Unemployment Diaries: Don’t Call Me ‘Entitled’

Today I got the following comment on my ‘Unemployment Diaries: Week 1’ post:

This is honestly one of the most entitled, privileged things I think I’ve ever read. You chose to do fun stuff instead of buckling down and applying to new jobs. You have the luxury because of family and friends to just chill – maybe your coworkers who’ve already applied actually need the money to pay rent or buy groceries? You literally are in control of this entire situation, but you’re acting like the victim the entire time. Sucks that you lost your job, but you were able to (as you said) just take a vacation while many others would have to rush to find anything to pay the bills. Doesn’t seem like you have much to complain about here.

 

So I’d like the chance to formally respond.

When we, the employees of LittleThings, all found out that LittleThings was shutting down, we immediately went into a meeting with the Editor-in-Chief, who was kind enough to tell us what she knew about the impending closure.

In the meeting, most people were in complete shock. A few people were crying. Some people immediately started voicing their concerns about making rent and paying their bills. It only took me about thirty seconds after we got the shutdown email to realize that I was, in fact, in a privileged position.

Because you’re right, I am privileged. I have parents that live nearby, a boyfriend who I live with, and amazingly supportive friends and family. I have a savings account that could keep me afloat for a while, I don’t have student loans anymore, and I don’t have credit card debt. I am more than aware that I have a lot of support (both emotional and financial) that other people don’t have. It’s absolutely fair to say that I’m privileged; it’s something that I try to remember every single day and to keep in check. I know that I am awarded certain opportunities because of my social characteristics: I am white, I am middle class, I am young, I am able, I am educated, etc. Believe me when I say that I know how lucky I am.

Now, I want to address each of the claims you made about me, without actually knowing anything about me:

You chose to do fun stuff instead of buckling down and applying to new jobs.

Yes, I did choose to “do fun stuff.” During the course of three days (two of which were over the weekend), I chose to spend time with my cousin and her friends, which is exactly what I planned to do before being laid off.

And no, I didn’t “buckle down and apply to new jobs.” But while I haven’t “officially” applied to any jobs — meaning I haven’t gone to the online job search platforms and applied to jobs through websites’ forms — I have gotten in touch with multiple people who offered to speak with me directly.

I spent hours updating my resume, redoing my website, and downloading work I’ve published. I sent links and clips to interested employers, and I set up meetings and appointments with people in the industry.

I’ve done the whole “applying to jobs” thing before (pretty recently), and in my experience, it doesn’t work to apply to jobs before you have a resume and website you feel accurately represent you. I spent six months applying to jobs last time I was in a similar position, and I heard back from almost nobody. I’d much rather spend my time preparing to apply to jobs and making it more likely I’ll get a reply on the applications I do send, than sending a million applications and getting one reply in a hundred.

You have the luxury because of family and friends to just chill – maybe your coworkers who’ve already applied actually need the money to pay rent or buy groceries?

I wouldn’t say what I did during my first week was “just chill.” Yes, I spent time with my friends and family doing things unrelated to job applications, but I also spent a lot of time working on my application materials. While I was out and about in Manhattan, I was responding to emails and setting up appointments and interviews. While watching the Oscars, I was preparing documents for a potential employer. While spending time at home, I was perusing the opportunities other former LittleThings employees shared on our Facebook group.

Yes, maybe my coworkers who applied to jobs are in a more dire situation than I am — again, I’ll check my privilege here. I am not at risk of losing my apartment or not being able to eat in the immediate future, and I recognize that others may not be as lucky as I am.

You literally are in control of this entire situation, but you’re acting like the victim the entire time.

I guess I’m a little confused here — I didn’t have control over losing my job. I didn’t have control over having an hour’s notice that my company was closing. I didn’t have control over the fact that I wasn’t prepared to start applying for jobs.

