Going into 2018 I didn’t expect the year to end up how it did. At the beginning of the year I had been working for a company we’ll call “R” for about a month and a half after just a month of unemployment due to a layoff. My second layoff in approximately a year to be exact. Back at the end of 2016 I experienced my very first layoff after working almost 4 years for a company we’ll call “CE”. The company then went through a restructure that impacted many jobs including mine. The second company I ended up working for 3 months later also happened to go through a restructure themselves that later affected my job 9 months into my role.
I wasn’t worried having done the whole unemployment game before. I felt fearless. Like the veteran I was I applied for Employment Insurance and job hunted like it was my job—which it technically was. Within a month I had secured a contract with “R” with a chance of renewal. It was my first experience getting a job through a recruiting company and working as a contractor. I remember thinking my recruiter was a bit unprofessional. He didn’t seem to know what the job entailed and provided me with terrible interview suggestions and information regarding the role. Having worked in television broadcast for about 5 years at this point I knew exactly what was needed of me to get the role. I also happened to know two people already working on the team I’d be part of so I felt confident going into the interview and was offered the position that day.
My six months working there were interesting to say the least. Out of all the companies I have worked for this company was the most corporate than the rest of them. As a contractor I also didn’t feel directly part of the team or like I mattered to the company as a whole. I barely had any contact with our supervisor, contractors weren’t allowed to attend team meetings and my training was a bit of a mess with Specialists in charge but fellow coworkers teaching me because the Specialists were too busy. My coworkers were lovely though and always invited me to eat lunch with them and made me feel like I belonged. They were probably the best part of that job for me. I always looked forward to speaking to everyone, laughing and sharing an adventure buying lunch somewhere else in the area.
When my six months ended I only just felt like I got the hang of the role. To make matters worse my recruiter never bothered to message my supervisor and ask for an extension. In turn my supervisor never thought to check and ask if I was still available for a renewal. They both seemed to point fingers at each other. I found out I would not be extended on my last day there by my coworker who only wanted to give me a proper goodbye after discovering herself. As angry and upset as I was I now look back and realize I dodged a bullet working for that company. The months following sounded like a mess from the other co-workers still there. One of my favourite people I had met during my time there ended up being laid off himself and another incredible co-worker and fellow contractor wasn’t hired full time when the opportunity arose either. Instead it was given to someone who had been there for mere months. However I was sad to be back where I had been twice already in the last year, unemployed, unsure where and when money would be coming in and unsure when I’d get hired for another role.
I was unemployed a total of 8 months this time. Much longer than any other time I’ve been laid off and although some of it was during the summer season which wasn’t all horrible, it was still a scary time. It sort of felt like a high school summer at some points. I would go to the beach because it’s free and just swim, read and laze in the sun after a morning of job hunting. I also did have Employment Insurance but the amount they give you is the bare minimum depending on your living situation. Living on my own plus having to pay for my utilities and taking care of a pet cat who I love with all my heart really puts your finances in perspective. I should thank my mother here for randomly supplying me with some funds when she could help. It wasn’t all the time and it wasn’t a lot but it was helpful and I am so appreciative for it.
Before I continue my unemployment story I want to take the time in this reflection to highlight the awesome stuff that also happened in 2018:
New Friends and Good Friends:
I have never been a wealthy person but I am definitely wealthy in the amount of wonderful people I have collected over the last three years and have stood in my corner. I made new friends at dodgeball who introduced me to their friends who have become heavy hitters in my life. Two of those friends were so generous during this year offering me free tickets to movie events they couldn’t attend. One made me a writer for her web outlet which has been a really fun experience and kept me busy. I also got close to one of my fellow co-workers at “R” who is now one of my closest friends. This person not only checked on me daily to make sure I was ok during my unemployment process but we shared a few concert experiences together as well. On Valentines Day I attended a random single ladies meet up where we got together to eat pie and I made a friend there who has been beyond generous, full of wisdom and become a close friend as well. In just under a year I made two soul sisters. Last year in stupidity—-others may call this bravery but I assure you it’s not—-I asked someone out before the holidays and he said no. That said he didn’t stop being my friend which I’m incredibly grateful for. He is not only one of the kindest souls out there but incredibly classy for not giving up on our friendship over an awkward misunderstanding on my end. Not only has our friendship grown from it but it’s a freeing experience to be able to be myself around him and not feel like I needed to impress him. I also want to shout out those friends who have been by my side for years on end. My friend Jen who moved to the UK but has been awesome keeping in contact with me this year she’s been away and I miss every day! My friends from Murphy Madness who welcomed me with open arms and the Murphy family who let me stay with them at their cottage one weekend in the summer. My sister Ruth and friends Roxy and Zoya. And a special shout out to Cecelia, Emily B and Emily M who took my phone calls on my darkest days and always checked in without fail. Sometimes daily if they needed to.
