Well, I guess my last post resonated with a few people. Over ten thousand have viewed it so far, and it has sparked conversations all over the web. That was certainly a surprise. I commented to Eoin over lunch today that it’s a fairly rare experience for me to present a perspective that is met with such wide adherence. I’m usually in the 5% on any contentious issue. I’m not sure what that says about me, but in the midst of a difficult week for me personally, it was immensely cheering to receive all of your comments and messages of support and lovely emails of encouragement. I’m not on facebook so I couldn’t see what was being written there, but I could see the thousands of facebook shares in my blog stats. I actually felt a bit teary reading the twitter track. So a very, very sincere thank you to each one of you.
I have not yet heard anything back from the social welfare office, but I do not expect to. Remember I am still receiving Jobseeker’s Benefit, not Jobseeker’s Allowance. Benefit is based on two conditions: (1) that I am honestly seeking work and (2) that my PRSI contributions are up to date. I qualify on both counts so I fully expect to continue receiving my dole payment until my PRSI contributions run out in the summer, at which point my finances will be means tested.
It is a very odd feeling, you know, having something you’ve idly written suddenly becoming widely read and talked about. Of course you’re always aware that your blog is something public, but I’ve always written with about ten or fifteen people in mind who I know will obligingly follow along…and that’s about it. In fact there are lots and lots of people in my life who do not read my blog and who are unaware that I wrote that post that went slightly viral. It has left me feeling quite exposed and vulnerable. I was somewhat relieved that the “SHE’S WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE WORLD” brigade were thoroughly eclipsed by the “YEAH STICK IT TO THE MAN” brigade, because you know, it leaves you in a sad place, being terminally unemployed. I have been in and out of low-paid work for four years now. I am well educated thanks to the free fees that were indiscriminately doled out in this country up until recently: I was the first in my family to go to university, and it promised a lot. I got a small grant for the first bout of postgraduate study and worked full-time to pay for the rest, as well as having the unfailing support of my husband-unit in all things. I have had paid employment all my life since I was 11 years old, beginning with a paper-round in my housing estate in Dublin. At 15 I began work in a pub, and was not out of work again until over ten years later when I lost my job when the company I was working for suddenly ran out of money and let me go without notice or a redundancy package at the end of 2008. Since then, I have only managed to secure temporary short-term positions, enjoyed in the midst of that a five month period of severe ill-health, and despite my absolute best efforts, have not had a single interview since August 2011. I am currently working through a professional MA (something some might consider a contradiction in terms, but it’s true), part-time and at night, so that in just over a year I will be qualified in a new area, as getting work in my current field, or any general kind of work at all, seems to be impossible unless you know the “right people”. And I have never known the right people, unfortunately, which is probably just as well. Because the right people tend to do things a little crookedly a lot of the time. I have, as of yet, no idea as to how I will pay the fees for the next semester of this MA. You can’t even get a credit union loan when you don’t own any property, you know.
So, it can take its toll, this unemployment and instability thing. After a week of making, say, 15 applications for jobs which I could do standing on my head, and hearing absolutely nothing in return (not even an acknowledgment of receipt of application), you do begin to ask yourself, what the fuck is wrong with me? I remember going to Tesco late one night a few weeks ago and was standing in the self-service queue with my milk and whatever else, and the girl supervising the area was about nineteen with greasy hair and a mouth full of chewing gum and was having a loud conversation with her friend on her mobile phone. I don’t begrudge that girl her job, but Tesco turned me down.
So I have however decided I’m not asking that question any more. At least, not in relation to the issue of employment. (My favourite comment that got tweeted and retweeted was “Somebody give this person a fucking job!”)
My husband and I are not destitute, by any means. He has worked steadily, although his contract ends soon and we will face new and quite terrifying challenges. This is keeping us both awake at night right now. We currently have food and the bills get paid and we never had the money nor the inclination to over-spend during the boom, so we don’t owe anyone a cent. But we do not have any savings or assets of any kind (anything saved has gone on things like filling the tank with oil, or doctor’s bills), and we had really imagined that it might have been possible to have a home of our own by now, or have had a bit of financial freedom. Sadly not.
I am angry about the bank bail-out (you might have picked up on that), but I want to say also that I do have perspective. I remain one of the richest people on planet earth, economically speaking, and I was blessed and fortunate enough to be born into a context that offered me the kind of opportunities of which the majority world could only dream. Aside from the economic, I have a life rich with deep friendships, a real spirituality, a loving community, and the soul-food of books and art and music and poetry and movies.
I also occasionally write a really widely-read blog entry.
So, you know, it definitely could be worse.