I hate the term “unemployed”. I feel that it implies I’m somehow incapable of finding work or am unfit to be hired in some way — both assumptions that are completely wrong. First of all, I wouldn’t be where I am if not for being brilliant at what I do, and I am definitely not ashamed to take credit for the things I’ve worked hard to accomplish. So no, I am not “unfit to be hired”, and I am also not “incapable of finding work”. Therefore, I refuse to be labeled as “unemployed”.
I also hate to think that the economy is to blame for my not-so-ideal situation. I currently live in San Francisco, after all, where startups have built their first tens of thousands on donations from Kickstarter backers with little to no effort. To imagine the world being “in debt” when I am in a city where I am surrounded by constant innovation and young entrepreneurs throwing both their wallets and hearts into new and exciting ideas — it just doesn’t feel or sound logical to me.
So rather than saying I am unemployed, and rather than blaming the economy for something I am fully capable of taking personal responsibility for, I elect to say this instead: I am available for hire. To me, this sounds promising. To me, this sounds as though I am willing to work, willing to be hired, and that while I may have been previously engaged with prior commitments, my schedule is now open and my talents can be put to use by someone else who will better utilize my free time.
What am I doing right now?
I’d like to say that I am in a unique situation. I am 24 years old, young and living in an inexpensive apartment in the city. I have several clips in my writing portfolio that make me feel extremely proud and confident in my professional history, and am now facing one huge decision: Do I resume the hunt for employment? Do I jump back into a field I love and am passionate for? Do I continue to happily work my little butt off for “the man”? Or do I go back to school, possibly discover some new career path, meet new friends and pretend to learn the things I’ve already done professionally?
Oh, the choices.
Instead of making a decision right away, I’ve just been taking it easy. I get to do that, right? I’m enjoying the thought of not being some fancy company’s property for a bit, and am spending a good majority of this recent excuse-for-a-quick-vacation catching up on things that I would normally be too tired after work to pursue. I’m what you would call a “workaholic”, you see, and rather than spending my recreational periods being social after logging off the job, I’d spend it gathering inspiration for news and editorials for the next day instead. A load of good that did me in the end, eh?
I’m also taking advantage of this time I have away from being fully employed by immersing myself in my hobbies. Take writing, for example. And yes, I realize writing was also part of my job (which is what made it so awesome), but I was a writer before I was hired to write professionally, have always been a writer, and can’t — for the life of me — figure out how to stop writing. So now that I have time to unleash my creative brain on my actual personal projects? You guys, my lovely readers, get to benefit from my long-winded bullshit.
You are so welcome.
Am I actively job hunting?
Yes and no. When I first found myself available for hire in the city, I sort of freaked out and went crazy with trying to land my next gig. I thought that my life depended on immediately being hired for something awesome and new, launching into a new career path and utilizing my skills to benefit whatever company recognized my value.
Having been in this situation before and now that I am in this predicament again, I realize: Life is short. Life is so fucking limited, you guys. I could blink and wake up at 35 years old, look around and realize that I’m still in the same spot that I was at 24. Do I really want that? Do I really want to be constantly having to prove myself again and again, when I already know what I’m capable of doing? Would I be happy if I woke up tomorrow and was still in the same place? What exactly should I be doing with my life to take me down a path that makes me happy?
This is why I’m struggling over the decision between either going back to school, or going back to work. With school, I have so many ideas for what I want to do, what I could do, and what sort of people I plan to meet while attending — it’s an unexplored option for me, and it seems so new and scary. When it comes to work, I already know what I want. I have enough experience to understand that I need to be in a position that challenges me creatively, allows me to create content, and allows me to utilize my own sassy personality (which seems to have gotten me pretty far, honestly) in a strategic and productive way that benefits my company.
So again, yes and no.
- Yes, because I’m open to the possibility of work. I’ve been approached by a few companies and contacts, briefed by a few recruiters, that sort of thing. I am one highly adaptable individual, and anyone who has been following me for the last four months or so can easily see how dedicated and passionate I am about what I was doing. I’m confident in my work ethic and abilities, and am 110% positive that whoever hired me would be pleased with my prolific output and ability to simultaneously drive traffic and community engagement. These are things I am good at. Fucking clearly.
