No, it’s not because of the money. It’s that I turn into a complete stranger that I barely recognize.
Instead of the happy college graduate that I’m supposed to be, I turn into a middle-aged woman wearing large t-shirts and dark circles. Suddenly looking good is no longer necessary, especially when you realize you don’t need to meet anyone who might cringe at the sight of food stuck in your hair.
Yo-yo dieting slowly infiltrates my life. I eat. A lot. Then I feel guilty and diet. And then I eat again. It doesn’t help when the food I eat comes from McDonald’s or the nearest cake shop. There’s a reason why these are called comfort foods, and it becomes painfully clear. They make you feel better about yourself when you believe you’ve got a sign that says ‘The Biggest Loser In the World’ plastered across your forehead. As far as I know, Ronald McDonald doesn’t judge. He welcomes you, young or old, fat or skinny, rich or poor, employed or unemployed, into his arms with that endearing smile. Fitting into the pretty, professional pencil skirt that I bought two months ago is the least of my concerns. I say to myself, ‘Well, I don’t need to wear that anyway.’ For now, at least.
Most friends tell me that I’m lucky to be doing nothing at all while they slave their butts off at work. They say I get to do things I enjoy doing, like shopping and watching new episodes of Glee. But how can I tell them that I have grown bored of all these activities, the same ones I used to struggle making time for in the past? I miss the thrill of anticipating the next episode of Desperate Housewives. I don’t enjoy sitting around, waiting for the next episode to be released like I have nothing better to do. Oh wait, that’s right. I don’t have anything to do.
And then there are those who ask rhetorical, snide questions like, “Are you still bumming around?” As I have faith that the most basic decency a person could have towards another person is to ask ‘How are you?’, and mean it, I find it appalling how people you barely talk to are suddenly extra concerned about whether or not you have found a job. And it doesn’t stop there. These people give you their false versions of consolation when your answer is a ‘No.’ This is where Mr. Hyde comes out from nowhere, again and again. The Dr. Jekyll inside me used to be able to look past people who ask such condescending questions and pretend they’re talking in a foreign language. Suddenly, I evolve from the approachable person I used to be into this bitter bitch who frowns at people I’d later refer to as “judgy.”
And the worst part about being unemployed? It comes when your parents have you under their roof, eating their cereal and using their gas, and still not saying anything about it. Avoiding the topic. These are the hopeful people who invested in my education, believing there will be positive returns after a decade or two. But it suddenly seems like they just flushed their money down the toilet. I can hear the whooshing sound in my ears.
I am grateful — but so remorseful, so full of regret. It’s the most awful combination of feelings a person could have, because it further confirms the sign on your forehead that says ‘The Biggest Loser in the World,’ the sign everyone can see, that you can feel burning into your skin. And I know, for one, that I am anything but a loser. And for that, I tell myself, I’ll never want to be unemployed again. Ever.