundane tasks – “I have to call the Valet,” “I have to play the piano” – is, quite frankly, inspiring.

This inevitably raises the concern, however, that while Eloise might be constantly busy she isn’t necessarily using all this energy to give back to her community and those around her. But not to worry: Eloise also makes sure to help the day maid make the beds, to assist the switchboard operators to the best of her abilities and, of course, to “help the busboys and waiters get set up in the Crystal Room. They always wait until the last second for Lord’s sake and then we have to rush our feet off” (42). Whether or not Eloise actually helps the Plaza’s employees is certainly open to interpretation (read: Eloise inevitably creates more problems than she solves), but at the very least it seems that her heart is in the right place.

So yes, while a full-time job would be nice right now, just like Eloise I have plenty of meaningful tasks to keep me busy: I am writing children’s book (because why not?); this blog is the reason I get up in the morning (so thanks very much to the seven people who actually read it); and I am working part-time as a tutor (granted my tutee is my younger brother, but as everyone loves to tell me it’s the experience that matters).

jubilant eloise

A humble homage to Eloise, my life coach.

Then, of course, there are the countless other tasks that occupy my days such as boogie boarding and reading and biking and making jewelry and beachcombing and jogging and unpacking all of my life’s possessions that are still sitting in a large pile in the middle of my family’s garage four months after graduation.

And though this busyness surprises me in spite of my joblessness, in the words of Eloise: “Oh my lord I am absolutely so busy I don’t know how I can possibly get everything done.”

The Girl Who Cried Unemployment

“You are not unemployed.”

“Excuse me?” I nearly choked on my salad. “Of course I’m unemployed.”

“No, you are not unemployed. You were never employed to begin with, so you can’t be unemployed now.” I started to speak, but my Dad pressed on with his argument. “Look at my friend X, he’s been searching for a job for three years now but he’s still out of work. X is unemployed.” My Dad speared a tomato with his fork. “You are not unemployed.”

Thus went our conversation at the family dinner table, a verbal sparring match in which my Dad told me why, for various reasons, I couldn’t label myself as unemployed while I vehemently argued that I was most definitely unemployed.

In my mind, unemployment was quite simply defined as a period of time in one’s life without a job that provides a steady, reliable income. Exhibit A: me. My Dad, however, felt that unemployment necessarily follows a period of employment at an Important Adult Full-Time Job.

I turned to Google to settle our argument and, as it turns out, myriad and contradictory definitions of unemployment abound on the internet as well. Unemployment insurance in my home state of New York, for example, is intended “For eligible workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own” but are “ready, willing, and able to work.”  The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), on the other hand, defines unemployment more narrowly by claiming that the unemployed are those who “do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the prior 4 weeks, and are currently available for work.”

According to New York state, then, I’m not unemployed. At my last job I signed a contract fully aware that my employment would end two months after my start date, so I guess it is indeed through a fault of my own that I no longer have a steady source of income. But if, just for kicks, I define myself by BLS standards then I am considered unemployed because I have searched for a job within the last four weeks and boy am I ever currently available for work.

And that’s just generally how we define “unemployment.” Within that category are so many sub-categories of unemployment it’s a wonder that anyone in this country can actually claim to have a job. First there are the long-term unemployed who the BLS defines as those who have spent over 27 weeks without a job. (Excellent, something I can look forward to.) Then there are seasonal and part-time workers who seem to fall into the category of “sort of unemployed” because while they have a steady income, part-timers are characterized by a desire to work more hours or to find that elusive long-term, full-time job.

Adding to the confusion, though, is a group known in BLS jargon as the workers who are “marginally attached” to the labor force because they haven’t searched for a job in the last four weeks. A depressing subcategory of the marginally attached is a group officially known as “discouraged workers” who have stopped looking for work because they “believe no jobs are available for them.”

Despite this smorgasbord of labels I discovered in my research I still didn’t feel like I fit into any of them. I’m not a discouraged worker (yet), and I am more than marginally attached to the labor force. After a little more stealthy Googling, though, I came upon my answer:

I am an unemployed youth and part of the American youth labor force, classified as all 16- to 24-year-olds who are employed or seeking employment, including many college graduates who “enter the labor market to look for or begin permanent unemployment.”

See? I told you so: I am too unemployed.

My fascination with identifying myself as unemployed, however, began to bother me and as I thought more about why I so vehemently wanted to be considered unemployed the answer shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did.

I am a white, middle-class, college-educated woman; I am a deeply privileged job-hunter. I can afford to call my blog the Jubilant Job Hunter because I am able flit from one job-posting to the next on my laptop, heave a sigh when I don’t find anything worth pursuing and go downstairs to join my family for dinner, placing my job search on hold because it doesn’t feel like a few days’ delay will make a difference.

