Since moving back to Southern California after a long absence, I’ve been looking for a job — obviously, Blizzard is my ultimate goal (and what brought me out here in the first place), but since getting onto Team Awesome there takes time, I’ve just been attempting to find something to pay the bills in the meantime. It’s not going well.
Florida had no opportunities for me whatsoever. The unemployment rate in my city was at least 13%, with most people fortunate enough to find jobs having to drive 30 to 45 minutes to the next major city in order to find work that didn’t involve standing on a street corner in very high heels. Before the move, I did some research on what the general job market was like in Irvine and the surrounding areas, and everything I found was incredibly positive. It seemed like every single business in the county was hiring. I figured it’d only be a few weeks until The Fiance and I found work to tide us over until those fabled callbacks from Blizzard once we flooded the city with our applications.
It’s been two months, and not a peep. Our bank accounts are rapidly approaching the red, to the point that we’re unsure how we’re going to both be able to keep our cell phones — troublesome, since we don’t have a landline or a home of our own to get one so that jobs can call us back — and pay for our car insurance. Honestly, it’s been a pretty huge source of depression for me. After a while of not even being able to land a crappy retail job, you start thinking “what’s wrong with me?” and wondering if maybe you’re so unemployable that you’re never going to be able to find work again. You begin to question your talents and why people are continuing to cheer you on and tell you “hang in there, you can do it, you’re good enough to make it!” when results indicating such a thing have been less than forthcoming.
You start to wonder if maybe it’d be better off for everyone else around you if you just went out for a walk along the beach and never came home, and think that if you do it just right they’d never find your body and in a few months to a year when the police label you “probably dead” then at least they could collect on your life insurance money and live comfortably for a while, because if it weren’t for you and your stupid dreams in the first place you wouldn’t have ruined their lives in pursuit.
The thing with living in a rich area like Irvine, where the average household income is at least double what my parents made combined while I was growing up, is that you start feeling inadequate and trashy really quickly. The friends I’ve made out here think that The Cheesecake Factory is a cheap option for lunch. I got sideswiped with it a few weeks ago when they suggested it, and despite my frantic efforts to try and sway public vote to at least Red Robin (still out of my price range at this point, but the clear lesser of two financial evils), I found myself choking down the cheapest appetizer I could find at a restaurant that, to be quite honest, is in the Top Five Fanciest Places My Poverty-Stricken Ass Has Ever Been In and, in fact, rejected my application a couple of weeks prior because according to them I didn’t have enough experience working specifically in higher-end establishments like theirs. It’s kind of uncomfortable to sit there and eat in a location that doesn’t even consider you worthy of cleaning their bathrooms. I was too embarrassed to ask one of them to spot me for the meal. I don’t know that they really understand the desperate financial status I’m in right now, and I’m so ashamed of it that despite wanting to break down and cry on their shoulders about how everything is falling apart and you’re too poor to stay here but too poor to move anywhere else so your best bet for housing is rapidly becoming “under an overpass on the 405” I can’t bring myself to say anything.
But I’m still breathing, and that means I have no excuse to give up, so I’m making it through the day simply by refusing to acknowledge that the future even exists and convincing myself that surviving today is all I have to worry about. I’m still searching for jobs, any jobs that will accommodate the improved-but-still-severe pain I’m dealing with as a reminder of my adventures with Lamictal (many retail establishments will not even hire someone who can’t stand for a full eight-hour shift, and the ones who will have sadly not returned my calls).
Now here’s another little complication I’ve found in my job hunt: I never completed college.
Every single person I’ve spoken to in the game industry agrees that no, you do not necessarily need a college degree to be a game designer, which is great news for me. What is not so great is the fact that it seems like every other job out there says otherwise.
Just a week or two ago a friend of mine linked me to a job posting for a clothing company — whose name I shall not mention here — looking for a customer service representative. I’ve got plenty of customer service experience from my past, including some dealing specifically with fashion, and it’s a desk job, which means I could easily work long shifts since I’d be sitting down. It seemed like an answer to my screams until I got to this one teensy little line:
“College students preferred. We want hard workers!”
Cue the tape-squealing sound and zoom in on my most terrifying Angry Stare.