- No, because I feel I deserve a week or so (maybe even a month) to take it easy, lay back and let my brain unwind from the stress. I have plenty of time to think about the rest of my life, and at 24 years old, I feel I deserve to enjoy my youth a little. I’ve been working my entire life — seriously. Hustling my ass off through my entire career, having to prove that I’m not “just a pretty face”, having to leap over obstacles every goddamn second just to prove to judgmental bosses and colleagues that I’m not an airhead, am passionate about what I do, and am dedicated to my craft. It’s exhausting! I just … I need a fucking break, y’know? If I’m really going to be hired by someone in the next week or so (supposing this even happens), it will have to be an offer I can’t turn down. Otherwise, I’m seriously considering just going back to school so I can enjoy the rest of my youth while I can. I have the rest of my life to work myself to death — I’m only young once.
What happens if I don’t find work?
While I do miss the working environment (mostly, being able to work alongside one fantastic team of amazing people whose hunger may even exceed my own), I’m also grateful for this chance to explore new options. The only thing that really scares me is being forced to model and stand around half-naked again to make rent while hustling my art for cash.
Though not exactly mentally exhausting, I speak from experience when I say that what little “modeling” I did just felt incredibly degrading to me. Mostly because I know I have a brain, know I’m fully capable of using it to create fantastic content, and also consider myself to be incredibly valuable — Modeling and hustling just doesn’t feel … I don’t know. It doesn’t feel like it would take me down the path I actually want to be on. As cool as it is to say I’ve done, I don’t want it to be my life — I just want it to be a blip on my timeline to greatness. I’ve never felt that same sick satisfaction as other people have when claiming the fact that I’ve “modeled”, and I doubt I ever will. Does that make sense?
I will say, however, that when it comes down to it, I’m totally willing to do these things again if it means being able to stay in San Francisco. I just can’t move back to Stockton. Even going back there to visit my parents for Thanksgiving made me realize how life would just be absolutely over for me if I returned. I would rather go into debt for the rest of my life than return to a city where I have no room for personal and career-oriented growth. I’m not joking. I would rather die. As much as I love my family, Stockton is not my “home”.
If anything, I would probably just take out student loans here in the city and go to some college nearby, or I’d move out to some cheap place like … I dunno. East Bay or something? Maybe even Sacramento? Just anywhere with good public transportation, a cheap but comfortable living environment, and the opportunity for growth — the bare minimum, basically. I’d even consider visiting another country and just wandering, eating fruits and vegetables for cheap, engaging with the culture and environment, documenting my experiences and possibly even writing a book.
Life seems so limitless, and yet so short.
I’m lucky to be so young and to have such a long future ahead of me. I’m just … Not sure what I want to do anymore. When every decision I make seems to be the wrong one, what choices am I left with? And are they choices I actually want to pursue?
Why does everything feel so complicated right now? Shouldn’t I be taking it easy? How does one “take it easy”? How do I stop? Should I? Should I just stop trying to progress?
What does my actual audience think?
I often assume that when I write, my work will actually be read by someone out there who might actually give a shit about what I have to say. Fortunately, this usually tends to be the case with the seriously-engaged readers of my blog, followers on Twitter, Google+ and Tumblr, as well as friends and subscribers on Facebook.
Yesterday, for example, I posed the following question across the main social platforms I frequent:
“If you had the choice to either go back to school or into a full-time position, which would you choose and why?”
Interestingly enough, responses were heavily varied depending on the platform. The majority of those responding via Google+ appeared to favor taking the full-time position rather than jumping back into their studies, while those responding via Twitter seemed to lean more towards academics all around. Facebook was the one platform to receive a healthy mix of different opinions.
Here are some of my favorite responses from both sides of the argument, and even some between:
“I just chose full time student. Worked corporate life for a decade and was let go on my birthday. Took some time looking for a job and realized that I had an opportunity for a ‘redo’ and am using my severance package and unemployment monies (as well as scholarships now) to pay for school. I’m looking forward to my next, totally unrelated to mu previous work, career. I’ll be 45 and starting anew, how great is that?!!”
