I took the plunge...but still can't struggle to the surface!
October 5, 2012 2:16 PM   Subscribe

2012 has not been my year - it has been 5 steps forward, 4 steps back (sometimes 6 steps back) trying to rebuild my life. I'm left now where i was at the beginning...broke, unemployed, frustrated, depressed. What am I doing wrong? Or is the Universe really just hating me this year?

This year started with me escaping an extremely unhealthy marriage - yay! - but at the time I only had a part time job in retail. I moved in with my stepmother for a few months (which was the agreed upon time), looking for another better paying, more permanent job. 95% of my experience is in retail and retail management, with the other 5% being a 9 month stint in an admin position at an office (i was included in the mass layoffs due to the economy), and an on and off personal assistant position for a non profit organization where i also do some work with licensing music. This is not a stable means of income, however, as the owner can't afford to have me more than one day a week.

Back to the series of events. I moved in to a friends house in march, and by april my hours at my job had been so greatly reduced that i had to start looking for something else. my step mother offered to have me babysit my little sister at near full time, for the rate i was getting at my retail job, but the hours she really needed me were the same as when i'd be working at my job. So, i made the decision to quit, since at the time i was assured that i'd be making about double babysitting. a month later, step mother decides to stop working for the summer, so she conveniently no longer needs me to babysit. great - now i have ZERO income. that remained the situation until late june, which heaped on massive amounts of stress due to the constant threat of having to move into my car, and not really being able to afford food even (but hey, i went from a size 6 to a size 2, so there's something). I finally landed another management job at the end of june, but was so far behind that each check went out the door 100% the day i got it, so the constant "how will i afford food/gas" stress remained. i had just finally caught up at the beginning of september, and my next paycheck would have been the first that wasn't completely spoken for. 2 days before my birthday in the first week of september, my position is eliminated due to the new store not making as much money as the company planned, and i had not been there for 90 days yet, so i am not eligible for unemployment compensation. The only source of income is this nonprofit 1 or 2 days a week gig, which is just covering bills so far, but will not with the bigger ones (rent, cell phone) coming up. also, this place is an hour away, so driving there is expensive.

I spend a chunk of time every day combing through every job board, applying to anything i qualify for. I really really feel strongly about getting out of retail - i've had pretty much only bad experiences, the environment is so stressful, cut throat and you spend most of the time being talked down to by upper management and corporate. I've applied to a temp agency and had my initial interview, but they haven't been able to match me up with anything yet.

I'm very reluctant to get a job at a wawa or grocery store, etc, because the pay is not enough to cover my bills, and i feel as though it's wrong to work somewhere *knowing* that you'll be leaving as soon as you find something better in weeks-months. That just seems incredibly disrespectful to me, like i'm wasting their time.

The year has also been peppered with events such as a string of health issues that i'm sure are because of the stress (abscess tooth which shattered during extraction, needed 15 stitches in my gums, followed by whooping cough, followed by torn muscle in shoulder, followed by nasty yeast infection, followed by stomach flu, with pretty nasty migraines and panic attacks throughout), finding out my credit score dropped from near 700 to closer to 500 because of no money to make my car payment for 2 months/ credit card payments for 6+ months, and bringing down my mother's credit score since she cosigned for my car, which made her VERY angry (rightfully so, but her words hurt a lot), but there was literally nothing i could do.

I do count my blessings. I have a wonderful boyfriend whom i have known for 9 years, very much of a "soulmate under your nose" situation, and he is so supportive and loving it's incredible. He has been going through the same horrible time i have, and has had the rug pulled out from under him through no fault of his own quite a few times this year. We live together at this mutual friend's house, and pool our resources for everything that pops up, there just aren't enough resources between us. He is searching for another job too (his pays next to nothing, pizza delivery in a poor area with no gas reimbursement, hardly anyone tips), but has very limited work experience, and also needs to make sure he finds a job that enables him to provide for his almost 3 year old daughter too (whom we have part time, and i love as my own).

I struggle with Major Depressive Disorder and General Anxiety Disorder to the point that, with everything that's happened, it tends to be difficult to get out of bed some mornings. Leaving my abusive husband was supposed to be the start to a better life, and i now have the best relationship anyone could ask for, but it's hard to enjoy when every single other aspect of my life is in shambles.

