Tag Archives: unemployment

Doctor Who and Pinto Beans

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?

Not helpful.

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.


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How to Make the Most of Your Unemployment: Part One

No, this is not a guide to beating the unemployment system. Because that would be wrong. Plus, I don’t know how to work the system.

Instead, this is a place for me to document how I’m taking advantage of this time of unemployment. If it gives other people ideas, great. If not, I can look back and see what I accomplished (or what I need to do better next time.)

To give context, the job I procured when I first moved to LA two months ago was a summer nanny gig. The summer is now over, so my employment is over. This was great. This was just what I wanted. Low commitment. Something to tide me over until I get a job in the industry. This was perfect.

Yeah, not so much.

Sure, I was able to save a little more than one month’s rent (after already paying this month’s rent) and I have a 0% APR credit card for the next year or so, but I don’t like uncertainty. I don’t do well with uncertainty. So everything I do on a daily basis is my attempt to distract myself from the uncertainty. From the negative aspects of unemployment.

So what are the positive aspects of unemployment?

R & R

It’s forced rest and relaxation time. There’s nowhere to be, no excuses not to exercise, hang out with friends, eat well, read, and better yourself in general. This is going to look different for everyone. For me, an introvert, I took about 3-4 days to do absolutely nothing. I placed no expectations on myself. I ate whatever I wanted. I watched two-and-a-half seasons of Heroes. I played The Sims. I spent 16 hours every day in the same spot on the same couch.

I call this my detoxing.

What happens after the detox?


Today I cleaned like mad. I cleaned my bathroom (everything looks gorgeous now!), I vacuumed, I took the trash and recycling out, I organized my room, I did laundry, dishes, anything I could think of got done. It’s almost 5:00 and I’ve only watched 30 minutes of television. And those were TED talks (more on that later).


When you’re unemployed, it’s important not to overspend. And now you don’t have any excuse not to make food at home. Supposedly it’s cheaper, and I guess it is, but when I go to the store for “a few things” and spend $50, that’s hard for me to rectify. But I digress.

It is cheaper. And it’s healthier. And the best way I’ve found to do this is to choose a few recipes for the next few days, shop for them, then come home and make them right away. Or at least make the things that are possible to make ahead of time.

Today I went to the store (see? I got a lot done between cleaning and food), spent $60 (but that included toilet paper, so really it was the usual $50), came home and immediately set up stations.

Like most apartments, my kitchen is pretty small. There’s a tiny bit of counter space to the left of the dish drainer, a large space to the right of the sink, and a small space on the counter that holds the microwave and toaster. So this got complicated. Regardless, I set up space to mix some tuna salad together, another space to make an avocado cilantro sauce, and another space to cook my breakfast because I broke all the rules and went to the store hungry.

Additionally, I made some fruit juice popsicles and froze some grapes.

So now I have enough tuna salad for a few meals, a great sauce to use with raw veggies (enough to last at least a week), and some healthier dessert options. Plus, I had extra gluten-free pancakes, so tomorrow’s breakfast is taken care of. If I pair these options with the remaining oatmeal, eggs, salmon, chicken, and veggies I already had, I’m good for the next few days at least. In the end I’ll have probably spent less than $100 for a week’s worth of food.

Bonus, I got to feel productive for the first time in a while.

TED Talks

The last thing I want to talk about is TED talks. If you have a computer, or even better an Apple TV, TED talks are easily accessible these days. Most videos are about 15 minutes, which makes them perfect for watching while you eat a meal, or even while you prepare a meal. And since they’re largely auditory you don’t even need to be looking at the screen most of the time.

Over the past few days of unemployment I’ve watched a variety of talks ranging from how to make choices (this was chosen once I realized I was having difficulty choosing a TED talk), lexicography (the act of compiling dictionaries), and tapping into our brain to experience the world around us in a new and different way.

These were fascinating, I felt more well-rounded and knowledgeable after watching them, and I even got a few ideas for characters and story lines.

I’ve been watching TED talks for years, but rarely with such a determination (usually only after being recommended I watch a specific video), so I encourage everyone to be more intentional in watching TED talks, particularly if you are currently unemployed.

Upcoming in Part Two: looking for a job, working towards your goals, exercise, and more.

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