The only thing I am a victim of is losing my job. All I was trying to do through these Unemployment Diaries posts was to show other people that what they’re going through is okay. Even if we’re at different stages of dealing with the shutdown or dealing with unemployment or dealing with the stress of applying to new jobs, it’s okay. All of our feelings are legitimate.

Sucks that you lost your job, but you were able to (as you said) just take a vacation while many others would have to rush to find anything to pay the bills.

What I actually said was, “Although I’ve definitely come to terms with the shutdown now, I still feel like I’ve just been on vacation. I’m not yet convinced that I couldn’t just walk back into the office, grab a snack, and sit down at my desk.” I was by no means implying that this last week has felt like a vacation, just that it feels like a break from normal, everyday office life.

To clarify, this hasn’t been a vacation, nor has it felt like one. Traditionally, I like my vacations to come with less crying, less existential soul searching, and less work.

Doesn’t seem like you have much to complain about here.

If it felt like my unemployment posts were complaints to you, I’m afraid you misinterpreted them. The point of these posts was to give an honest, open opinion on what it feels like to be let go from a job you liked out of the blue. I was hoping it would resonate with people in similar positions and allow them to feel less alone, but perhaps I was incorrect.

This is honestly one of the most entitled, privileged things I think I’ve ever read.

Finally, I’d like to address your claim that what I wrote was privileged and entitled.

I believe I’ve already made it very clear that I understand I am in a place of privilege in this situation. I also believe that using privilege as an insult isn’t helpful to anyone. The fact that I have certain privilege in this world means that I have a voice others do not have. I try to use my voice to lift up other people and tell their stories; that is one of the things I am most proud of about my work at LittleThings — that I was able to tell the stories of people who may not have a platform like I do or the privilege to make their voice heard.

When it comes to entitlement, let’s break this down a little. The definition of entitled, as you’ve used it, is something along the lines of “believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.” Maybe you read my words in a way I didn’t mean for them to be taken, but I by no means believe I am inherently deserving of any privileges or special treatment. Do I believe I deserve a new job just because I lost my old one unceremoniously? Hell no. I recognize that privilege helped me get to where I am today, but I also worked my ass off. I made my way into the online publishing world on my own — without connections or help along the way.

I started my small-time blog while I was in college working two jobs, and I built my following over the course of years. I was lucky enough to tap into a niche that made me go viral, and I found my passion for writing. I picked up any writing job I could find and applied to a million and a half jobs and internships. I worked a job I hated for over a year while I applied relentlessly to jobs in my dream industry. When I was finally hired at LittleThings, I was working a full-time job in textbook publishing, as well as writing for a number of websites for free. I worked my ass off to get my first job in this industry and I fully intend to work my ass off again to get my next job. If it seems to you like I’m entitled, you don’t know the whole story.

 

And last but not least, I’d just like to add this: before you ridicule someone online for sharing their own truth and trying to be as candid as possible, learn the whole story and don’t make assumptions.

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Unemployment Diaries: Week 1

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Day 2:

Last night, I applied for unemployment. It was both relieving and a little painful (and pretty confusing). Even though I had to read everything twice, it wasn’t actually as difficult as I thought it would be.

Today, I went to therapy and tried to make sense of my thoughts. I’m still conflicted about whether I should push myself to find a job right away or let myself have some time to recover. After therapy, I decided it was time for some retail therapy, so I wandered around Manhattan (only allowing myself into stores I had old gift cards for). I bought nothing, but felt a little better.

Finally, Matt met me for dinner and the two of us went for a “final hurrah” meal at Eataly. Of everything I did today, the food definitely put me in the best mood.

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Day 3:

As soon as I processed the fact that I no longer had a job, I immediately reached out to some of my old LittleThings coworkers, asking for their help and advice. One of my former fellow writers immediately offered to meet me for coffee, so today we met up at her office first thing in the morning.

