Thursday, 9 February 2012

Or: A List of Things Hollywood Doesn't Tell You About Being Unemployed

Number one, first and foremost over all other things: You can't afford shit all when you are unemployed. Hollywood always portrays unemployed people as running around in designer clothing, using the fanciest new cell phones, having cool cars and awesome haircuts. (I'm talking about you, Jeff Winger/Carrie Bradshaw). They go into incredibly expensive stores and, while loudly complaining about being broke, purchase half the store. Sure, sometimes TV and movies like to make a big deal about money issues, but they usually gloss it over in the shiny way that Hollywood does, and make a sort of joke about it. All while ensuring that the notably broke and unemployed character looks better than everyone else the majority of the time, and you rarely if ever see them wearing the same thing twice. In reality - it's the small things. When you find that once-loved designer item with only the slight stain on it that you're sure no one will notice at the thrift store you are thinking "score".

Number two: Mad-cap adventures don't randomly start happening just because you are unemployed, and your friends are busy with work and school and stuff.  When you are unemployed, your social network does not all of a sudden become unemployed along with you. (And if by chance some of them do, you're all too busy looking for more work to spend much time together at all). On shows people seem to do more when they are unemployed. They make road trips to Detroit and get lost! They meet new people at the coffee shop who turn out to be mass murderers! They buy a cab! They go on some wacky zany get rich quick scheme that somehow winds up with the male characters being sold into a harem! And most of the time they manage to convince an employed friend to ditch work and go along with them. In this competitive market everyone knows they can be replaced, no one you know is going to ditch work for a road trip. And besides, as point number one addresses: You are broke, you don't have the money for this crap. Anyway everyone you know is probably too responsible for that kind of thing now; they have to look after themselves, they aren't teenagers and thus can't act like them. TV likes to make adults act like stupid kids a lot.

Number three: You're really not going to have a lot to talk about, anyway. Interesting things, although they will intermittently happen, wont happen constantly as they seem to on TV. In shows, interesting things must happen, dialogue must occur, because who would watch a show where nothing ever ever happens? So when you tell people something that happened, you might find you've already told them that a few days/weeks ago. And being unemployed kind of means that you are looking for a new job so most conversations probably are going to start with that awkward "Soooooo... uh, know anywhere that's hiring?" Because that is ALL you can feasibly think about after being unemployed for an extended period of time. Sure, you might do stuff. Like watch daytime TV and spend way too much time on I Can Has Cheez Burger. But really, you've posted all that crap to Facebook already, and we all know you've been tweeting about the episodes of  Buffy you've been re-watching again on Netflix, and there are only so many conversations about your cats that people can take. And eventually, if you're me, you will start talking to your cat (because remember, all your friends are busy at work) about the other cat. Because you've even run out of things to talk about with them.

Number four: People don't often take whatever completely random job comes their way, they hand out resumes and go through interviews first. In a lot of TV shows you will see the job search, by way of the character being on the job site "trying the job out" because they are now going to have a series of hilarious mishaps and firings because they are doing things they've never ever done before. Like the person has never worked in retail/customer service and gets a job in retail and flips out at a customer. Or construction, another thing they've never ever done, and they cause a hilarious series of debilitating groin injuries. Maybe they were a teacher forever, and decide to cook meth even though they never have broken the law once. Or, as it is often portrayed as the most degrading of jobs, slinging burgers for a fast food joint perhaps hilariously thinking the meat is people. Occasionally this part of the story is a montage if it's in a movie. Sadly, I don't think montages actually happen in real life, at least I've never experienced one. And in my experience, jobs don't often let you try it out for a day, and most often you have to interview well before getting thrown on the job site.

There's a lot of uncertainty looking for work. It sort of drives you crazy, and it can kind of feel like you suck personally because of it after a while. And even though Hollywood doesn't always show that part without a bit of a joke or a sappy moment, they still do show it most of the time. In reality, unemployment isn't that bad, there are some bad points to it, sure. But it can be kind of cool, too. It gives you a chance to take some "you time" which every one needs, and it can shift your focus and help you out a lot more than you know. It can be a really cool positive time, and that's the part of it that Hollywood tends to focus on because hey, shows are meant to be entertainment and a distraction from reality. Just don't expect life to be exactly like the movies all the time, and you'll be okay.

(still hoping for a montage)

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