The International Writers Magazine: Work/No Work
How to Become Unemployed (in 10 Easy Steps)
1. First, you should graduate from college with a major like Western European Architecture, or Postcolonial Literature, or Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies in Humanity.
Be very passionate about your major. Be overcome with solving the world's problems in a sort of hypomanic state. Mistake self-absorption with concrete ideals. Find it difficult to quit volunteering for fundraisers and playing ultimate frisbee. Apply for research positions at local non-profit organizations. You want to remain here; you like the feel of a university town.
2. Start working for one of those non-profits. Buy "work clothes" from JCPenney. Begin thinking your job defines you as a person. Browse briefcases and laptop bags online when you come home from work. Get the feeling you are helping people.
3. After about three months, realize that at work you don't really see people at all, let alone help them with anything. Feel isolated. Disappear into a large system. Get nauseated from the taupe walls and the gray carpet and the subtle flicker of the screen at your desk. Become disillusioned. Feel sneaky when you wear jeans for a week straight and no one notices. Then realize that no one really even looks at you when you speak to them. As you are typing up grant writing proposals, question how to spell very simple words. Stare at them. Think they look funny. Think that can't possibly be how you spell "home."
4. Apply to grad school. Sleep in the morning of the GRE. Roll over, fluff your pillow and mutter antonyms to your subconscious.
5. Start dating a poet. Embrace the second-hand smoke. Imagine your lungs speckling and blackening. Take a strange comfort from that image.
6. Think other people are much happier than you.
7. At work, start rushing through your daily tasks. Time yourself. Finish everything by lunch and ride the elevator up and down for the rest of the day. Ask people strange questions in the elevator and occasionally throw in horribly cheesy jokes. Ask, "If this is an elevator, where is the elevator music?" and "Why is there carpet on the walls? Should there be windows on the floor?" Contemplate the numerous, reproducing germs swarming all over the buttons. Make trite, meaningless analogies about the ups and downs of life as the elevator rises and falls.
8. Follow this work-til-lunch-then-elevator procedure for the next month. Become a truly silly person. Make people whisper about you in the corner of the elevator.
9. Fall into a mild depression. Dump the poet. Stop waking up in the morning. Have only one thing on your to-do list: apply for disability. See a counselor from the Employee Assistance Program. Check boxes for helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness, uselessness--anything that ends in “ness.” Know on a completely different level what it's like to receive a quizzical look.
10. Buy lots of new inventions and cosmetics from QVC. Start sending some of the QVC packages to your grandmother. Start sending them to strangers' addresses. Start making up addresses to send them to and see if they don't get sent back. Lift up the blinds and stare out until your eyeballs feel scorched. Close your eyes and make a story out of the blotchy remainders.
© Claire Hopple August 2011
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