I'm guess i'm looking for some guidance as to what my options are, if there's something i should be doing that i'm not. As i said, i spend part of every day looking and applying for jobs. I'm pretty much housebound, as i have zero dollars in my bank account and any gas my boyfriend can put in my tank must be saved for going to the nonprofit to work, or going to any interview that pops up.

I'm sorry for the scattered-ness of this all...i'm just at my wits end, and having a hard time seeing any light at the end of the tunnel.

Basics about me - i'm 25, female, physically fit and healthy, and live about 30 min outside of Reading, pa, going towards Philly.
posted by assasinatdbeauty to Human Relations (20 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know enough about your situation to give many specifics, but first I would apply for food stamps. That will reduce your stress level, give you food, and free up what meager earnings you have for other things.

As for personal observation, I would tell you to hang in there. It may not seem like it, but it sounds to me like you are doing really well with the hand you have been dealt. Keep plugging away. Your break will come.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:24 PM on October 5, 2012 [14 favorites]

Hi, Sorry you're under so much stress.

Apply for Public Assistance benefits onlines (I LOVE Pennsylvania!)

It may not be much, but it's something. Food stamps, section 8, welfare, Medicaid. Baby, you're the person I'm paying my taxes for, go help yourself to the government teat.

Go ahead and apply for whatever jobs you can get to easily. Don't worry about whether or not you plan to quit them, no one's been too worried about laying you off without notice after only a few months. Besides, you can moonlight after you get a full-time paying gig to help you catch up and put some money in the bank.

Another avenue for you to explore would be SSI. At least get the ball rolling on that one.

Do this before the sun sets today.

I'm sending love and good vibes to you.

All of this is temporary.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:25 PM on October 5, 2012 [15 favorites]

I wish I had better advice for you, since I went through something similar of my own a couple years ago. Long story short, lost the job, lost the car, lost the girlfriend, lost the house, lost quite a bit of faith, but I did get to keep the dogs. And I got a new girlfriend, and the world seems a little less dim now. But things do turn around... eventually.

My best piece of advice is just to keep your spirits up. Lots of us have had to borrow more money than we'd want, or a spot on a couch for longer than we'd like. But nobody, and I mean NOBODY, wants to hire someone if the universe really is out to get them. So don't let everybody know that's how you feel. Feel free to talk to family and friends, but remember that friends also make great references, or contacts for new positions, and you don't want that one job opportunity to slip through your hands because you're always mopey around your friends.

So get out of the house every day. Stay in contact with as many people as you can. Do whatever it takes to get your mind off of things for a few hours at a time, whether it's knitting or bowling or just starting a lawn gnome relocation squad... just do something that will let you be happy every once in a while.
posted by Blue_Villain at 2:28 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

That just seems incredibly disrespectful to me, like i'm wasting their time.

Lose this attitude right now. It won't help you; they would not hire you purely from the goodness of their hearts, and if you suck at the job they will not keep you on out of charity. It's a business. They know most of their employees are not aspiring to management (or lifelong cashiership) with a grocery chain.

If they pay really isn't enough to cover your bills and the scheduling will make holding another job impossible, then that's one thing. Upside - in my experience - of working at a grocery store is you get a discount on stuff you're going to have to buy whether you want to or not (food), and because of the liberal staff education/sampling policy where I worked (Whole Foods) I never left a shift hungry.
posted by rtha at 2:32 PM on October 5, 2012 [15 favorites]

I would take one of those jobs you mentioned. It's important to feel productive and self-sufficient, and it's important to get out and keep busy rather than staying at home dwelling on things (that's not to belittle them, but sometimes they can get amplified by dwelling on them).

Don't worry about the fact that you will be leaving. Most employers are going to expect some amount of turnover, especially among younger employees, and it's just one of the realities of running a business. And after all, what reasonable person would hold it against you for wanted to advance your career and look out for your own best interests? You need to look out for yourself. Denying yourself employment because you are worried about being "disrespectful" is not an approach that will get you ahead financially.

Good luck!
posted by Dansaman at 2:45 PM on October 5, 2012

Most things in life now are stepping stones to other things. There is such considerable churn within most jobs - and particularly in grocery store work. It's not being disrespectful - it's just life as it is now.

You leap from one thing to the next until you hit on something you want to stay doing for a while and then you leap onto the next thing. But you have to get that momentum going.
posted by heyjude at 3:14 PM on October 5, 2012

...and i feel as though it's wrong to work somewhere *knowing* that you'll be leaving as soon as you find something better in weeks-months. That just seems incredibly disrespectful to me, like i'm wasting their time.