— James N. via Google+
“The only ‘why’ that matters is what is your day–to-day life is going to be in the upcoming decades depending on the choice? Is it going to be so cool that you won’t want to go to sleep or will it be worth living only one or two weekend days a week like so may people chose?…Chose from love, not from intellectual pragmatism and market immediacies. That mainstream mindset leads to ‘a life of quiet desperation’ and regrets..Markets and economies always change and there is room for brilliance in any economic era…One becomes brilliant and fulfilled because one followed one’s heart..in whatever field that path is too arduous to bear if one does not love the profession…Follow your heart and you will make the awesomely blessed choices that await you.”
— Ney Mello via Google+
“FT position, 100%. employers don’t care about your formal education if u have great work experience. and once you get out of school, then what?”
— Arthur Gwynne via Google+
“I ask myself this all the time. Depends if school were free (hard to justify education in the US with a cost/benefit analysis).”
— Jen Charlton via Twitter
“I went back to school, and I’m rather enjoying it… But I think you have a lot of experience, and could find a job without it.”
— Michelle Roberson via Twitter
“easily back to school. Always wanted to go back for a higher degree and thoroughly enjoy learning/studying & student life”
— Zella Panossian via Twitter
“i have a full time position i was offered while still in school and school + 50 hour weeks became too much to handle. if it weren’t for the fact that i need my job to pay my bills i would definitely go back to school!”
— Karen Stawasz via Facebook
“It all depends on your goals. For me personally I’d always, always say full time position. You pick up only what you need to and learn only what is necessary, and you can ignore all of the extraneous bullshit they try to feed you at college. You only need a degree to get a job in the end, and it’s 1000000 times easier to go back to school from a job than the other way around. If learning a bunch of different things and trying to figure out where your passions lie is your goal, however, college is a great playground for your brain.”
— Joe Laurino via Facebook
“I’d rather be a starving grad student researching what I love every day and finding something new that can help the world than to live a lavish lifestyle. Grad housing is subsidized for a reason. I think Cheri is smart enough that she wouldn’t have to worry about debt. She’s already proven that she can handle her own finances without the help of her parents or anyone else.”
— Anna Yu via Facebook
As you can see, I have a bit of thinking to do at the moment. Fortunately, when I think seriously about things, I like to put my thoughts in writing as it helps me sort everything out in a coherent, expressive, creative and [what I find to be] personally interesting sort of way. And the great thing about writing is: You only get better at it the more you do it. Practice makes perfect, right?
My readers often say that my writing is “evolving”, and they find it fascinating to observe. I think so as well. Having done this for what I believe is well over a decade (not counting my childhood before word programs — I originally documented my writing in diaries and journals with a pen and paper), I’ve noticed my writing developing a pace that only comes with personal experience. It’s not really the sort of thing one can learn in school, yeah?
Knowing these things now, however, I feel I may be able to pursue academics with the satisfied feeling that I’ve already tried the professional side of things. And although I prefer to work, it might be time to give school a chance as well? Or as some have replied, work part time (contribute), and go to school in tandem?
The only thing is that my contracts are going to become unaffordable. I’ll need to cut back on some things and live cheaply in order to continue paying rent. I might really need to take advantage of loans and whatever else there happens to be, and see what an academic route feels like as a struggling student?
Maybe I can even intern at Cosmopolitan Magazine (God, that would be so amazing — creaming myself just thinking about it). Can you imagine? “Hi, I went back to school just so I could be an intern at your magazine.”
* Raise your hand if you’ve been reading my blog long enough to remember when my childhood dream was to write for Cosmo? :) Nice to see you guys again. And thank you for sticking around to watch me grow up — I’m truly flattered that you find me interesting enough to keep up with.
Anyway, I suppose that’s it.
If you want more content, no worries. I’ve already written three other blog posts in my iPhone while picking up some groceries the other day — I just need to run them through the final drafting wringer, yeah?
Living up to prolific,
Sherilynn “Cheri” Macale