So The Horror Stories Are True…

I have started my life as a document reviewer. Wow. Wow. Wow. 

It really is as horrible as everyone makes it out to be. But way worse. Way way worse. And why? For many reasons really, but mainly because it’s a paper document review-a paper document review with the bulk of the papers dating back to the 70s and 80s. And old documents= old dust. We really do wear gloves and face masks to deal with the massive amounts of dust accompanying these old documents. It’s a very glamorous job. So glamorous in fact that someone even came across a dead, petrified bird in a box on Friday. A fairly typical job hazard for new attorneys, yes? 

Also, the people on the job make me feel even better about the situation. Remember that old Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer claymation movie? If so, do you remember the Island of Misfits from the movie? I work on that island–although it’s not a tropical island locale, it’s a large room in a boring ol’ office building chock full of misfits. Which at least provides for some entertainment. But at the same time it makes me question how I am perceived through others’ eyes…am I too a major social misfit? Probably. Thankfully, I’m assigned a seat by some normalish people so we can be snarky and bitter while we “work” (i.e. go through old dusty papers for 8 hours). 

But, all in all, I am a LOT happier. So, even though it is horrible work and much worse than I ever expected it to be, I am enjoying my life a whole lot more now than I was a few months ago. I  much prefer crappy document review work to working for a jerk who makes life miserable for everyone. A no drama work place means that I can come home and completely forget about the day. A career it is not, but it is not a bad stop-over…as long as I don’t develop black lung from the dust.

When Did I Become The Cowardly Lion?

I used to be pretty brave. I’d pretty much do anything and go anywhere-not a problem. The more something scared me, the more I wanted to try it out because I’ve always felt that the best things come from challenging myself and living outside of my comfort zones. However, somewhere along the line, something changed. Somewhere along the line, I’ve become a coward. 

This past week, I was offered an amazing interview, and I knew I had a problem because I was doubting whether I’d be able to accept the job. And the job is pretty amazing. It’s the type of legal work I want to do, on a tropical island. Thankfully, I had people knock some sense into me and in a few days, I will be hopping on a plane to go to that interview.  I never thought that my job search would take me to a tropical island but this could be a life-changing opportunity. In the very least, it will be a mini-vacation to an island. And I was thinking about turning the interview down? And why- because of fear?

They say that recognizing you have a problem is the first step, right?  

This experience has made me notice that I’m living in a pessimistic place right now and I need to work on breaking out of that. I shouldn’t let this economic climate affect me that much. I know that this past year of unemployment and underemployment has taken a real shot to my self-esteem. And this is kind of ridiculous. So much of this year has been dictated by forces outside of my control. I shouldn’t be taking responsibility for the fact that greedy people f-ed things up for everyone, making it impossible to find a decent job. But apparently, I am letting it get to me. Anyhow, I am actively trying to get over this. I need stop being a coward and I need to start believing in myself again. Being on a tropical island should help.

An Emotional Rescue

Apparently, the US government is offering an “emotional rescue kit” prompted by these tough economic times.  I find  it kind of funny,  mainly because if you’re unemployed and looking for work, who doesn’t display anxiety,  irritability, apathy, etc.  Are you supposed to be happy if you’re out of work or in a crappy work situation (although to be perfectly honest-I’m much happier out of work, but then again, I’m a little strange).  I actually think that if you’re feeling anxious and worried and sad, you’re probably normal.

Just to be sure that my recession-based anxieties are more normal than this “emotional rescue kit” would have me believe, I sent this out to one of my friends who is experiencing her own recession based worries right now. 

My friend wrote back: 

“I don’t know if this makes me feel better or makes me think that I really should go and talk to a professional. The problem is that I can’t afford to take time off work and add another expensive medication to the list. The article was so spot on that it was scary.

From the article:

Of particular importance is helping people see the warning signs of depression, suicidal thinking and other serious mental illnesses, SAMHSA said.

These include, according to the website:

*Persistent sadness/crying [CHECK]

*Excessive anxiety [CHECK (unless it’s normal to have heart palpitations at least three times daily.)]

*Lack of sleep/constant fatigue [CHECK (I vary between getting 4-10 hours of sleep per night, depending on the amount of Tylenol PM I decide to take. I tend to take extra TPMs if I want to sleep more than 4 hours at a time, or if it’s like 8 pm and I’m just annoyed with the day and want to go to sleep rather than living through the rest of the day until bedtime.)]

*Excessive irritability/anger [CHECK (My husband can vouch for this.)]

*Increased drinking [CHECK (But there’s still nothing wrong with a six-pack-a-night, right?)]

*Illicit drug use, including misuse of medications [CHECK-minus (Unless you count the TPM situation.)]

The site directs people to caregivers and also offers tips on ways to reduce the causes of stress, such as finding a new job and refinancing mortgages.” 

