How to Survive When You’re Not Working

unemployment

Note: I started writing this post the morning I was hired for my new position. I went in for an interview and walked out with a job! Although I’m no longer unemployed, I still think the following post is important to read and reflect on. 

Oh, the unemployment life. As stressed as I am about money, not working is nice. I’m not that type of person to use up vacation time when working so when I’m not applying for jobs and biking around town for interviews, I’m at home chilling out. I’ve arranged my new home, caught up on “Empire,” planted a garden and finally memorized the lines for the play I was in. But let’s get real- no one can live a life like this. The money in your savings is bound to run out. And I don’t know about you, dear reader, but if I’m stuck inside for days on end, I start to get stir crazy.

Looking for a job is a job within itself. It takes a lot of work and patience. I know it can take months to find a decent position (still) in this economy. You can send out hundreds of resumes each week and never receive a bite back. So, how do you avoid the unemployed blues? Below are some things that keep me sane and motivated during the ever long job hunt.

1) First things first- Create a schedule. Streamlining your life will help you dive head first into the next chapter, plus it helps you feel like your unemployed time is spent productively. During the weekday, I tried to wake up and eat my daily meals at the same time daily, spend six hours dedicated to job hunting and then, spend the rest of the day reading or getting sunshine.

2) Keep current and get organized. That means cleaning up your resume- both the one on paper and LinkedIn (if you don’t have a LinkedIn account, create one now! It’s free!) Take advantage of numerous free resources online, including classes, tutorials, e-books, and how-to videos. Build an online presence and make to maintain it regularly.

3) Treat yourself. Unemployment can be trying and tiring, so don’t forget to treat yourself occasionally. Take a reasonable amount of time off from your weekly job hunt to recharge and rest up. Letting yourself rest will maximize your productivity during the hours you job search. Even if you don’t have extra money for entertainment, a walk or visit to the park can do wonders to help you go back and attack your job hunt.

4) Speaking of walking, make sure to exercise. Moving will give you endorphins (hello, happiness!) and keep you from feeling lazy especially when you spend a good chunk of your day in front of a computer.

5) Keeping busy is one thing but I’m using this time to volunteer. Not only does volunteer experience on your resume makes you look more marketable, it’s a good way to network and meet new people. People are always looking for help- Volunteermatch.org is a good spot to look for opportunities or visit your favorite non-profit (I like the ASPCA shelter and the local library).

Best of luck on your search!

 

Trans-Life

What is the difference between a woman who is genetically white and feels culturally black versus another who is genetically male but feels biologically female?

Monday morning, I drank coffee with a friend and we got to talking about Rachel Dolezal, the former Washington state NAACP leader who was born Caucasian- to two white parents- but now identifies as black. The media has called her “trans-racial.” While my friend argued that race is simply a social construct, I explained to her that I, as a person of color, could never be considered “trans-racial” myself.

Growing up, I wanted to be white. I wanted to have “white” hair. I was envious of girls with smooth, silky hair that never kinked up when it got wet. I wanted to fit in better amount my white friends at school- I still remember the day this guy in my ninth grade biology class said I “talked white.” (I never had many black friends in school for I was teased a lot.) Through out college, I thought that my life would be in less danger if I were white (no one would pull up aside me and call me a “nigger” as I biked to class)…

I understand that ethnic experience is different for everyone and yes, I agree that race is a social construct rather than a biological one (unlike gender). When talking about Ms. Dolezal compared to Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce Jenner) who was featured on the July cover of “Vanity Fair,” I’ve explained to people I didn’t come out of the womb wanting to be white (unlike like the transgender people in my life who knew since birth that they were born the wrong gender). As I grew up and observed the world around me, I noted that being white would be easier and, in a sense, better.

Blogger Rafi D’Angelo writes:

One last strike against anyone claiming to be transracial:  It only works one way.  Only white people can claim to be another race on the inside and then “perform” that race because race operates with white as the default. Racial classifications are based on deviations FROM whiteness.

Caitlyn Jenner

Caitlyn Jenner

The thing that bothers me about Ms. Dolezal is that I could never pull off what she did- neither most black people I know. Even though my hair is dyed blonde and straight due to a Brazilian blowout, it will always be kinky when wet. I would have to go to extremes with bleaching my skin and getting plastic surgery to shrink my wide nose in order to look the part. Plus, there will be always that one drop rule. I know that changing my wardrobe and my hair doesn’t make me white. Being black isn’t about the color of your skin or the style of your hair. It’s has historical, social and political attachments that come with the identification.

Above all else, we need to stop comparing Ms. Dolezal to Ms. Jenner. Dolezal was born a white woman. She will always be a white woman, and therefore, she will never live the experience of a black one. Jenner, on the other hand, has always been a woman- she was just born in the wrong body (gender isn’t about the type of genitals you possess but about chemicals in the brain that align in a particular sequence that affects how one identifies oneself.). It’s the difference between living a lie and living your truth.

