After months of being in the dark about how much unemployment time I have left, I finally got through to a representative. It turns out, if you ask the automated system to tell you your last payment received & go through a few hoops, there's an option to reach a representative that ACTUALLY WORKS (3 minute wait!) unlike the rest of the options to reach a representative throughout their ridiculous rat maze of BS that leads to being hung up on every time. You can actually hear the automated voice flipping you off as it says, "please try again later."
I have been so worried about the future and upset by the idea that I'd have to give up music to work a desk job again. It's been my lifelong dream to be a musician and, after giving up on myself for years, I've come this far with music in just the last two years. It would be devastating to give up now. But between full-time work, commuting, cooking, cleaning and being a fully engaged parent, there just simply is NOT enough time to fit in a music career.
And even when I resigned myself to going back to my old life's routine, I couldn't get a job. I have skills. I scored 100% on my temping agency tests for all levels of office and software skills. I've worked full time since I was 17- fast food, walmarts, law offices, video game developers, universitys, non profits, Fortune 500 corporations... I've been a graphic designer, web designer, database designer... I've scraped the gum off the bottom of Carl's Jr booths while taking drive-through orders at the same time. I'm not a slacker. I am currently the hardest working unemployed person you ever met. But I can't get anyone to even respond to my resumes or emails.
In the back of my mind, there is a tape on automatic loop that says, "How are you going to survive on zero dollars? What happens when we're out of food, money and options? What are you going to do!!!!" I'm 36 years old and went from having a good paying job for years, to now- dangerously close to being unable to care for my 5 year old son. He went without insurance or doctor visits for over a year. I still have no insurance. It wakes me in the middle of the night and makes me search craigslist for jobs. It keeps me working on my album 'til 3am almost every night hoping that *something* will happen when it's done. It will get picked up by someone... It will get played somewhere important... *Something* about what I'm doing will matter to someone besides just me- and it will bring me a little money to survive. I hope. I hope. I hope.
Two years ago for Christmas, I asked for ProTools software and it changed my life. Going back to music and blindly stumbling into what turned into The Smiths Project was the best thing that ever happened to me on a personal and emotional level. This year for Christmas, my family got together and bought me a new Kaoss pad to replace the one that broke right before the last gig I did. (Good thing I can pull a pretty great spontaneous piano/vocal version out of my ass when needed!) I also bought a basic version of Ableton Live with a controller pad to see if I can figure out a live performance version of these songs that normally take months to create in ProTools. I haven't even been able to connect the gear yet. There's just too much going on and I can't physically do anything else. And in the back of my mind, I am constantly worrying about getting a job.
Things have been stressful. A few months back, I received a letter from the Unemployment Office that said, "Your unemployment benefits have been exhausted. You are not eligible for any further benefits at this time." It came as a complete surprise because I was still within the 99 allotted weeks. I couldn't stop crying. When Josh came home from work, I couldn't tell him without bursting into tears. We went to Target and the supermarkets near by and I started applying for jobs that very night. The next few days, we didn't talk very much- we were too worried about the future. Two weeks later, a letter from Unemployment showed up asking me to fill out my weekly claim form. I did, and the unemployment money was somehow, thankfully, back. But ever since then, I've been worried about when the next "surprise! You're SCREWED!" letter would arrive. Still applying for jobs...
Back to this morning. The HUMAN BEING at the Unemployment Office explained to me that I was finishing the unemployment claim from years ago (long before there were 99 weeks available, but somehow those weeks had been extended.) And THAT is what just ended. In fact, my unemployment claim from October 2010 (when I lost my job) has *just now kicked in* and I have 99 weeks to look for work & join a job training program. I, honestly, nearly fainted. I've been given the incredible gift of time to change my life. A chance to live my dream of being a full time musician.
It is with great big tears of relief that I am excited to announce:
Ladies and gentlemen, I have just enrolled myself in the Janice Is A Touring Musician job training program.
I can feel my shoulders relaxing from their upright-and-locked position as I type.