Yeah, this is crazily altruistic. Is that the real reason you don't want to apply for these jobs?
posted by goethean at 3:16 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

You've learned: Don't quit your job without a new job - In Writing.
You've Shown: You can keep getting out of bed even though Times Are Hard.

Looking for some guidance as to what my options are, if there's something i should be doing that i'm not.

The amount of detail suggests you feel the need to justify your situation. You're in a terrible economy, without strong family support, and you're still hanging in there. You were sick a lot with illnesses that really stress your immune system, and you haven't had a chance to really recover. You've had a rotten time, and you're in good company.

I recommend getting a job at Home Depot (the workers at my local HD seem to get along ok), Starbucks (they treat staff ok), or get one of the disposable holiday jobs that should help you get eligible for Unemployment if/when you get laid off in Jan. So what if managers condescend and the other workers are goobers. It's a disposable job, and you just have to show up reliably, do a reasonably good job, and leave. Don't put your heart into a McJob; they have carefully calibrated the job for McEmployees. Give them what they ask for, and don't worry too much about how it could/should be better. If you've done fair work at a McJob or any job, don't worry about leaving - Employers feel free to lay people off at any time, for any reason - you have no more moral obligation than an employer. Post flyers at the grocery and other local places and post on Craigslist for babysitting. If you or BF can rake leaves, etc., post that, too.

Find the gas money to go out and put in apps even where there are no openings. Learn about networking, go to job fairs, and join groups; it's by far the best access to better jobs.

Get outside and get some exercise; it's critical for dealing with depression and anxiety. I agree with Ruthless Bunny; This is why your community members pay taxes: get food stamps, Medicaid, and any other assistance available, esp. if there's any job training. You are doing really well in adverse circumstances. Please keep us posted.
posted by theora55 at 3:17 PM on October 5, 2012

I've applied to a temp agency and had my initial interview, but they haven't been able to match me up with anything yet.

How often have you called to check in with them? My experience with temp agencies has been that you really need to keep bugging them, especially for the first posting. If you aren't already doing so, I'd suggest calling them once a week and asking if they have anything. And definitely see if you can register with more agencies. Once you get one posting you'll be a known quantity and will get more, assuming you do well. It sounds to me like temp work is your best route out of retail.

Good luck!
posted by Ragged Richard at 3:18 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Seconding Ragged Richard.

Sign up with more temp agencies and follow up with them regularly if you don't hear from them for a week or more. With the economy the way it is now, more and more companies are hiring agencies to fill positions and it is the best way to get your foot in the office door and out of the mall.

In the mean time, take what ever job(s) is available and offered to you and be sure to negotiate your pay for the most you can get! You deserve it!
posted by E3 at 3:32 PM on October 5, 2012

Nth'ing the recommendations to feel free to apply for jobs you'll likely quit as soon as something better comes along. May you be so fortunate!

Hang in there. It's not you; things just suck right now.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:52 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

i feel as though it's wrong to work somewhere *knowing* that you'll be leaving as soon as you find something better in weeks-months.

But it's been weeks-months, nearly a year, and that hasn't happened. Take whatever job is available to you that has a low "cost of working there" (gas, insurance, etc.), and keep looking anyway, but from a safer vantage point.

If you don't want retail anymore then consider jobs that retail is a good base for. I work for my local credit union and most of our entry-level tellers have retail experience. You would qualify for other customer service and money-handling jobs too.

Also temp agencies. I am working with a temp right now, she's been there a week and my boss is considering hiring her even though she doesn't have the software skills we need, just because she's so efficient.
posted by headnsouth at 3:58 PM on October 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm very reluctant to get a job at a wawa or grocery store, etc, because the pay is not enough to cover my bills, and i feel as though it's wrong to work somewhere *knowing* that you'll be leaving as soon as you find something better in weeks-months. That just seems incredibly disrespectful to me, like i'm wasting their time.

