Thirty and Burned Out and Crying
If you were to tell any of my past selves that I would be here, now, I think I would be both surprised and confused. Past me definitely thought I would have a stable job, a house and family of my own, some pets, enjoying the freedom that is supposed to come with being an adult with adult money. Instead, I am sitting in my childhood bedroom watching Twitch streams while I attempt to recover enough from the COVID we all caught over Thanksgiving to get back to what I've been doing on and off for the last three years: job hunting.
Now, getting laid off mid-pandemic wasn't the beginning of what I've been calling "this mess I find myself in." In December 2019 I was running ragged but beyond happy, about to finish my master's degree, living in my favorite city, with the whole world open before me. The day after my last final, I slipped on a bit of ice and fell down the marble front stoop of my apartment building. I went to the ER for x-rays that showed I had cracked my coccyx and sprained all of my back muscles. Weeks of bedrest and a few more of physical therapy were in order before I was allowed to return to my full-time retail job. Just as the day of my return was due to arrive, my grandpa passed away. I had to fly home for the funeral, where I hobbled around and tried not to feel any big emotions because every movement hurt. In early February, I got back to work just as we all started masking and sanitizing. About 6-weeks after returning to work, and barely a week after I passed the last doctor's test to return at full capacity, the store closed and we were all furloughed for what we assumed would be 2-4 weeks. Three months later all of us full-time employees were laid off per a ruling from corporate, and I became jobless in a global pandemic. Add in the five (5) funerals in my family between October 2021 and October 2022, and you're just about up to speed on where I'm at now: recovering from COVID in my childhood bedroom, trying to figure out what direction I want to pursue with my life and career.
Three years after graduation, the job market for newly graduated publishing students is just about as bad as it was in 2020. The publishing industry is eating itself alive. Publishers claim to have plenty of job openings, while also only offering positions in cities that require a high wage to live in and salaries that barely meet the unlivable yet minimum wage required by the U.S. government. In the meantime, the number of newly graduated publishing students has only grown, and we are expected to go up against all of the publishing folks who were laid off during the pandemic for the meager number of jobs left in the actual market. It's painfully obvious what waits for me down that career path, and it's not the magic of book creation I always hoped it would be. I'm still determined to get into the book industry someday, someway, somehow, but in order to get back on my feet and build a living, I know that I need to look elsewhere right now. I need to build a ladder before I can climb in that window.
I won't lie and say I haven't been wallowing - that's a given in a global pandemic when you're sick and sad and unemployed and a bit lost. I'm extremely thankful to have made a number of friends online, discovered new podcasts and streams of my favorite hobbies, and received the absolute GIFTS that are all of the Taylor Swift albums that have been released during this mess of a time. That doesn't necessarily change the general lowness I've been feeling for almost three years. It feels like the blink of an eye and forever at the same time. I'm not the same person I was pre-pandemic. I still haven't recovered fully physically from my fall three years ago. I made an attempt to get back my physical strength, but the depression and anxiety of the pandemic quickly took the joy of working out from me. As an introvert, I'm now out of practice socializing. Even being around family or friends for more than a few hours wipes me out for over a week. Interviews are incredibly difficult, which is frustrating beyond reason because I used to be really good at them. I have anxiety now, which likes to crop up anytime I'm in public and there are more than two people near me. My eyesight, which has been 20/20 my entire life, finally took a nosedive, and now I have to figure out how to afford the eye doctor and glasses on an income of zero.
Most potential employers want to know what I've been doing for the last three years, and thankfully I do have an answer. I am the admin and acting manager of a podcast network, which in theory sounds great but in reality is a lot of hurry up and wait. I built and manage the website, create the content for the social media, and I help the cast and crew navigate the brainstorming and production for each podcast. But I don't get a salary. We don't have any income streams yet. Every show is still in that rocky beginning phase when everyone is so SO excited, but we haven't found the groove in our scheduling or production value that entices sponsorships or advertisements. So yeah, I'm a network manager for a podcast start-up, but I also need an income.
I had hoped that my birthday in July would be a turning point. I hoped that on the other side of thirty was the energy, the oomph I needed to pull myself back up, but the last six months have, instead, been pretty terrible all around. The whole last year has been sucker punch after sucker punch, and I will be more than happy for the "clean slate" that January brings.
My main wish for turning thirty was for people to stop telling me "Oh, don't worry, you have your whole life ahead of you, you're not even thirty!" now that I am, in fact, thirty. Tying someone's age to where you think they should have progressed in life is just silly in this day and age. My other wishes are to find a job I like, with a competitive salary, in a company I can see myself growing at; to finally get a new (to me) car, since mine got wrecked by a falling tree in 2017; and to go on a small solo vacation. If I also happen to find love that would be cool, but I'm not going to sit around and wait for that when I have a whole life that needs building.
So yes, turning thirty didn't suddenly make me Thirty and Flirty and Thriving. It didn't fix all the problems in my life. But it also didn't make things worse. And in this mess where I find myself, sometimes that's all I can ask for on a given day. There are a few things I'm excited about that are happening in 2023, but I think I'll tell you about those in January. This post is a bit long-winded as it is.
Wishing you all a healthy and happy December,