It sometimes seems that there is a phenomenon among the “privileged” where there is a desire to associate themselves with the “underprivileged” – in this case the truly unemployed, who have sought employment without any success and maybe have factors actively working against their ability to secure a job – in order to abandon the responsibilities of one’s privilege when it is convenient.

My LinkedIn profile does not list me as “unemployed” but rather as an alumna of my alma mater. But when I don’t want that privilege for whatever reason (most often when I feel guilty about the fact that I’m still living off of my parents) I claim that I am “unemployed” to evoke that image of someone in dire straits who has spent weeks or months looking for work in order to let myself off easy rather than admitting that I have a responsibility to be working harder to find a job.

I’m now realizing that this whole business of crying “unemployment” when I don’t want to take ownership for my half-hearted job-search efforts is not only unproductive but will probably (and rightfully) aggravate those who have spent far longer searching for a job, unsuccessfully, and maybe don’t share the same privileges I do.

So there you go, Dad. Just this once you were right. I’m not unemployed.

On Parachutes, Multicolored and Golden

I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this, but I think it’s time to have the Parachute Conversation.

Jubilant Parachuter(1)Ever since I began my job search a few months ago, parachutes just seem to be popping up everywhere. It all began the day before my college graduation when, out of nowhere, my mom produced a gift bag overflowing with colorful tissue paper. “Here,” she said, handing me the bag. “We wanted to give you your graduation present now before things get too crazy tomorrow.” I gingerly removed the paper and pulled out a hefty tome entitled What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career Changers, by Richard “Dick” Bolles. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this text, What Color Is Your Parachute? is the seminal job-search bible that has been around for forty some-odd years and is actually part job-hunting advice and part therapy session.

Putting my gratitude in the form of a question, I looked at my mom and said “Oh… thank you?” thinking it was gag gift. I hadn’t even received my fancy new English degree yet, and already she was nagging me about finding a job. It had to be a joke, right?

It turns out she wasn’t kidding and it was a capital-A awkward way to begin graduation weekend.

My mom proceeded to defend her gift, though, telling me that she had also received What Color Is Your Parachute? when she graduated from college and that she truly believed it would benefit me to read through it. Fortunately, a few days after graduation I found out I had gotten a temp position working at my university for the summer so it was back off to school for a few months, where I could conduct my job search in peace.

One evening, after a few delightful weeks of procrastination, I decided I was finally in a good enough mood to sit down and read through my graduation present with an open mind. I promised myself that I would look beyond the cheesy self-help nature of the writing and seek out the concrete job-search advice Mr. Bolles had to offer. Unfortunately, I didn’t even make it past the table of contents before indulging in an exaggerated eye-roll as I saw the name of the first chapter I would read: “How to Find Hope.”

I know, I know, I’m being terribly unreasonable and defensive because, really, who doesn’t love to be force-fed positivity and optimism?

It is worth noting, though, that many books and blogs dealing with unemployment seem to fall into a few distinct categories. On the one hand, there is a breed of writers with a more inspirational bent to their prose, people like Mr. Bolles and Kerry Quinn, who wrote the ebook FUNemployed: Finding the Upside in the Downturn, which vows to spread the gospel of Ms. Quinn’s “FUNemployed philosophy.”

And while I find Quinn’s “FUNemployment” and Bolles’s colorful parachute metaphor to be fairly innocuous, if somewhat dorky, thorns in my side, I find myself slightly more bewildered by those who have written about their unemployment experiences comfortably tethered to a golden parachute. And believe me, it’s nothing personal; it’s just that as a recent college graduate with the tiniest of nest eggs, I can’t even fathom what it’s like to advertise your unemployment blog as one fellow blogger did with the tagline “Just another casualty of corporate layoffs looking for a good way to squander my severance” on her blog Adventures in Funemployment.

But who knows, maybe there was also a period of time when that blogger woke up every day and stared at the ceiling of her childhood bedroom and thought “I wish I could wake up to the ceiling of a place other than my childhood bedroom, but I have no money.” And so, for the purpose of maintaining a friendly blogging environment and keeping my jealousy in check, we’ll operate under the impression that my fellow bloggers’ golden parachutes and severance packages were hard-earned and that they deserve their funemployment.

So if it isn’t multicolored or golden, you might ask, what exactly does my unemployment parachute look like? I’ll leave to none other than Wikipedia to elaborate:

“Parachuting may or may not involve a certain amount of free-fall, a time during which the parachute has not been deployed and the body gradually accelerates to terminal velocity.” So there you have it. It seems that you and I both would like to know what my parachute looks like but while we’re in this seemingly interminable free fall, I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.