While I was employed I purchased many concert tickets to artists and bands who were on my bucket list. This includes Elton John, Greta Van Fleet, Jack White, Father John Misty, Childish Gambino, Phil Collins—the highlight of my year —and Radiohead. In April when my contract ended I thought about selling them so I could make the money back I wouldn’t have but a friend told me to hold on to them so I’d have something to look forward to. I’m so thankful I did. As silly as this is going to sound, it served as another reason to get up in the morning, keep fighting and an event to look forward to where I could forget for those 3 hours the troubles that haunted me daily. I saw a total of 12 artists/bands in 2018 and three were generous invites from friends who had an extra ticket.
I saw Yayoi Kusama’s exhibit when it came to Toronto.
I picked up some work as a Brand Ambassador. I got to march in the Pride Parade as a sausage for Schneiders, hand out free samples of Sumol and Kinder products and got to be part of the Santa Clause Parade as an elf for Metro.
My dodgeball team won Fall Championships for Wednesday nights which is my first ever win in my three years playing and meant the world to me during my hard time. It was just the bit of good news I needed while I was in the thick of all that bad luck.
I volunteered! I gave my time to the Toronto International Film Festival which was an amazing experience. I got to see a total of 11 films for free including my favourite film of the year ROMA and made new friends in the process. I also volunteered for Rotaract and the Harbourfront Centre.
I faced three fears! I started dating someone near the end of September and although it didn’t work out between us he helped me overcome two fears/hatreds. Ice skating and bowling—both long stories for another time. I also faced the fear of eating alone in a restaurant on my 31st birthday by treating myself to The Keg.
I won HQ Trivia! I’m a whole 60 cents richer.
My Halloween costume. I am just proud of this.
I saw one of my all time favourite films in theatre for my 31st birthday celebration. This also began the Dumpster Raccoon Film Society where some friends of mine and I attend the Dumpster Raccoon screening event once a month. If you’re in Toronto check it out! It’s a lot of fun!
I took these awesome pictures with Little Chairman Mao and my sister for charity!
Back to my unemployment story: In the 8 months I was without a job I applied to over 50 positions. I tried to stay in my field of television broadcast since I have the most work experience in that but it was tough to find any job postings some days. I also chose to be a little pickier with the roles I applied to. I avoided contracts due to that horrible experience with “R” and I also applied to positions I was interested in even if I didn’t have all the requirements they asked for. During that entire time I had a total of 5 job interviews that never lead to an offer. One of the interviews was so gruelling and ridiculous and it was only for a glorified receptionist role for a tech company. As cool as the company sounded the whole process really tested my optimism, teased my faith and broke me the hardest when I received that rejection email.
My mom and friends assured me something better was out there waiting for me but as it inched closer to December I wasn’t so hopeful anymore. In fact, I applied to the last three roles of the year begrudgingly thinking if I did hear back it wouldn’t be until the new year. One of the companies I applied to was the first company that started this tough employment journey when they laid me off back in 2016, “CE”. By this time it was close to the middle of December, my E.I. claim had ended back on the 1st and I had less than $300 in my bank account to last me the rest of the month while I figured out what to do. I had already decided I would be heading to my parents for the holidays on the 20th and managed to apply for Ontario Works—what most know as “welfare”—- with my application appointment being on the 20th before I was heading out of town. On Thursday the 13th I received an email from the hiring manager at “CE” asking me if I was available for an interview the next day. I was surprised, exhausted but ready to give it a final go.
