Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Unemployment brings out my hermit side

Being under-employed makes me even more antisocial than normal.  I know, that's hard to imagine considering I'm not the touchy feely type and I've already admitted to being a misanthrope.  But really, I'm not Oscar the Grouch, I promise.

It's just that sometimes I just really don't want to talk to people.  Especially when I just don't feel like having any conversation that remotely deals with my life.  It's impossible to have meaningless conversations that don't even tangentially come into contact with some facts about your life.  For instance, any conversation with someone you have just met or hardly know inevitably ends up here:

"So... what do YOU do?"

Stop me if I'm wrong... Do your conversations with new people always end up here eventually or not?  Yep, that's what I thought.  So, this is how mine typically end...

"Oh you mean me?" I ask hoping desperately the answer is no.  Stalling for time with this last desperate question.

"Yes, I feel like I've been talking too much about me.  So, what do you do?" persistently and annoyingly curious person.

Damn.  Did it occur to you that perhaps I would prefer to talk about anything other than myself?  No, of course it didn't.  And now you've asked me the worst question possible.  The one that leads to all the others.  If only it was polite to stomp off every so often without a word.  Sigh...

"Well, at the moment I'm volunteering at a museum and looking for work." I finish quickly drinking something so I don't have to see that look in their eyes.

The worst part of being unemployed isn't the financial trouble, though that is worrying, or the job hunting stress, though that can be exhausting, or the self doubt you wake up to every morning, though that is depressing.  No.  The worst part of being unemployed is talking to everyone else about it.

Don't get me wrong, I do not enjoy being penniless and living like a pauper in one of the world's most expensive cities.  Thank you London.  But the worst thing about it is you have to admit to people that you are either under-employed or unemployed and now all your private doubts and worries are suddenly the subject of public debate.  Oh, what are you looking for?  Are you qualified for those positions?  How long have you been unemployed?  etc.

All your flaws are suddenly layed out for everyone to see and talk about and laugh at.  Aired like so much dirty laundry.  For some reason everyone believes they have a right to delve into your personal life here.  If you had a job the conversation would go, "I do this, I love it," they would get bored and then move onto another less personal topic.  But if you don't have one you must have failed somewhere and they believe they are allowed to poke around in this fascinating subject that is your life til they find out why.  Stomping around on your feelings and raising up your doubts in the process.  

The only reason to be unemployed, of course, is that you failed.  Not that the economy is terrible or that you made choices better for your health that possibly made your career path more difficult.  Nope, there is not other explanation.  If you do not have a job currently you must be at fault somehow.  You failed at your previous job or you are somehow responsible for failing in the job search process.  You aren't applying to enough jobs, or the right ones, or you aren't writing the cover letter in the right way.

Teddy Bear Left in Window - Huddersfield
Being unemployed AND being forced to talk about it,
leaves me feeling a bit vulnerable.

Never mind that you already wake up doubting yourself and your abilities during this time.  Never mind that many vacancies are filled internally and you didn't have a chance to start with.  Never mind that it's physically impossible to send out more job apps on some days (because you woke up and applied all day til you went to sleep).  Clearly, it is somehow, in some way... all... your... fault.  And worst of all they feel like they need to tell you so.  These irritating people feel the need to point out all the places you could possibly have failed.  Just in case you didn't know all the ways you might be failing.

Giraffe left forlon in a window - London
Please pick me.  Please?  I am trying really.

Let me be clear.  Friends offering suggestions is not the same thing.  You can suggest different jobs to apply to or maybe even help edit a cover letter without being this sort of obnoxious intruder.  These are the sorts of questions and judgements you have to endure from people you have never met before or barely know.  Their judgements are least welcome and interestingly enough the most forthcoming.

Maybe I should start answering this question with increasing doses of sass.  Oh me?  Yes, I do lots of things.  I do laundry, I read, I paint (but only in the afternoon when the light is right), I travel, I talk to friends across the world.  Sometimes I skype with my parents or spend time volunteering at the museum.

Maybe I should leave it at that and let them imply that I'm unemployed.  Maybe I should make them ask me what I do.

"Haha, laundry.  NO, I meant what is your job?"

"Oh, so you want to know about my personal finances?  Well I do declare, the impertinance of some people..." and I will storm out with high heels and my perfectly polished pearls reassuring me that I am a lady of.... wait, I don't own pearls.  Ok, maybe I shouldn't opt for this one.

Maybe I should go a step further with the cheeky reply and invent my own job.

To do that I need to set straight some definitions.  I think it is reasonable to define profession thusly.

Profession: the use of skills and abilities particular to the individual in the pursuit of financial stability

And if we define profession in this way then I can confidently say that I am a professional applier.  I apply and apply and apply to jobs of every description, salary and location in the pursuit of financial stability.  Now, I am not successful at achieving stability in this profession, but success is not part of my definition.  It is all about the doing.  And so am I.

Maybe my new strategy for this question should be more cunning.  Perhaps when I have been trapped in this corner of the conversational ring and I am no longer able to dance my way out I will open with this little number.

"What do I do?  Do you want the grim, sarcastic or fictional answer to that question?"

People, I am assured by many studies (on choice and on the anchoring effect which suggest people pick the middle option), when presented with three choices, two similar options, one of which is slightly more appealing, will typically choose that and ignore the third unrelated option.  So, if I give them a choice of truth that is grim, truth that is sarcastic, or fiction, I am guessing they will opt for sarcastic, as the more appealing of similar choices and the middle option.  And I'll pull out my "my life is fabulous I'm a professional applier" routine, which I will no doubt have perfected in no time.

Then again, they could surprise us all and persist in being nosy and annoying and demand the sordid details of my floundering career.  If this is true, I shall not hold back and maybe, just maybe I'll make them sorry for asking.  Next time take a hint, if I do not want to speak about myself just continue talking about you.

People and their questions.  Pah.  Mutter mumble mutter mutter.

Maybe I should just avoid talking to people for awhile.  At least until I'm less grouchy, or maybe until I've sorted out some things in my life, for example, finally found a job.  Then again, I'm in a bad mood and I'm thinking that my old plan of becoming a hermit permanently is sounding like a better and better idea.  People.  I don't really like people.

So, please excuse me while I go be antisocial and grouchy for awhile.  Don't worry, it's probably just the weather and I'll be cheery again tomorrow.  I hope...  Disastrous rainy country!  Grey and miserable...

Mutter mutter mutter....

No comments:

Post a Comment