Technically, I've now been in California for six months, but let me cheat a bit and say I've only been in California for one month. I'm not counting the five weeks I was in Hong Kong or the 2 months I was laid up due to hip surgery. On bad days, I won't count the three weeks I stayed with Auntie H in Sacramento either. Therefore, by my adjusted count (this is the rationale by which economists provide forecasts, which is why they are rarely ever accurate), I've REALLY only been in California for a month. Even if it feels like it's been forever.
I mean, my job search feels like it's taken forever, even though it hasn't. PW warned me about this. She said that if I dragged it out and went on and off in spurts, I would eventually burn out. As always, she's right. Even though I haven't been aggressive about looking for work and haven't been proactive about networking or applying for jobs until I moved to the East Bay in March, I feel like I've been looking for work forever. It causes me a lot of anxiety.
Anxiety which is driven in part by the fact that I lost all my unemployment benefits when I left NYC because I also left behind a part time job that paid approximately $100/wk before taxes. In the eyes of the Department of Labor, I voluntarily left employment, so I'm now ineligible for unemployment benefits. In reality, I had been laid off from a six figure job and worked part time so I could continue to feel like a productive member of society. I made a maximum of $100/wk before taxes, or about $70/wk after taxes, which didn't even cover my weekly groceries much less my monthly rent of $2,600. When I wrote the Department of Labor explaining that: 1) it was a part time job that paid up to $400/mo, 2) I had moved to California, and 3) I was dedicating my efforts to look for full time employment, I received a ruling that said that my reasons were not valid enough to leave my part time job. But, I digress.
My anxiety which is also driven by the knowledge that I'm operating without a safety net not only on the monetary front, but also on the social front. I just don't know that many people here -- I don't have many friends or professional contacts in northern California. I spend my days asking the few people I do know who they know that I might be able to speak with. And, when I meet with those people, I ask them to provide names and suggestions on more people to speak with. I play six degrees of separation, but instead of Kevin Bacon, we're dealing with random people who live in the Bay Area.
My anxiety manifests itself in funny ways. In the past week and half, every time someone would ask me how I was doing or what I've been up to, I would burst into tears. I can't quite explain it. I can't control it at all. It's really quite embarrassing and horrible feeling.
Someone called me yesterday to ask me what I planned on doing to celebrate my 32nd birthday. I said that I had no plans, and he insisted that I do something to celebrate. When I responded that I didn't want to make a big deal out of anything, that it had been a rough few months so I wasn't in the mood, and that I preferred to just keep it quiet, he kept pushing and raving about how it's important for me to celebrate myself and not the things I did or didn't accomplish. I really didn't want to talk about it and told him so, but still, he kept pushing until I started to cry. In hindsight, I should have just hung up the phone instead of politely bearing through a conversation I had already made clear I didn't want to have, but I didn't. And as a result, we both had to deal with the discomfort of my tears and I felt much worse for it afterwards. Today, I saw R and her mom. Her mom so innocently asked me how I've been lately, and I started to cry.
Really, it's all just simple small talk. But, I just don't seem to handle even small talk these days. I oscillate wildly between hope and despair over whether my life will get better, whether I will find work, whether my move to California was a mistake, and wonder if I will find happiness in my new life. On the days I have hope, I'm fine. Almost positively optimistic. And, on the days where I feel despair, I almost can't do the smallest things. On those days, be sure not to ask me any questions about me. I'm not sure I can answer any of them without bursting into tears.