The saying, the grass is always greener comes to mind. When I worked only 80% time and decided to voluntarily go up to 90% time, it felt right. When I then decided to take it to the next level and give myself a 10% raise once again, my friends all warned me I would regret it. Who gets the luxury of working less? Half of Friday off every week, who wouldn’t want that? Well, when I finally separated from my husband and had the most unfortunate fortune of only having my daughter 50% of the time, I didn’t need that half a Friday off every week anymore. Suddenly, I had more free time than I knew what to do with. I didn’t need more time off, I needed more money to help fill the emptiness.
I graduated to full-time status and never looked back. I loved my job. I loved the people I worked with. I believed in the mission. Having more of what I loved and believed in my life felt good. Then, things started to get shaky at work. First, we moved our office from Oakland to Emeryville so we could have more space for our expanding staff. Next, my director retired and that was quite a culture change. The final blow came when we merged with another non-profit, assuming some of their staff, moving them from the East Coast, and adopted their president as our own. That’s when things started to falter.
Then in June, the first round of layoffs were announced. I made that cut, phew! In December, I wasn’t so lucky. The fall from 100% to 0% felt almost fatal. The good news is that I would get 11 weeks of pay with a mix of severance and vacation hours I had been hoarding. The bad news is that unemployment at its maximum, only covers my rent. So, the panic set in almost immediately.
I have no income. What is in my bank account has to last me until I find a new source of income. What if I run out of money to feed myself and my daughter before I find a new job? What if I can’t find a job that will pay me a wage that supports me, as a single mom, living in the increasingly expensive Bay Area?
These fears keep me glued to my computer, on my couch, sending out resumes like there is no tomorrow. Enjoy the time off, they tell me. When is the next time you will get 11 weeks of paid vacation, they say? You will find a job in no time, I hear time and time again. I want to believe. I want to treat this as a paid vacation but the truth is, looking for a new job is a full-time job and what good is a paid vacation that has you living off of rations not knowing how long you will need to stretch your resources? I feel guilty spending every dollar. That is not to say I don’t still spend, on occasion, because I do. I would go insane eating ramen every day, glued to my couch combing the job sites with Netflix running in the background.
I am lucky though. I have a large network of generous friends who have allowed me to siphon off of their WiFi, helped me with my resume, built this website for me, bought me meals, treated me to beers, and even taken me on a short road trip to get my mind off of my worries for an afternoon. My family has helped me back-up my recently-purchased work computer and put me on their friends and family calling plan after buying my work phone. There is a silver lining in here somewhere, I just can’t wait to bring it to the pawn shop and fill my bank account with it.