Hi. Welcome back!
My vision for this back-to-school article was fairly typical: Talk about the calmness of student-free summers, pool parties, dancing, swimming and making out, then transition into a positive outlook on the upcoming semester with a healthy warning about the bar scene, game-day culture and consent. Now that I’m in front of the page, that’s not what’s coming up for me at all. The fact is that I had a terrible summer.
I’ve been unemployed since the end of April. It was abrupt and unexpected. On May 1, I was sitting in my brand new apartment with tons of free time and no idea how I was gonna pay for anything.
I tried to be positive about it. The last time I had a summer off was when I was in college, and getting unemployment benefits only took a couple of weeks for me to lock down. I was bummed, but I had my summer wardrobe, some savings and government money coming in to tide me over until my new gig eventually happened in a manner of weeks. A month, at most.
Well, I’m still unemployed, except for this weekly column (and I’m very thankful to still have this space and the attention of my community). I received my last weekly unemployment benefit today, and I only have $80 left after rent and bills each month. I’ve applied for 50 jobs since losing mine and have had only three interviews, a result that actually falls in line with national statistics. I’m usually too broke to do anything, but I only really “go out” for weekday happy hours when I know I won’t see people who will ask me how my new job is going.
It’s hard to notice good things or be thankful when we’re struggling with other stuff, but I think I need to be more mindful of what’s going well for me, lest the negativity drag me into darker places than I’d like to share publicly.
This summer, I discovered a great BBC show called “Time Team” that I can’t stop watching, and I’ve fallen in love with the entire cast. I sometimes imagine that life will get better, and I’ll accomplish my dreams of going to grad school and traveling outside of the U.S. It’s kind of silly to daydream about drinking pints with strangers, but it’s a welcome reprieve from pacing my empty apartment day after day and watching my phone, doubting my past, fearing my future and questioning my value in this world.
Maybe you are also struggling to remain positive and optimistic. I hope you are as lucky as I am, because I have family and friends who will be optimistic for me. It is the support of my loved ones that keeps me from truly believing that there is no future, the closest I’ll ever get to the cliffs of Dover is in my dreams, and all hope is lost.
For instance, I can’t afford the food I’m used to, so I just shove veggies and protein at my face as needed. But I can dream of my mom’s barbecue ribs and mac and cheese, and she will say to me, “I’ll give you the recipe.” When I respond that I can’t afford to buy the goods to prepare her food, she says, “You will soon. It’s gonna be OK.”
Bless her beautiful heart. How can she say that in a world like this one? How can anyone? I don’t know where she gets her optimism, but she loves to share it with me, and dammit, I’ll take it. She says she’s already thanked her God for my future job, and to that I say, this God better not have my mama out here looking like a fool.
Be optimistic if you can, and if you can’t, seek out optimism from those who love you. (Someone does love you.) My optimism and will to live are currently on loan from my mother and my sister. I keep real love close enough to catch me when I fall, and you should, too.