Going back to “CE” was an odd experience for me. Losing that job felt like a break up. It hurt so much to be laid off because I loved my role until the day it was all over. Walking in it felt good to be back in that building. Much had changed in the two years I hadn’t been there but it still felt comfortable and exciting. It made me realize that even though things ended in circumstances I didn’t have control over I had no hard feelings with the company. I thought the interview went well. We mostly went through what the role’s expectations and requirements were which was much more creative than any of my previous roles including those I had previously interviewed for. The role would have me making movie lists to sell to stakeholders and buying programs and films along with working primarily with drama programming. I had worked with kids programming and even dabbled in adult content but never had I worked in content I myself watched and aimed at my demographic. I answered any questions he had honestly and expressed how this role would advance my career and I was excited for the consideration. I sent my thank you when I got home and tried not to overthink the interview and mull it over too much that weekend. The following Monday I received an email asking for my references. I sent them immediately. On Tuesday I received another email asking for my home address and if I could come in Thursday the 20th in the morning to meet the director of the department.
Thursday I went in bright and early and felt incredibly nervous. I wasn’t sure what to expect and although I was asked for my address and references I didn’t want to let myself think the best case scenario after all the rejections that came before this moment. The night before I had practiced potential second interview answers to questions they may ask and prepared like I had any other interview. I didn’t sleep a wink. I went in dressed in my best and greeted everyone with a firm handshake. It ended up being a very casual meeting where the director let me know her perspective of the role and I asked her some great questions I had also prepared the night before to be safe. After everything was said and done they extended the offer to me and placed a contract in front of me. It was surreal! I wanted to cry and kept telling myself to contain my happiness and relief. They told me I could take my copy home and bring it back before the 24th but I told him I really wanted this role and if they gave me 5 minutes I would read through the contract and sign right then and there. Everything listed was beyond what I could have negotiated and better than I would have asked. This role was better than anything I had interviewed for before and the closest thing to a dream role I could think up for myself.
Leaving that office it felt like a dream I didn’t want to wake up from. I sat in the lobby in shock and tried not to cry as my eyes welled up with tears. I texted some of my closest friends one by one on what had happened. Many of them told me they cried hearing my news. It made me realize how my stress, anxiety, depression and frustration during these 8 months really weighed on those around me who saw or spoke to me all the time. I really didn’t feel like I could be 100% myself or a good friend to anyone because I was in the thick of all this shit I was going through. In full circle, the lay off that started it all at “CE” is ending once again… at “CE”. How crazy is that?
I start in the new year and I could not feel more fortunate and excited for what 2019 has in store for me. I wouldn’t call myself a religious person but in these tough times I have found myself finding comfort in my faith. Although I may not attend church every Sunday —or any Sunday— I felt like prayer has always been something I continued doing. I would pray about how thankful I was for my amazing friends, the fact I was able to pay my rent each month and the health of Little Chairman Mao (my cat). Sometimes I’d spend hours praying and asking why this was happening to me and asking God, the universe, to give me strength on my darkest and lowest days where I’ll admit I thought about ending things so I’d stop being a burden to my family and friends or make the pain of being a failure go away. I’ve had more panic attacks this year than I’ve had when I was diagnosed with social anxiety in 2010. I missed my high school best friend’s wedding because I had lost my job weeks prior and couldn’t face seeing him on his happiest day in my worst and saddest state. I had to say no to many events because I literally couldn’t afford to attend and my mood was so low I didn’t want anyone to see me that way.
This whole experience has deeply humbled me and also brought me closer to my beliefs. I have always believed in miracles but I’ve never had anything this big ever happen to me. It has really given me new perspective and I hope this long reflection gives someone hope. Maybe it provides some comfort and helps someone else not feel so alone as they go through their hardships! If I can offer any advice it’s not to give up even when you want to and feel at a loss. Also confide in your close friends and family how bad things are getting because they will support and help you where they can. I have never experienced so much generosity and love as I have this year. I consider myself a proud, Latina woman but even I in my stubborn nature couldn’t have made it to the end of 2018 without the help I have received from everyone.
Thank you and cheers to 2019!