 

Lessons Learned from “Clybourne Park”

Ladies and gents, it is over. Yesterday, “Clybourne Park” finished its three week run to a sold out audience. It was bittersweet, taking the final bow with my wonderful cast mates, thinking about everything that led up to that moment. Between all the line studying and character prep (trying on wigs is fun!), I never thought that I’d dedicate so much of myself to a play I once knew nothing about- but now, can’t get enough of.

I auditioned, thinking I wouldn’t get the role. I figured that I was pretty rusty since I haven’t acted since high school and even then, that role was the daisy in “Alice in Wonderland” (I got plucked half through the play by Alice’s sister and died). But low and behold, I was cast as Francine/Lena. I learned every thing I could about the play and its history. The more I read, the more excited I grew. I thought to myself, you got this! It’s going to be easy! Man, was I wrong.

Rehearsals started a few months later. I tried to prepare myself by reading the script a couple times before daily rehearsals started but the lines didn’t stick. It was difficult working full-time, trying to be a decent partner and friend and finding time memorizing lines (I have no idea how people with small children do theater). I couldn’t grasp the lines for the life of me and with the added blocking, I left rehearsals feeling frustrated. I didn’t feel in control of my role. I approached my director (twice) and told him that I was quitting. My second attempt at quitting was two weeks before the show opened. I just knew I couldn’t do it. He was kind and said that he understood my reasoning for leaving the production but I knew that it would come close to a miracle to recast Francine/Lena and for that actress to learn lines and blocking in a week and a half. I decided to grin and bare it- if I screwed up, I’d just embrace it. I’d go down in flames with a smile. I was never going to audition for a play again anyway.

I didn’t learn my lines until the week of the opening performance (which I learned is a commonality in the world of theater). My assistant director came over every day that week and drilled lines with me, on top of teaching me how to apply stage make-up. I continued to struggle with lines and had a mini-breakdown on the set the rehearsal before our preview show. But fortunately, I found myself with a lot of free time opening week and I spent the 24 hours before opening night with my script in my hand, memorizing the final details. Still, I felt like I was going to crash and burn.

My cast mates, though, were my parachutes. After crying on stage, the mama of our group comforted me and reassured me with soothing words and her friendly smile. The actor who played my husband kept me grinning with his silly singing and dancing before each show. As we put on our costumes and transformed into our characters, the cast and I shared laughs and surprises (an older gentleman had a heart attack during the intermission of our last performance). Having familiar faces in the audience each show was encouraging, too. The day after the fourth show, I was in the library, checking out books when a man approached me. He said “Clybourne Park” was the best play he ever seen and that he was moved by my performance. Each week, it got easier to be on stage. I thought I’d forget lines but there was an incredible amount of support from the cast, the crew and the audience. I knew that I wasn’t going to fail. After the last show, I cried as I cleaned the dressing room- I was so proud of myself and I was going to miss being on stage with my “Clybourne” family.

I’ve been asked several times if I would continue acting. Honestly, I don’t know. As much fun as singing in a musical would be (especially if that musical was “Once” or maybe “Funny Face”), my gut sighs with pain thinking about memorizing lines and blocking. Maybe I’m not meant to be an actress but I could possibly do behind-the-scenes work. Regardless what my future in theater holds, I’m happy that I stepped out of my comfort zone, stuck it out and worked my ass off. I will forever have a deep appreciation for theater- and for acting, in general. I am never going to criticize someone’s performance in a B-horror movie again.

Reno Little Theater’s production of “Clybourne Park”

Day 30 of my Happiness Journey

Day Thirty: Let’s be real- I didn’t learn anything new on this happiness journey. When I first started a month ago, I planned on writing about something happy every day. But, of course, life happens and as everyone knows, each day isn’t always a happy one. But I know that is the point. We need bad days. They help us grow and appreciate the good days. If there was one thing I rediscovered, it’s up to you to make your own happiness. It has taken small events like tending to my garden or reading on the couch for me to remember that happiness is a choice- you need to do the things that make you happy even if they are scary or if others dissuade you.

I hope you are happy, dear reader, and that your life is filled with positive memories and a cheery disposition.

Day 29 of my Happiness Journey

Day Twenty-Nine: I don’t have much of a green thumb but when I moved into my new home, I was determined to plant a garden and not kill it. My mom bought the flowers; I brought the manpower and spent the day cleaning out the flower bed, laying down healthier dirt and giving my floral friends a new home.

Day 28 of my Happiness Journey

Day Twenty-Eight: I’ve been nursing an eye infection for the last couple of days. While it’s not contagious, it is leaving me feeling pretty immobile. This eye infection is brought on by stress so I’m doing my best to relax while keeping myself busy. The sun agitates the infection so I’ve been trying to limit my computer and TV time by reading, job hunting and prepping for the fall semester inside. As much as my eye burns and leaks, in a weird way, I’m grateful to have this infection. It reminds me to take life easy- everything is not that stressful and intense. My mom flew up for the weekend and she noted how calm and serene my home is. I contribute that cool vibe to Steve but it is something that I’ve been thinking about the last few days- how to de-stress and ease up my life. I don’t have any concrete solutions yet but in the meanwhile, I’m going to go back to my book and take a long bath.