So I’m totally not alone. Most of us need an emotional rescue from these tough economic times. But guess what? The US govt is not helpful here. Like my friend noted, even if these were signs that we should talk to a professional-if you’re out of work or worried about your job, who can afford to take time off and go see a doctor and then possibly pay for expensive medication? Personally, I can’t afford to go to a doctor unless I get hit by a car or something. My insurance only covers crazy catastrophes. My dogs have been to the vet more than I’ve been to the doctor this past year-mainly because my dogs were able to secure a better insurance than I could ever secure for myself. There’s no way I’d go to the doctor to talk about my normal recession based anxiety. Not without some form of socialized healthcare to help me out. Until the government gets around to fixing healthcare, I guess I’ll have to continue to rely on gin and tonics, Gilmore girls and cupcakes to get me through the rough spots. 

Or, in the alternative, my friend offered a quick and easy fix for these “issues”: 

I WANT SOMEONE TO FIND ME A NEW JOB!!!!!

Yeah, that would pretty much solve it. 

Here’s the link to see if you need an emotional rescue: 

http://www.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idUSTRE52U0R020090331

No, really, I’m very happy for you…..really

Why is it that sometimes it’s so hard to be genuinely happy for other people? 

I haven’t always had a problem with this. Normally, I can be genuinely happy for the successes of my family and friends. However, ever since I graduated from law school, unemployed and penniless, I’ve had a really hard time talking to people who’ve had better luck than I with securing post-graduation employment. I’ll be completely honest and say many times I don’t feel comfortable talking to some people because I don’t want to ask about how things are going at work because I can’t handle the comparison with my own life. I don’t want to hear people with steady employment in good jobs talking about how much they love love love their life. For some reason, I just can’t get beyond the ego-centric “it’s not fair” mentality when I hear about other people’s successes right now. And this totally isn’t fair because when things start to go right for me, you better believe I want my family and friends to be happy for me.  

This is all so completely selfish. I need to switch it up. I need to flip the switch and start focusing on the positive and remember that no matter what happens, it could be worse. Because it totally could. 

I wonder if this ego-centric self-pity is a normal reaction to this recession based unemployment or if I’m just a rare breed of narcissist?

 

Update: I’ve added two new pages that will help me remember that (1) It could be worse, and (2) I need to focus on the positive. If anyone has suggestions to add to these new pages, let me know! 

Where is the Instruction Manual?

I wish life came with an instruction manual. Things would be SO much easier. 

Now, that I’m comfortably unemployed I have plenty of time to think about things…a lot of time. I have no idea what I’m going to do when my lease is up at the end of August. I’m not sure if I’ll stay in my new city and take a gamble that the economy will turn around and I’ll be able to find a decent legal job eventually, or if I should move back to the state where I went to law school, or if I should move back to the state where I grew up. I have absolutely no idea what to do. 

If I stay in the city, I could just keep squeaking by financially, unable to afford to go out and meet new people-and spend a year lonely and poor. This fear is heightened by the fact that my sister, E, is interviewing for an awesome job opportunity abroad. I could find myself totally alone in this city, which would be horrible if I find myself down and out again like I was this past winter. Having my sister around really helped me stay sane when I was super bummed and stressed out with life. 

On the other hand, I hate giving up on things. I told myself when I moved to the city that I’d give it at least 3 years to see if  I could make the city home.  I know that I haven’t been able to give my life here a fair shot this past year because all sorts of  factors have been working against my ability to really enjoy my life in this new city. But who is to say that if I stay around another year things would get better? They could feasibly get worse. The economy isn’t really projected to make a turn around for another year at least. I know I won’t be able to really enjoy living here until I can find a job that would support me financially-otherwise there is too much stress that goes along with trying to pay the bills. I’m not sure another year would be worth it if things don’t actually start to turn around for the better. 

I could look to move back to the state where I went to law school. I have friends from law school in the area and it would be great to live close to friends again. Plus, the state is cheaper than where I’m living now. The only problem is that the economy there isn’t really that much better. Many of my friends from law school are in less than ideal situations with their jobs and I’d face the same uphill struggle with finding a job there as I do here. I could just find myself unemployed again, but in a different location. 

One thing that I never thought I’d consider but that I’m seriously considering is moving back to my home state. My home state has the worst economy in the country right now. So that’s definitely a negative. Also, most young people move out of the state when they graduate college. So if I ever want to settle down and get married, I’d probably have to marry some really old guy for his money-simply because there are not very many young people in the state anymore. However, I do have family and friends still in the state. I could possibly hang my own shingle and start my own practice. Also, living there is really affordable. I could maybe even live in a house-which I would love love love. I’m absolutely sick of hearing noisy neighbors when I’m trying to go to sleep.

My concern is that I’m not really sure what my motivation is to move back. I’m not sure if I’m enticed to move back because I’m just tired of everything being so difficult and it’s my way of curling up into a ball and giving up, or if I’m enticed because it offers a possibility of positive change.  I’m not sure if I’d be motivated to move back because of fear or because it really would offer me the best chance of having a happy, content life. Who knows.

