Here’s what it’s like to be unemployed:
First, you never set your alarm. Sure, you think to yourself I should wake up at seven every day so as to be productive. But then you’re up until two in the morning for who knows what reason and suddenly seven in the morning doesn’t sound so good. And waking up to an alarm is never pleasant, so why do it when you don’t have to.
So you wake up at eight. After a few days of that, you wake up at eight-thirty. And then nine. And since your friend told you it’s not good to put your contacts in within an hour of waking up, you don’t end up getting out of bed until ten.
You actually make a healthy breakfast because you have no excuse not to. Then you eat it while watching 30 Rock or Better Off Ted. Something short so you don’t end up watching TV longer than you need to. But then you like that episode so much that you let Netflix autoplay the next one. And the next one. But it’s okay because you’re also sending pitches to your editor that you freelance for. And maybe you’re paying bills. The point is you’re getting some work done, so you watch another episode. But then it’s noon and you force yourself to stop.
You do yoga. In an ideal world this would happen before breakfast, but if you stayed in bed until ten you’re probably pretty hungry. So you do it before lunch. Since it’s so late in the day you pray for a 15 minute yoga session in your 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene program, but most likely it’s 30 or 45 minutes.
Then you have lunch. And you watch another episode. Good news! It’s the end of the season. No more autoplay. You text some friends you’ve been meaning to text. Then you start your other freelancing job—social media content creation. That takes two hours, during which you watch Doctor Who—Eleventh Doctor—just to get you through the minutia of creating content that’s only slightly different than the content you created the day before. Part of you wants it to be over quickly, but the other part of you knows you get paid per hour.
It’s four in the afternoon and the UTA job list has been updated. You curate the list for positions you’re qualified for—including unpaid internships because you’re desperate at this point—and send out cover letters and resumes. This takes at least an hour.
Somehow you’re exhausted. So you settle in to watch more Doctor Who for the rest of the night. Until it’s 10 PM and you’re hit with this chilling realization that you might not make rent this month. So you apply to every nanny job you can find and every paid audience gig you can possibly do. But come the next day you’re going to say no to the paid audience gig because it’s not worth it and they treat you like cattle. And you might get one response to a nanny application but they want to pay you $8 an hour for four children in Manhattan Beach.
And you think that there has to be a better way.
And these are just the days you’re not working.
Another day you might be a background actor for twelve hours, desperately trying to get your freelance work done between takes.
Another day you might take one of those audience gigs because it’s almost the first of the month. It’s in Van Nuys and you live in Hollywood, but you might get as much as $54 at the end of the day, so there’s that. Of course, you’ll only get two bathroom breaks and they won’t feed you, but who needs any of that anyway?
On a weekend night you’re probably babysitting for that couple that somehow manages to stay out all night even though they were supposed to be home by two. No, make that three. Nope, four. All right, can you just stay until six in the morning? So you spend the whole next day sleeping.
If you’re lucky you’ll have a light day and you’re able to go to the Writers’ Guild Foundation library and just write. You know, since you’re a writer. Have you forgotten?
You’ll text your friend and tell him you haven’t written since the last writers group meeting two weeks ago. He’ll say to write every day and make it a habit. And you know that and you know it’s good advice. But you’ll wonder how to fit that in between freelance work, cooking, cleaning, yoga, applying for jobs, going on interviews, desperation work, and Doctor Who. You’re watching the Eleven era for the third time in two weeks and you think maybe this time you’ll understand why everyone’s so obsessed with Daleks.
And you will write. But you’ll cheat and journal. And write essays. And technically it helps, but it’s not something you can give to an agent or someone hiring as an example of what you can do. And so you write a script about something you don’t really care about because at least it’s something.
And then your mother texts you: Do you have a job yet?
So you start your job search with vigor. Applying for anything and everything. Credit card bills are piling up, but you figure it all has to work out. Because everything in your gut tells you this is where you’re supposed to be. This is what you’re supposed to be doing. But it takes work.
And you try to have a social life. You do what you can to not spend money. Invite friends over instead of going out (every Thursday you have a girls’ night at your house). Purchase a $30 NerdMelt membership and go to as many shows as possible to get your money’s worth (if you go every other night you can average $2 a show—$3.50 with parking).
Then one day you’ll be standing in line at Chipotle, which is a special treat, and the girl behind you will be complaining to her friend on the other end of the phone about her job. Her boss made her come in on a Saturday. Her boss made her get him his lunch. Her boss is particular about what is in his lunch.
She promptly pays little attention during the process of ordering to the point the woman preparing the food looks to you for clarification. And since the girl on the phone ordered half black beans, half white beans the woman scoops black beans, looks to you and you say pinto because apparently you can do this girl’s job better than she can.
Then she forgets whether he likes cheese or not and later comes back asking for chips she never ordered. She has a job and later you see she has a fancy convertible and she thinks she’s above it. Sure, maybe it’s not part of her job description to come in on Saturday or to get lunch, but damn it, you’re having a bad day and you were up until 6 AM babysitting and you just want to go home and sleep.
And you want a job.
Because as much as you love the couch, you also like to have purpose.
And eventually that job will come. And you’ll pay off your credit card bills and you’ll know you can pay rent and you won’t have an anxiety attack when your roommate asks for your half of the utilities. And most of all you’ll long for the days when you could do yoga every day and watch Doctor Who whenever you wanted.