Tales from the ‘Lost Generation’: Newly Unemployed
by Eli Epstein
Two days ago, I removed my pastrami sandwich from the office fridge, found two pieces of gum stashed underneath my computer monitor, and walked out of my poorly-paid internship in the middle of the work day without telling my editors. I quietly quit.
I wasn’t exactly sure what triggered my departure. There was no “straw that broke the camel’s back,” as idiom-inclined folks say. I was never in love with what I was doing at my internship, but I wasn’t irreversibly angry about it either. I didn’t have to walk out, but once the thought crossed my mind, I couldn’t stop thinking about it until I found myself on the street below, jobless, partly hopeless, and with a pastrami sandwich that was getting cold.
As a recent college graduate, I was, for the first time in my life, unemployed.
I have a few thousands of dollars in savings that I’ve scrounged together from babysitting and catering gigs. My parents benevolently pay for most of my relatively low-cost East Village rent. Now that I can’t use my umpteenth internship as an excuse for employment, I figure they’ll stop paying it. By my own calculations, I should be able to live here for around another month before I go broke. Until then, I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. Today, I was trying to tan on my roof until it started cataclysmically pouring. Then I made pancakes.
I recently began looking at job boards but I don’t think I’m particularly well-qualified for the plethora of account executive or digital/marketing fill-in-the-blank jobs that exist on these websites. In fact, as a journalism student, I don’t believe I have too many marketable skills to begin with. I figure if I apply for these positions, I’ll be beat out by some girl named Paige or Stacey who studied PR at Syracuse and has thousands of followers on Tumblr.
I don’t think I can wait tables or work at a cupcake shop, like every other unemployed/underemployed person seems to do in New York. Everyone who does that stuff has a ‘dream,’ something they’ve been chasing after since they were little, for which they’d sacrifice anything to accomplish. I don’t have one of these “dreams.” I’m just some kid with a .pdf resume and a degree that hasn’t come in the mail yet.
Recently, I’ve thought of escaping for a bit. I was thinking for a few hours of joining the Israeli army, but I don’t speak any Hebrew, and I need knee surgery. If I’m going to die for a country I’ve been to once on a free trip, I want to at least be in full health.
Then I thought of going to South America and writing for some small website down there and earning a hundred pesos or so per week — just enough to get by. Hopefully I’d meet the love of my life and we’d live happily ever after in a Colombian beach town. Then I realized that there are next to none of these jobs available that don’t outwardly appear to be Ponzi schemes. Also: My Spanish is just competent enough to still be laughed at.
Life could be worse, obviously, but this is the first tale of my newfound “unemployment.”
Eli Epstein is a recent graduate of NYU and a freelance writer in New York City. His work has appeared online at The Atlantic, Fortune, and Esquire. Among other things, he enjoys cereal, Alice in Chains, and corgis. He’s a sworn Bostonian. Photo: Flickr/Rich Camacho