-Some pay is better than no pay.
-Make the best of positions like those and try to network with your regular customers - you never know when that woman you serve coffee to every day might be looking for a new assistant. Plus it is a good thing to get out there and keep moving.
-You will get a lot of interview experience while you are looking for these kinds of jobs, so that when the awesome position opens up, you'll ace the interview.
-Finally, it really is common sense that anyone working anywhere would jump at an offer of a better position - don't think that all the people at Wawa or a grocery store are all happy there too - a lot of people have had to take jobs below their education and skill set just to make ends meet in this economy - you won't be the first.
Good luck in your search.
posted by NoraCharles at 4:01 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm very reluctant to get a job at a wawa or grocery store, etc, because the pay is not enough to cover my bills, and i feel as though it's wrong to work somewhere *knowing* that you'll be leaving as soon as you find something better in weeks-months. That just seems incredibly disrespectful to me, like i'm wasting their time.

Corporations do not have feelings. You do not owe them anything. They will be able to replace you swiftly with another cog. Do not feel bad for them, and grab all the money you can. You give them time, they give you money. They do not give you loyalty, you don't need to give it to them.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 5:21 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

First off, nthing the advice to look at government aid programs in your area. I don't have tons of practical advice. But your post just broke my heart and I wanted to give you an internet hug.

I don't believe in a sentient universe, but while I don't think it's possible for the Universe to hate you this year, I can totally vouch that some years are just like that, and it's awful. (Believe me, I know. In 2006 I had a job, a husband, an apartment, and a living father. In 2008 I didn't have any of those things anymore.) But all the years won't be like that.

There WILL be a day that you look around you and take a breath and realize that everything is really fine. You'll be totally amazed, and then you'll realize that actually, most of the days have been fine. You just gotta white-knuckle your way through it and try to keep your eyes open for solutions and escape hatches as much as possible.
posted by like_a_friend at 8:36 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

I was in funk a few years ago. I'm not particularly religious, but I found out that a nearby Catholic church was having a weekend women's retreat (which was completely free), and on a whim I decided to go. I know it probably sounds cheesy (I certainly thought it would be at the time), but it was the best thing I've ever done. I found a group of completely, unconditionally supportive women who were going through their own struggles. They became my support system, and they still are. It is an amazing experience to hear other people's stories. It helps you get outside of your own situation and think about something - and someone - else for a while. You will realize how temporary your situation is, and that things will get better. It's a matter of perspective. My advice is to be open to all opportunities to connect with people that come your way. Not just work-related opportunities. Google churches in your area and see if there are any retreats coming up. At least you'll get out of the house for a weekend. Be open minded about new experiences and people - you may think you can only connect with other 20 year olds, but you may find a good friend in an older person in your community who you may not even realize is there right now. In my experience, people generally want to help. If you get out of the house and reach out to others, you may find them reaching back out to you and trying to help you get to a better place. Also, the best thing you can do to help yourself is to find a way to help someone else (even in a small way). Good luck to you. Be positive. This too shall pass.
posted by Darcy McDay at 10:36 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Why don't you go on welfare until you find a job? That's what it's for. That's why you pay taxes.
posted by windykites at 3:16 AM on October 6, 2012

The Woo: you are a Virgo and Saturn has been riding you like an army mule for the past three years, wreaking the most havoc over the last twelve months. This is supposed to be a life lesson in finances, primarily the kind that nobody wants to have to live through, but here we are.

Saturn has now passed, and the limitations to your ability to make money are over. Get out there and grab it with both hands.

Please let us know how you progress.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 6:17 AM on October 6, 2012

Seconding the idea of a holiday job. There are fewer than in previous years, but I just heard Macy's is hiring.
posted by BibiRose at 7:42 AM on October 6, 2012

Thanks for all your input thus far. I have applied for food stamps and medical through the state. shortly after i posted this i received an amazing phone call from a celebrity who happens to be a friend of the family through a close working relationship with a parent that spans over decades, and has informed me that he his placing a check in the mail for me with a few thousand to help us get by. of course we are going to try to not use this as much as possible (we are going to do a few nice things for us since it's been a looooong time anything nice has happened or we've even been able to go on a real date!), and continue to work our butts off to get bills paid and just use it to cover what we can't quite make. and looking for jobs just as hard. now it's just important to land something soon so we can keep as much of it as we can for a nest egg!

It seems crazy that this happened...i mean who gets a call like that...i'm acutely aware of how lucky i am. generally i shudder when people describe something as "blessed" but i feel this turn of events warrants that adjective.

If you have any ideas on how to make that money grow easily while still being able to access it with no risk to the funds, i'm all ears!
posted by assasinatdbeauty at 6:05 PM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

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