Thankfully, I still have a few months to play around with this next step.  

I think that part of the reason a lot of law students are having trouble adjusting to life after school is that so many of us are Type A personalities and are big planners. When the economy tanked, it put a roadblock in our way that we hadn’t planned for. We went to school, we studied hard, we  interned, we took part in activities, not because they were fun, but because they would help us land a job after school (I mean, who actually enjoys cite-checking for journals).  The next step was supposed to be getting a job where we could start to get solid work experience and build our resume. The next step was NOT unemployment, temping at inane jobs, being forced to start our own practices, or giving up on law all together. Now so many of us are scrambling-trying desperately to figure out what we’re supposed to do, how we’re supposed to survive this recession, how we’re supposed to use an expensive degree that promised so much but has so far delivered so little. We’re all looking for an instruction manual to tell us “what now”. I think the difficulty comes from realizing that there is no instruction manual.  No one really knows what we should do. It’s all a gamble. Hopefully, I decide to play the right cards.

No Open Containers Allowed.

After a great weekend spent out of state connecting and co-miserating with law school friends, I made my way back to the city in time for a meeting with a temp staffing agency. I have another position lined up that should start at the end of the month but I’m going to try to line up something else before that position starts. 

Why won’t I just sit on my keester and wait for this new position to start? Well, where do I start….

1) I’m going to get paid only $1 more per hour over the salary at my last position (i.e. I basically got promoted to head fry chef at McDonalds).

2) It sounds like document review hell. The dress code is jeans and t-shirts and they warn people that they may want to reconsider if they have allergies to dust because we will be dealing with very dusty boxes (p.s. I have allergies to dust). 

3)The letter with information about the job states that we have a mandatory hour lunch but we will not be provided with refrigeration for our lunches. So, I’m expected to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for two-three months straight? 

4)The letter with information about the job also states that no open containers are allowed at work. We can bring soda and water only in closed containers. Is this position so horrible that only drunk attorneys are expected to take it? 

So, basically, this job has some major red flags. But I’m taking it until something better comes along-because in this economy, shouldn’t I just be happy to have a future paycheck lined up? 

At least I have a few weeks to enjoy refrigerated lunches.

I Have Always Depended On The Kindness Of Strangers

If there is to be a silver lining in this recession, it would be that people are feeling a lot more empathy towards strangers. A bleeding heart liberal myself, I really love that people are starting to move away from some of the capitalistic “me, me, me” behavior that is so truly American. I also really love that I’ve been fortunate enough to be at the receiving end of some of these random acts of kindness (aren’t I American).

For instance, a totally random act of kindness happened to me this past Saturday. Friends were in from out-of-state so I met up with them at some bars.  At the end of the night, and a few beers in, it was time to go home. Far away from an easy public transportation route home, and caught in an apparent monsoon, I decided to do what someone facing imminent unemployment should never do. Take a cab home. While in the cab, I decided to have a lengthy cross-town conversation with the driver (alcohol makes me a Chatty Kathy). After telling him all about my current employment situation, and asking him many, many questions about his home country of Morocco, we pulled up to my apartment.  We had just driven clear across town in the pouring rain, I had been asking him questions the whole ride-and some of them were ridiculous questions I’m sure, yet when I handed him my money for the cab fare, he refused to take it! Even though I’m sure I could probably classify as one of the most annoying passengers of the night, he told me that he thought I needed a break. It was so sweet. And obviously I took him up on the offer.

Another really nice thing happened to me where I’d least except it: in the prison that has been my office for the last five months. One of the secretaries that works in my office has been tipped off to the fact that I subsist on food that E buys with her food stamps. This is really not something that bums me out, but this  must have struck a chord with her because almost every time she leaves the office on an errand she’ll come back with some sort of snack for me. It’s not doing wonders for my diet but it’s so nice. I wish I could pay her back somehow before I leave my current position, but I’m not quite sure how to pay her back without spending money. Making a card out of construction paper doesn’t really cut it for twenty-somethings, which is too bad. I make beautiful glitter glue letters.

Anyhow, these experiences have helped me decide that when I become obscenely wealthy in the future from my lotto/sweepstakes earnings, I want to take part in random acts of kindness towards strangers.  Maybe if I win the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes I’ll give that to someone really poor. I’ll already have all sorts of other lotto earnings to get me through. Ok, but in all seriousness, I really think that these poor years of my life will color how I handle money in the future-making me more philanthropic.

I hope that goes for other Americans affected by the recession, too.  Poverty won’t end just because the stock markets start going up again. Hunger won’t disappear just because the housing market starts a bounce back. No matter what happens there will still be people who are down on their luck. The news coverage will just stop showcasing them. Right now, I feel like many Americans empathize so well because there is a kind of mentality that “we’re all in this together”. I hope that the “we” doesn’t turn into “you and me” once the economy recovers. People who are down on their luck will still need a surprise treat to brighten their day, or a free cab ride across the city. I don’t want this recession kindness to just go away once the economy turns around.