An Unemployed Person’s Guide To Going Out

In determining whether or not to go out, one must first decide if they are able to go out. Does your change jar contain the necessary fare to take the 62 bus to Millikan Way, board the crowded train downtown, and then possibly take another bus to go across the river? How much will you spend while you’re there? How will that cut in to your other expenses? And will you have enough to get home?

Then one must decide if the hour-long trip each way is even worth it. What will you do when you get there? Will you spend the evening “catching up” with an old friend from high school, who still knows you as that ambitious yet inarticulate kid who hid behind his creations to avoid forging connections with his peers? Will they see a familiar shirt and smugly say “you never change,” missing the fact you can’t afford new clothes? Will the both of you reach back in time to dredge up skeletons of your former selves, shed so long ago, or at least fossilized beneath thin skin of college experimentation? Will they make the same jokes, expecting the same laughs? Will old resentments cloud everything? Will they ask why you hadn’t called them sooner? Will they think you’re ditching them if you say you have to leave early, because, yes, you’re staying in Beaverton at your parents’ old house, and no, you don’t have a car, and your similarly unemployed brother is out drinking with his friends, and he definitely won’t pick you up from the train station? Or worse, is it raining?

Say it’s better: say you have access to a vehicle. Say you even have a little gas leftover from the time you spared part of your birthday money (or Christmas money, or graduation money, or, or, or) to fill the tank before an interview. You have a bit more freedom, unfettered by public transit schedules. You can splurge. You better remember how to parallel park.

If your friend is introducing you to their friends, do try to be open to the opportunity of making new connections. It is very easy to clam up. It may feel like they are just more people to let down, people who can have dinner, go to concerts or films and not think of the sacrifice to do so. That they are more would-be friends whose lives are significantly more interesting and healthier than yours — so why would they want to know you anyway? But you will be surprised by how much one interaction, no matter how fleeting, can make the next few weeks of applications and rejections bearable.

Try not to be ashamed when they ask you where you live. Most likely, they will shrug understandably and say, “everyone is living at their parents’ house right now” and move onto the next topic. Likewise, do not avoid the question of “what do you do?” even if you do not have an answer. You’re in Portland, remember? You’re in good company. And if they roll their eyes and sneer “right, but how do you make your money?” don’t let it get to you — just chuckle and get away from that person because oh my god what a terrible person who you do not want to know ever.

When your friend buys you a drink, accept it. Never ask. Never expect. Accept it if (and only if) they do not want anything in return, particularly praise or sexual favors. Do not pretend you are richer than you are, or too headstrong to accept such charity. Those seven dollars could easily be tomorrow’s lunch and dinner — celebrate the little victories. Accept one and only one. Maybe two.

Do not drink too much. Alcohol can inflate your manic tendencies, or exacerbate your depressive ones. You could end up inviting yourself over to a house where you may not be welcome, where your friend wants privacy with their partner. And survey says, nothing puts a damper on the mood quite like the smell of a morose friend’s puke.

Your friends may make mistakes. They may use the phrase: “if you get a job” rather than “when.” They may ask you what you do all day — not what you did that day, but what you generally do on days most others are at work. They may complain about their job and pretend they are envious of your position. There may be vague condescension, judgment veiled as concern, concern veiled as judgment, or just plain disinterest in what you’re up against. They may even make a joke or three at your expense, which will feel like the biggest betrayal.

It is easy to let these slights contort in your mind, especially on the rainy ride home. They can grow inside you, as you go to sleep that night, until the next morning you want to cut those persons out of your life. You may even get this close to un-friending them or deleting their number, because that is the only course of action you can take against their callously correct words.  Then you stew in your room, your old bedroom in your parents’ house, and fall back into boiling, dusty teen angst. You write awful poetry again, brooding to post-punk in the dark. You come up with things you should have said, witty retorts that you mutter aloud, which would have made them feel as small as you do. But you’re the only ears, and somehow, it makes you feel even worse.

Then you stop answering the phone. You invent reasons to avoid even going to the trouble. Most people stop inviting you altogether. The quality of your applications declines. You don’t eat often, excusing it as “saving money.” You convince yourself your social life is fine by getting into digital loops, manicuring your various profiles, constantly updating your current status to prove that “things are okay, really.” Because things are not immediately bad, but they are not overwhelmingly great either. So you pick fights with your brother to feel something, and he, in a similar boat, obliges to the battle. You yell through him to reach all those hypothetical employers, and their bosses, and the executives and CEOs of those companies and organizations, thinking maybe an echo will reverberate to those responsible for instilling this sense of unworthiness in your heart. You feel like yelling loud enough to collapse the home your family built, to huff and puff like a breathless, exhausted wolf. You feel like yelling all the way through time to the forefathers, to your ancestors, to the gigantic explosion that dawned existence and whatever God lies in that moment of creation, to rattle an eardrum and prove that you matter, even when the mere thought seems absurd.

And when you get no response, you decide to go out again. And you have a lovely evening with a couple of friends at their place. You cook dinner with them. You watch a movie. You have dessert. You discuss politics. No one gets upset. They recommend some books for you to read. You laugh. You actually laugh.

You leave. You go home. And nothing is fundamentally life altering, or particularly exciting. But that bus ride home is effortless. And when you get up in the morning, writing another cover letter doesn’t feel so useless. In fact, you may even believe some of the praises you give yourself. You have a healthy breakfast. You go for a walk. You go outside.

It’s very American to believe you’re alone in this. But on your bad days, know there is more to you than you. On your good days, find out. TC mark

image – Shutterstock

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