Unemployment works on New Year’s Eve. Lines are so busy the robot offers to call me back. Twenty-two to forty-seven minutes later, a cheerful woman notes my new job starting Wednesday, the second. There’s nothing else for me to do. It’s okay. The system knows now.
My system for the year was upended. I never planned on unemployment, but the loss of my cat and associated vet bills panicked me into it. All those recruiters calling me through the winter, spring and summer would find something in moments, I assumed. I’d work a few months in some job’s distracting constriction and by New Year’s be released again, savings restored, ready to attack big projects. The weather turned cold and grey from interview to interview. I am glad there is a system that knows.
September: warm but taunting, with the glassiness of being out of school and not knowing what to do. October: the same until some secret switch is thrown, the world turning grey. November: a good month, still grey, but keeping up some writing, starting class, and a good Thanksgiving.
December was far more active than I would have guessed, with class, good writing, and interviews for jobs I’d actually want. (As much as I’d want any job, let’s be clear.) The long quiet room of a night on stage was replaced with anxiety’s glass threads, but that job only lasted a week. Now all of that is over, and Christmas too. We all stand in the fresh new day, dazed.
Sitting in the bottom of my inbox, I’ve opened this email every week, followed the link to verify my looking for work, having no other income, not scamming the system. First thing every Sunday, $544 appearing in my checking account on Tuesday. It’s made a difference and provided a comfort, but at the cost of my overactive guilt. When everyone else is at school, it doesn’t feel right not to be.
Four months unemployed isn’t a long stretch, especially when I planned to be anyway, though with different circumstances. I have felt elated, calm, busy, tired, desperate, panicked, fearful, vague, and fine. Now it is time to put this email with the handful of others kept down in the archive. It will feel like something done on my own terms.