“I am ashamed to be unemployed”

Illustration: Pedro Nekoi

This column originally appeared in John Paul Brammer Hello Grandpa newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack.

Hello Grandpa!

Things just don’t work for me. I’m in my twenties and graduated about five years ago from a good public university, the kind where your friends graduate, immediately get into good paying jobs in respectable fields and start their good life steady. (Read: my friends, not me.)

I did my best in college despite my severe anxiety disorder, and by my final year, I had worked multiple jobs in my graphic design field and had a solid resume and portfolio. Then graduation came, and I was rejected of all the many jobs I applied for. my anxiety spiraling through the roof.

In a confused attempt to regain control of my life, I packed up my shit and moved in New York as many young gay men do. I finally landed an internship that would look great on my resume and open many doors for me. Except it ended, and it didn’t end, and I was sick of doing my shitty job in retail, so I went home and spiraled even more .

Pandemic cut when I tried to pivot into the gaming industry which led to a low paying entry level job that ended abruptly after a year and a half when my employer told me move to Los Angeles in a month or quit. Six months later, and I haven’t found a job in either field. To make matters worse, I was rejected today after a third interview for a job I’m 95% sure I didn’t get because I’m gay. (They were two 50-year-old heterosexual men who were very worried if I could fit into the “company culture.”)

My self-esteem is so intertwined with my career, and after so many failures and rejections, I deeply and painfully feel inadequate. I know that’s not all, and I have a lot to be grateful for like great friends and some financial stability, but every time I think about my career, I spin in circles. I currently do it now. Grandpa, how can I separate my career from my value?

Spiraling so much that I feel like a toilet

Hello, Spiral!

Wow, you moved to New York without a plan? It made me anxious just reading it. I came here with a plan over six years ago and I’m still recovering.

Look, your 20s are for being humiliated. Right after graduating from college, I started looking for ‘writing jobs’, then ‘jobs that involve writing’, then ‘jobs where words are used to some degree’. My first gig was managing a social media account for a knitting business with less than 200 followers. It was unpaid and after two weeks they stopped responding to my emails even though I still had their passwords.

I will say, however, that was before Twitter had “threads”, and yet I was using “threads” as a fun theme for the knitting business. “I wish I could string those tweets together!” I believe I tweeted once in a series of posts on the thread. I was an innovator that the knitting community was not ready for.

Anyway, my first week in New York was spent sleeping with a goth woman, a friend of a friend who generously shared her air mattress with me. We were both on it. She had six roommates and I think we said three words to each other. Two of them were “good night”. Look for helpers.

Through it all, I was absolutely certain that my fulfillment would come from having a career, a real job. At that point, I could finally be a real human. I could have an after-work drink with my co-workers and chat with other professionals in my industry and I would know, deep down, that a company looked at my portfolio and said, “Now here’s a young man with a bright future in blogging.

It’s natural, Spiraling, to seek that kind of approval! Regular pay and health care certainly don’t hurt either. If the job even offers that sort of thing. I really don’t know these days. It’s as if a company could have interns fighting over conference lunch leftovers upstairs and someone sincerely responding, “You get wraps? »

Either way, in a world ruled by corporations and capital, it makes sense that being outside the system is totally crippling. But the problem with the system is that it has countless ways to fit you into it. In all likelihood, you will find a job. Will you like it? Will it be in your chosen field? As much as that, I don’t know. But you will probably have one.

This job could lead to another, and you could struggle to get anywhere in your career, because careers are so rarely straight lines for those of us who aren’t nepo babies (see? I’m from actuality) or born into fabulous wealth. In the concert constellation, it is quite possible for you to connect the dots into a beautiful shape. I think on that front, everything will be fine.

But another thing the system is good at is reducing us to our usefulness. You work for another entity that has no real incentive to care about you beyond what you can offer them. Leave most of yourself at the door and walk in ready to grind all day. You are expected to give 100% without being 100%.

It’s no wonder the people who seem to consistently dominate this game tend to be, well, sociopaths. We live in a system that rewards selfishness. It’s prudent to objectify the workers, because if you start thinking of them as full human beings, it becomes much harder to justify the structure of everything here.

But even if we acknowledge these things or see ourselves as non-participants in the “bustle culture,” we can still get into the habit of objectifying ourselves. We define ourselves by our performance, by what we can bring to a company, by our salaries. It’s silly. You don’t need to do the companies work for them. You will be thought of in these terms soon enough.

It may not seem like a very productive time for you right now, but I hope that as you apply for jobs and face rejection on your way to your next career step, you take this time to reflect on your goals, what you want, and who you are. These are things you can take with you from job to job that will make you more fulfilled in the long run.

The path is long, tortuous, embarrassing and profoundly silly. Having friends and hobbies will make it tolerable. Having a sense of self in a dehumanizing world is a powerful thing. Now is the perfect time to practice.

I wish you a very pleasant “fair follow-up”.

With lots of love,

Originally Posted on January 16, 2023.

This column originally appeared in John Paul Brammer Hello Grandpa newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack. Buy JP Brammer’s book Hola Papi: How to Get Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons, here.

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