Unemployment is the worst

For some reason, I frequently find myself in very uncomfortable situations. Not just of the socially-awkward variety but, “What kind of decisions have I possibly made in my life to end up in this pit of misery?” type. To be completely honest, they aren’t always literal pits of misery. Mostly a state of mind made up of crippling self-doubt and panic-inducing fear.

Although one time I did not have any money and had just come off a million hour flight and lived of granola bars and didn’t shower for a solid four days… So there was that… I think the last time I had gone that long without showering was during my roadie-ship and was living out of a van and we were so busy showering was just kind of forgotten. But enough about my lapsed hygiene practices…

The last time I wrote (let’s make a pact not to add up how long it’s been, ok? Ok.) I was in one such spiral. My ex had just moved away, and while things ended amicably it’s a bit destabilizing when someone you’ve spent practically every moment of the past five months with is no longer around. I suddenly had all of this free time to think about what my plan was. I was definitely living comfortably thanks to a couple full-time freelance gigs but wasn’t earning enough to save anything (or even get home).

I’ve mentioned before how expat life in Cambodia seems to cycle through people. About every six months or so someone new is showing up while old friends move on. At this point, my little community was prepping for another such exodus. Those with higher-paying jobs were considering moving to new, nicer apartments while the few with free time were considering life as nomads for while. My best friend already had her flights booked home before starting a graduate program in Australia. Things were changing and I decided it was best to jump on that train, too.

Thanks to hindsight, I can laugh at my naivety upon returning home. My new “plan” had been to relax and enjoy the Christmas festivities with my friends and family and then crack down and find a job, surely by the end of January, because that’s when my new phone plan bill was due and once again I was without a steady income.

My one-month job hunt turned into two, then three, then four.

I’ve always struggled with anxiety and depression. I’m really good at being upbeat and talking about how magical everything is, but when I’m down I get really down. Every day I applied for jobs after thoroughly researching the each company and writing unique cover letters. I was putting in the effort. And crickets. For every 20 jobs I applied to, maybe MAYBE I would get one response back. At this point, even the rejection letters became a reason to think positive because at least I was hearing something. But even those were few and far between.

Every day was an endless span of potential disappoint. It became harder and harder to look on the bright side. Despite knowing my parents are super supportive and would do anything to help me out I was keeping a running tally of everything I had asked for and could only seek such help after working up a really good anxiety attack. After bleak periods I’d snap out of it for a week or so, somehow tapping into some new source of motivation and positivity making all the past despair seem silly and unnecessary. And then out of nowhere, the dread would be back, like an elephant sitting on my chest. I’d stop showering regularly because for some reason that’s the first habit to go…

I went on a few interviews. They’d see the gap in my employment after I left Cambodia and ask what have I been doing the past few months. Like a punch to the gut. Like I’d been twiddling my thumbs since January and not actively, desperately seeking employment. Each rejection, especially from jobs I’d been over qualified for made me question the time I spent abroad. It was as if those two years, during which I had worked the hardest and overcome the most, meant nothing in the eyes of recruiters.

I started seeing a therapist and struggled to find ways to describe my feelings: I can’t find work, I’m questioning my self-worth, I just can’t get out of bed in the morning, but I’m also having a hard time processing everything I’ve experienced the past several years. Herbal supplements didn’t help. I started anti-depressants. It somehow made me feel better to think that my depression was stemming from a chemical imbalance and was actually out of my control. I’m type-A. I felt like I could take depression off my plate if that makes sense. Something that isn’t my fault. Medication helped calm the swirling negativities that had been distracting me, but I was still jobless.

My parents and I discussed how best to move forward. Up to this point, I had been driving my dad to work so I had access to a car for days I had interviews and we decided having a car of my own might take some of the pressure off. They helped me with the down payment and from that point on it was like dominos.

The day after my 26th birthday I had a very promising job interview and the following Friday I received an offer. I could breathe again. I could afford my new car payment.

I’m lucky. I have incredibly supportive parents who never made me feel like I was a burden during my unemployment. I have friends who were always encouraging. I’m grateful that even though those six months sucked it was the kick-in-the-pants to get myself into therapy and start examining the thoughts that hold me back.

Now that my life has some sort of structure again I’m able to think more clearly and without (as much) anxiety about what I want. I’m saving to travel again. I’m building my portfolio. I can dream about all of the possibilities of the future instead of just dwelling on the past.

Not to say that employment has been a magic wand waved over all of my issues. I still have plenty of those. But I’ve learned (and continue learning) ways to give myself a break. We all need to give ourselves a break sometimes.

So here’s to finally dusting off the motivation to write again. And to regular showers.

Getting Back Up

I know I’m a bit late to the whole “New Year” post craze but I haven’t written anything in a while and I am in need of both reflection and anticipation.

For me, 2013 was a year of transitions. I graduated university, moved back home, started my first office job, quickly realized office jobs aren’t for me, and moved to Cambodia. With little over a week left to the year I survived a head-on collision with a speeding motorbike, broke my first bone, and underwent my first operation. I barely made it out of the hospital in time to usher in the New Year.

Although 2014 only just begun I can already see new themes emerging. No matter how hard I’ve been hit or far I’ve fallen, I have to get back up. No matter how badly I’ve been hurt in the past I can’t let it stop me from moving forward. 2014 will be a year of overcoming my fears, both physical and emotional.

In 2014 I resolve to:

Get back up. I’ve started cycling again, albeit very slowly. I’m learning that “It’s just like riding a bike” isn’t as simple as it sounds. My body knows what to do while my mind floods with panic every time I have to make a left turn or see headlights racing towards me… It’s a work in progress.

Keep an open mind. I know it’s hard to believe but I’ve got a pretty closed mind regarding certain things. Yes, I gave up a well-paying job to move across the globe to a country I knew nothing about to work as a volunteer for a company I had only just discovered, but when someone brings up topics like settling down and buying houses my mind slams shut. I am more comfortable with the unknown because even though the possibility exists I may not like a particular country, I can move on. At the moment a lot of my friends are taking on careers and long-term relationships and I want to be there for them the way they’ve been supportive of me.

Keep an open heart. The thought of commitment makes me shake in my flip-flops. I don’t mean to sound like I hate monogamy or lead a promiscuous lifestyle I’m just scared. As I mentioned before, I’m too restless to understand why anyone would want to stay in one place for a prolonged period of time, so how am I supposed to imagine meeting one person I’ll want to be with forever. I tend to avoid relationships all together. I’m drawn to transient people because I know they are moving on and I don’t have to worry about disappointing or hurting them. I’m realizing though that in order to truly love and be loved you have to open yourself up and become vulnerable.

Lean a little bit. I’ve always prided myself on how independent I am. Honestly, I had a cushy upbringing and my parents are incredibly supportive, but I didn’t let it stop me from working hard and making my own decisions. I’ve had people to lean on my whole life I just rarely took them up on the offer. After my accident I realized how important it is to let yourself be taken care of every now and then.

Remember the possibilities are endless. I know this one sounds a bit cheesy. #sorrynotsorry. I am young and the future is wide open.