Unemployment, My Old Friend

September 20, 2018

Today was my last day at a company I’ve worked at for 3 1/2 years. It doesn’t sound like a lot — when compared to the 25 years my dad’s put into his job, 3 1/2 is the blink of an eye — but giving this job up comes with the weight of sacrifice.

Over curry tacos and a spread of cookies, my coworkers asked where I’m off to, what big plans were next for me. “Salt Lake City,” I said, as if the name itself could muster the illusion of big plans, a commute by train every morning, a stop at a coffee shop where I’d strictly order hot chocolate like the Mormon I am, then rush off to my nine to five in my kitten heels and matted lip, pitching some hot scoop to a brooding senior editor who’d promote me at year’s end for being “a rising star” in the world of journalism or publishing.

“Salt Lake City,” I said. _I don’t know, _I meant.

I’d been a college grad for a year when I got this job. I’d stumbled into a relationship I had no business being in, given up a dream internship that would have projected me into the world of publishing, spent several weeks in a tormented, fetal curl on my parents’ couch, wishing to end it all because my anxiety was so bad. I’d attempted tutoring and my anxiety hated it. I’d spent a week crunching numbers to train for a position as a billing manager, which I realized, by week’s end, would shove me deeper into the rabbit hole of self-loathing and depression. I broke up with my boyfriend (or rather, he broke up with me), I spent a winter in the mountains healing, then come spring, I was weeding and fertilizing the garden of a cold and wealthy homeowner for $12 an hour. I wrote my best stuff then, being somewhere in-between employed and unemployed.

Then I decided I needed income, applied to be a cashier at a local sporting goods store, and ended up counting coins for a month until I was promoted to online customer service manager/blog writer. Three and a half years later, I walk away from the position of events coordinator and social media manager. If you’re asking how that happened, the answer has to be initiative and tenacity, because I have no idea. [My English degree, she thinks snidely to spite the critics.]

Over the past three years, I’ve learned how to tell people ‘no’ and when to tell people ‘yes’. I’ve picked up several hobbies I can’t afford (thank you, employee discount). I’ve been in many rants about sexism and politics with coworkers who I now know mostly did it to egg me on. They sat through a complete snot and tears meltdown the day after Election Day, to their credit. Someone told me “f— yourself” over the phone. Many someones told me I’d ruined their Christmas. I hosted a grand opening event for a second store two hours away that just about killed me. Pro skier Tom Wallisch will never speak to me again after I made him wait an hour in the freezing night air to premiere his new movie. I spoke to Donovan Mitchell once — through Instagram messages, which some would say doesn’t count, but let me feel validated by this ONE thing, okay? I walked up and down many flights of stairs, printed and cut thousands of signs, cried in the bathroom more than once and in front of my boss at least twice. I developed a strong loathing of Black Friday and an equally passionate disdain for Cyber Monday. I had a crush on a climber with a man bun who worked in the camping department, which was very on brand for me. I started and ended the best and hardest relationship I’ve ever had off the clock, the anxiety about which left me hurting quietly on the clock. I bought my first and then second pair of Nike shoes and my first set of skis, which I hope to use for the first time this year. I became louder, more assertive. And I met one of the greatest casts of coworkers I’ve ever had. I’ll miss them, miss their customer drama, their podcast recommendations, even their semi-annual blowups.

Why did I quit? Hunger for change. The deluded assumption that a really fun job I’d applied for in Salt Lake City was going to work out — it didn’t. “I’ll tentatively quit at the end of the month,” I told my bosses. She’s__ going to quit at the end of the month, they heard, giving away my desk, assigning me an end date. It feels premature, but I can’t change it.

So here I am, flying by the seat of my pants, slipping back into the unemployment club. I don’t know if Salt Lake City’s where I need to go. I don’t know many things right now. What I do know is that unemployment is when I have the best writing of my life, so buckle up, kids. Ari is back.

PS: if you hear of any job openings anywhere, I’m your girl.

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