26 June 2011

Once more unto the breach…

A while back, I wrote about going through a fallow period. My contract had finished, which wasn't unexpected. Truth be told, I enjoyed the first month off. I'd been working a lot of overtime, so I enjoyed the freedom, and sleep, and I knew I had enough money to keep me going so the wolves didn't seem all that close to the door.

By June, though, I was panicking. The savings had dwindled at an alarming rate. I had about enough to keep me going for another month, and then, frankly, I was screwed. I was lying awake with my mind going, as minds do at night, to the worst-case scenarios. People called me a “lady of leisure”, as though I were swanning off to day spas and lunching on champagne with my friends rather than fretting about whether I'll be able to pay the mortgage, and avoiding hassling phone calls from the credit card company (who, incidentally, ignored every letter I wrote to them regarding a managed payment plan while I was unemployed, choosing instead to bully me – thanks, Nationwide, for increasing my stress level tenfold).

I'd been unemployed before so none of this was uncharted territory. I'd also ended up suffering from depression and anxiety disorder, though, so I knew the signs to watch out for, and to be frank, there were days when it took a huge mental effort to fight off the black dogs, especially as time went on.

The unemployed are somewhat demonised by the current government – as though we're all happy to live high off the hog on our massively generous Jobseekers' Allowance. (have you ever tried living on £67.50 a week, when you have a mortgage and bills? Don't bother. I'll tell you now – you can't. Even if you're one of the great ignored: someone who isn't a family but just a single person, trying to make it on her own.) Well, believe me, I'd rather be working.

Being unemployed, for me, meant social isolation. I could go days without talking to anyone. When I am in social situations, I've noticed that I find them much more difficult and a little bit scary – it seems that social skills need to be exercised like muscles, or they atrophy.

Not that I've sat around doing sod-all for three months. I've already written about the volunteering work I did, which was hugely rewarding. I painted the spare room and the kitchen. I started this blog.

I even stopped smoking. Family members reading this, who live a long way away, may be surprised to hear that in the past 10 years or so I've become a heavy smoker, smoking 30–40 cigarettes a day. I added up how much I was spending on them, and that wheezing cough, to my list of worries, and decided it was time to kick it. It's been difficult, and I'd be lying if I said I don't miss smoking sometimes, but it's an achievement I'm happy to add to my list of stuff I did while unemployed.

I didn't tick off everything I listed in my “To Do” list – the front door still needs painting; the garden's still a tangled jungle of weeds – but I'm proud of the things I did manage to cross off.

I did everything I could to keep busy and keep my chin up – although as the savings have dwindled and the rejections from employers multiplied, that's become increasingly difficult.

Please can someone remind me what these things are?
Well, good news. I start a new job tomorrow! I'll be honest: I'm a tiny bit terrified. My rusty social skills, and work skills, need to be polished off and re-oiled. Self-doubt about whether I can do the job or have just bullshit myself into a nightmare plague me.

But I'm also excited. I'm going to be a useful member of society again! I won't have that embarrassing moment when people ask me what I do and I have to say “nothing”!

I hope I don't repeat what I did on the first day at one of my jobs, when I got stuck in an underground car park and then in a hallway, and couldn't get out because of the intricate security system. I hope I don't delete the entire home page of the website, the way I did once when trying to get to know the new content management system at a new job. I hope I don't make a prat of myself, generally, and I hope the job is as exciting and enjoyable as I thought it would be when I applied.

That “first day” feeling we all remember from school never goes away. But after three months fallow, I'm ready to start breaking ground again. Wish me luck!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  1. Most people are nervous on their first day at a new job, and a fair few of them will make some sort of mistake due to nerves or being left to figure things out for themselves. I turned up at the office on my first day for a new job (fresh out of uni, in a whole new country) with my suitcase, because no-one had told me that I would be taken back to the hotel to collect it after work. That was apparently very funny.

    As was me not automatically realising that the coffee machine at another office didn't provide a plastic cup, and would merrily dispense scalding hot beverages into thin air, spraying anyone within a metre radius of the machine. Health and safety would've had a field day with that one.

    You will be fine. And if you should make a small error, or laugh sliiiightly too loudly at someone's joke, you're in good company. :D Good luck!

  2. You'll be fine. Just don't pick up someone else's (near identical) handbag and walk off with it. Twice.
    Best of luck. x

  3. Good luck, tomorrow!
    I'm very glad you quit smoking!
    Do they have registered mail in England? That way, you would have proof that the creditors received your letters.
    Enjoy having a wicked short commute!

  4. Well done! You've used your time so well! I'm a stay-at-home mom at the moment with to-do lists that seem to grow more often than they shrink.

    Any job that starts on my birthday must be a good one. All the best!

  5. Good luck dude!
    Btw your social skills aren't rusty at all. I can vouch for that since I saw you recently, unless you've deteriorated into a mad, feral creature in the space of a week and a half...