I know plenty of people who went to college and did work their butts off for their degree. I also know many who went to college and did nothing but party, graduating by the skin of their teeth and then proceeding to basically crumple up said degree and say “meh, I’m just gonna have my parents pay for everything.” Then I know a huge pile of people who didn’t go to college, but work harder and better than anyone else I’ve ever met because oh, that’s right, your education does not dictate your work ethic or what kind of person you are. Sure, it can dictate whether or not you know stuff vital to the job, like if you’re trying to apply to the FBI’s bomb squad without having gone through a few years of Explosion Science or whatever course you’d have to take for that.
But this? This is a customer service job. In a phone bank. Where your main responsibilities are to show up to work sober and not be a dick to the people on the phones.
I applied anyway, with a very cheerful-yet-still-professional cover letter attached, on the off-chance that someone in their HR department actually has a soul. What I really wanted to write to them, however, was something like this:
To Whom It May Concern,
I am contacting you in regards to your customer service position advertised on [website]. I have extensive experience in an office setting and working with the public. I can type 102 words per minute, am extremely proficient with computers, and have been known at all of my prior jobs as a hard worker who takes direction easily, but isn’t afraid to show initiative.
I never finished college, which I understand is a problem for you, as you apparently need to see a $20,000 piece of paper to know that I would actually be a benefit to your team. My sincerest of apologies for this lack of foresight on my part, but I was too busy graduating high school at age 16 with a 3.75 GPA and dual-enrolled at the local college in English Comp 101 while working two jobs under the table to make sure that my mother and I weren’t homeless (which we pretty much were for a few weeks before we found the room to rent in a drafty house with no heat that cost exactly all of my paychecks per month but was still better than sleeping at a bus stop). From there, my time was occupied by having to work in order to not starve to death on the streets, and once I finally did have an opportunity to go to college, I was told by my boyfriend at the time that it was either him or my education, and I chose education, although sadly this meant moving three hours away from the college I’d been accepted to because they didn’t offer student housing and I’d been too busy working 24-hour shifts for his business that was the only thing keeping us afloat (although we still went for days without water or electricity because he was focused more on other things than not running it into the ground) to hold down any kind of other work that would allow me to put money away. At that point I became locked into the “hand to mouth” cycle that so many of us down here in the lower class find ourselves unable to escape until the day we die, but if we’re lucky, our overworked corpses will drop right on the poverty line instead of below it, where we’ve spent the majority of our miserable lives dreaming of just 1/10th of the privilege afforded to you.
I would have continued my education after that point, as well, but by then I had to work a job that, in conjunction with side effects of vital medication I was taking at the time, left me crippled to the point of collapsing in my driveway and having to be carried into my house because the pain was so bad my body would not even let me just power through it. This was after the job that I worked for minimal pay, under borderline illegal conditions, and had 100% perfect attendance because we were told that if we called in sick for any reason we would be terminated immediately.
And I did it all with a smile.
Again, my sincerest apologies for not living up to your lofty yet admirable standards, but I hope to hear from you soon so that we may set up an interview.
I would kill to be able to go to college right now, even though it’s not technically required for my chosen field. I’d take a course in programming, something that I’m having to teach myself using my stepfather’s old reference books and some free online tutorials, because the catch-22 is that while I’m unemployed now and thus have all the time in the world, I don’t have the money to pay for them, and the grants I’ve applied for have kicked back my applications as what I believe translates from legalese to English as “there is no way somebody can be this unbelievably destitute and also you’re kind of old now, what about taking out a student loan with a 376987635987625987625% interest rate to ensure that you never make it out of the hole you’re in?” Every time I hear somebody complaining about how they had to drop a class because it was too hard or they didn’t want to get up that early or the other kids were mean to them, I want to grab them by the shirt collar and drag them into my shoes for a week. I want to scream “I WILL TAKE YOUR SHITTY CLASS AND DO ALL OF THE WORK PLUS THE EXTRA CREDIT AND ALLOW YOU TO HORRIBLY DEBASE ME, FILM IT, AND PUT IT ON THE INTERNET, JUST FOR THE CHANCE TO BETTER MY LIFE.”
Then again, maybe I just don’t work hard enough.