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Help! I suddenly stopped going to work

Posted: 2008-12-05

The advice given to a young woman who stopped
going to work two months ago may startle you. . .
and uplift you, if you let it.

Dec. 5, 2008

I'm broke. I suppose you could argue that such is

the case of a good many people and hardly news in

the present economy. But lately, I'm a particular

kind of broke. About two months ago, I just

stopped going to my job. I was driving to work

one day and, abruptly, turned into a drugstore

and bought a magazine and then drove myself and

my new magazine to a Starbucks. Since then, my

days have largely been variations on that theme:

I spend a lot of time at libraries and generally

bring my own coffee from home because, well, I'm


I have a B.A. in English. After graduation, I'd

sort of intended to marry my college boyfriend

who had both a useful degree and a well-

remunerated career. Although my feminist heart

now withers a little at that thought, it seemed a

good one at the time. He seemed to consider

himself a patron of the arts, and I considered

myself a semi-starving bohemian writer. I worked

at a badly paid but slightly romantic customer

service job for about two years. The relationship

lasted a year after graduation. Eventually, I

left my customer service gig -- which had

afforded few responsibilities and plenty of time

for reading, writing and general woolgathering --

in favor of a secretarial position at a friend's

company. I left after only a few months, having

discovered myself a terrible secretary and having

wounded both the friendship and my self-esteem.

After all, what fuckwit can't file successfully?

My parents, who'd lately came into some money

from my grandparents' estate, offered to loan me

money for grad school. So I moved back to my

hometown, took a part-time customer service job,

and began to make myself employable. When I

started school, my field seemed like a good one.

Since then, of course, the economy and the Bush

administration and blah blah blah. I'm six months

out of grad school and have been unable to find

more than a part-time job in my chosen field.

The jobs, though, have been out of the area, and

I can't justify moving across the country for a

part-time job, particularly given that a

condition of my parents' loan was that I not

leave town without having a full-time job lined

up elsewhere. So I stayed at my part-time

customer service job. Eventually, my lease ended

and I moved back in with my parents. I got

promoted at my job, which raised my hourly wage a

whole dollar and which left me dealing with only

the most irate customers and which left me

leaving the office most days feeling terrible

about my life. So, finally, I left without any

plan or even much forethought. Every morning,

now, I get up and pretend to go to work. I

stretched my final paychecks as far as they could

go, and I've been pawning things right and left

since that money's run out. I'm almost out of

salable goods, and I know I need a job. I've been

looking, perhaps quixotically, for a career, for

something I'd really love to do. I have a whole

list of careers I'd love, and I spend a good

amount of time each day applying for positions.

But so far, I haven't had a bit of luck.

I'm relatively intelligent, and, although my GPA

is a bit spotty, I'm educated. I'm a hard, even

dogged, worker. I take direction well. I'm

personable. I'm actually rather talented at a

couple of things. And I have to believe that

there's something better out there for me, that

there's some sort of meaningful work in my

future. I don't want to be rich, necessarily; I

just want to do a job I don't hate, a job that

makes me feel like I'm making use of my abilities

and making a difference and a job that lets me

pay my bills regularly and on time and maybe lets

me spend a couple of bucks on clothes not from

Goodwill. I don't think that's very much to ask.

I know I should just take a deep breath and go

apply for a job at the mall food court or

something. But I can't. The idea makes me

physically ill, actually. I'm 27 this month, and

I just can't bring myself to admit I have no

career, few prospects, and a job at the Falafel

Hut in my hometown. The only alternative I can

see is to explain my situation to my parents.

They're far from wealthy. I know they'd be eager

to help me financially, but I know that it would

mean they'd "economize" more than they already do

and that I would likely inherit my older

brother's reputation as the family mooch.

Perhaps the answer here is something about

swallowing my pride. But I feel like I already

have a bellyful of swallowed pride. I've been

working at shitty customer service jobs for 10

years and so have cleaned toilets, served meals,

and taken orders all the while saying, "Yes,

sir," to dozens of people who have implied I'm an

idiot, called me a bitch or asked me to throw

away their used Kleenex. I've taken loans from my

elderly parents. I have followed up on job

prospect after job prospect and sweetly requested

to be kept in mind in the event of future

openings after having been rejected. My writing

hasn't yielded me a penny. And I have very nearly

taken the check recently offered by that old


My hands are shaking while I type this, I've just

discovered. I really don't know what to do


At an Impasse

Dear Person at an Impasse,

So you stopped going to work.

That's a start.

Now here's what you do: Start blogging on Open

Salon. Just tell your daily story about how you

leave the house every day and don't go to your

job. It'll be a hit, I guarantee it. If you've

got a video camera, even better. We're going to

love this.

Why? Because we love a person who has the courage

to do what a lot of us would love to do. So many

of us go through life doing these ridiculous

jobs, but we're too afraid to just stop doing it.

You stopped doing it. So do us the favor of

letting us root for you. We're on your side.

Everything is going to be OK. I guarantee it.

You're not going to starve. It's not going to

kill your parents or the economy for you to just

start doing what makes sense for you to do and

let the money problem sort itself out. It will

sort itself out. You will find a way to monetize

your being. Trust me. By doing something creative

with your time you are doing what people in this

great nation of ours are supposed to do. Wasting

your time doing stuff you hate helps nobody.

However, you will strengthen the nation and do

many people a great service if you just come out

of the closet and be who you are: a very bad

secretary. An inept falafel maker. A not-so-

precise file clerk. A grad school graduate who

one day just stopped doing the inane and

ridiculous thing that for some reason she thought

she was supposed to do and started doing what

most of us would love to do if we just had the

strength of character to stop pretending that

what we're doing is just fine no problem yes sir

I'll get right on it no I am not smirking I am

smiling. Sir.

Just stop doing it. And don't get scared and go

back to doing it, either. Not now. There's no

going back.

I want to see you blogging, young lady. I want to

see your picture on Open Salon and I want to hear

the truth about your life. The rest of us want to

hear it too. Hand me that broom. I'll clean up.

You start writing.

And don't come out until you've finished your

first post.

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