As someone who had previously been laid off, she had some really helpful thoughts for me. Most people go to the classics when you lose your job, like, “maybe it’ll actually be a blessing in disguise” or “you’ll come out of this even stronger than before.” Fortunately, my old coworker knew just how overwhelming and frustrating it can feel to lose a job. Instead of telling me everything would work out, she told me that it’s okay to take a breather and give yourself time to adjust. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

After I left, I decided it was time for a trip to Goodwill, so I hopped on a train back to Queens. Of course, once I arrived at my location, I found out that there wasn’t in fact a Goodwill there at all. I trudged through the rain and snow searching for the store before giving up to go home.

In the evening, I packed Bella into her doggy carrier and made my way down to my parents’ house in Brooklyn. My cousin and her friends are in town from Montreal, so we all got together for a tasty home-cooked meal.

Day 4:

This morning I was supposed to go to a ballet event with a teenager I mentor, but she was sick. “Great,” I thought, “I’ll just go see my cousin and her friends early!” Wrong. I showered, sat down on my bed, and the next thing I knew I was waking up two hours later.

I finally dragged my lazy butt out of bed and made my way into Manhattan for lunch, shopping, an improv show, cocktails, and a drag show.

Today was by far the most cathartic as far as dealing with the LittleThing closure is concerned. At the improv show, the comedians asked if anything interesting had happened recently to anyone in the audience. After someone told an entirely uninteresting story about the subway, I yelled out, “I lost my job on Tuesday!” The entire crowd cheered. I explained what happened, and the actors recreated the layoff later in the show. It was eerily accurate.

When I finally made it home (at 2 a.m.), Matt and I got into a stupid argument. Although it was no big deal, it set off the waterworks. I hadn’t really cried since the shutdown, but suddenly it all came crashing down on me. So I cried — and not the cute, one tear dripping down the cheek crying, no, this was the full on lips-swelling, snot-dripping, eyes-reddening kind of crying. By the time I fell asleep, I finally felt like I’d dealt with some of my bottled up emotions.

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Day 5:

Just a few hours after falling into a tear-induced sleep, my alarm started blaring, sounding for brunch.

The rest of the day, my cousin and her friend and I wandered around ChinaTown, stopped into the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, and finally made our way back to my parents’ place to eat some good NYC pizza and watch the Oscars.

Day 6:

Ah, Monday. The first day of a fully-unemployed week. I (once again) struggled to get out of bed before making my way to a LittleThings meet-up at Panera. It was a great idea, and some people were really productive, but the overall vibe amongst former-LT employees was stressed. We were all at very different stages of dealing with the unemployment process, which made for a somewhat hectic environment.

I knew I wouldn’t be at the meet-up very long, so I used my time to catch up with old coworkers and get an idea of everyone’s emotional state (not great).

When I left, I met my cousin and her friend for an NBC studio tour. Visiting news studios and the set of SNL reminded me that there’s more to life than LittleThings, and the opportunities for employment are endless. To round out the day, the three of us stood outside in the cold for two hours to get into a taping of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. It was more than amazing.

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Day 7:

Well, it has officially been one week since I lost my job. LittleThings hasn’t had a new article posted in a week.

Although I’ve definitely come to terms with the shutdown now, I still feel like I’ve just been on vacation. I’m not yet convinced that I couldn’t just walk back into the office, grab a snack, and sit down at my desk.

Today, a group of LT-ers came to my apartment for a “Java and Job Applications” get-together. I didn’t apply for any jobs, but I did drink some java.

It’s been wonderful to be around other people going through the same thing as me, but it’s also a little stressful to see people who are “ahead” of me in the job hunt. A number of people listed how many jobs they’d applied to today, and I’m still at a big old zero.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done a lot of work — saving old articles, creating my website, working on a portfolio, etc. — but I haven’t gotten to the actual applying stage yet. I keep having to remind myself that it’s okay to go slowly and to work at my own pace. It’s not a race. We’re all on different paths, and we’ll all get there eventually.

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