The Anxiety of Unemployment

*originally written May 24, 2013

You can see the poor bastards floundering and gasping. They’re dying of thirst. They’re out of material. – Tom Wolfe

I recently discovered that when I go for long periods of time without writing anything I tend to talk more. This post is primarily a courtesy to those who may have noticed that before I have. Sorry.

I’m beginning with this apology because this post will be about something I have promised myself I would not write about but, for some reason, cannot stop talking about. The topic of unemployment has slithered into every conversation I’ve had since I graduated last month. If you’ve spoken to me about this, this should clear up any angry or incoherent rambling you may have had to put up with. But make no mistake, this post will be just as angry.

Over the last year (probably longer, but I’ve really noticed in the past year) the media has been filled with personal stories about disgruntled graduates who can’t find their dream jobs. It seems that half them aren’t looking because they’re too busy filling the pages of their favourite publications with their bitching and moaning over the fact that those publications won’t hire them – at least not for any longer than it takes to type up all that bitching and moaning. Forget about dental. Somehow, a lot of very clever journalists have managed to persuade their publishers that they aren’t necessarily talking about them. After all it’s just the “state of the industry” – a vague generality into which every media outlet is forced to fall. So they publish it: our cries over internships that pay us with experience; entitled squealing about the lack of opportunity in the creative industries; or my personal favourite: observations about how the newspapers with all these stories about how newspapers can’t make any money aren’t making any money.

But worst of all are the ironic blog posts complaining about the fact that everyone is complaining. Which brings me to me: The person writing the blog post. I know I’m a few months behind. This trend seemed to be at its height in the Spring when soon-to-be graduates were still in school and applying for jobs. At that point I was still ignorant and confident that I would find somethingeventually. I still can, but it seems more likely that something will include clearing tables or pouring drinks. Kickstarting my career will have to be something I do while I’m not making money.

Still, that’s not an excuse for all this trash. Articles/posts like this one are only really tolerated because we have grown up in a time when a career has become something more than a pay cheque. What was once a source of income has now become “our passion” and nothing less. If you had a grandfather who was slugging 80 pound stones around a construction site all day, I guarantee he was a very different kind of person than the creative types who come home and complain about the lack of “meaning” at their office jobs.

Despite my penchant for intolerable irony (in case you haven’t picked up on it, I don’t take after my grandfather), I do not spend most days half-naked, hunched over my keyboard writing blogs in between other self-loathing activities; i.e., the consumption of really good journalism and sporadic masturbation. However, I’m also not out pounding the pavement – figuratively speaking – to expose myself in the job market.  Some would call it laziness, others would call it fear. I prefer to call it vocational rigor mortis.

It stems from an anxiety. I know exactly what must be done but I am constantly re-evaluating how and when to do it. I spent last week building a website which, once completed, led me to realize I didn’t have anything worth posting to it. Do I build the website or start writing things to fill the website with? Will the website somehow help in the creation of things worth posting to it or will it do the opposite? Does the egg come before the cart or after the horse?

Of course, the result is that I don’t end up doing anything except thinking of ways to scramble the egg and horse dilemmas. Most of my time is spent in a confused state of “where should I begin?” I already know the answer to this problem, I just need to hear it from somebody else. Here are your lines if you decide you’re going to be the one to give it:

“Nobody is looking at that sad collection of writing you call a website so stop Googling yourself to see where it appears on your hit-list of internet misdeeds. Put on a pair of pants and go write something down – something that people will actually want to read. I shouldn’t have to tell you that this doesn’t count.”

The Anxiety of Unemployment