A few days ago, my boss took me to coffee. She complimented my lipstick and asked after my weekend. I should have known something was so deeply wrong. When she didn’t immediately take out her Macbook and dive back into our inbox, I should have had a clue. But I was in a good mood; she’d just complimented my lipstick.
As soon as she opened with “I’m sorry,” I knew what was coming next. While I was dreading this very outcome for months—I work in tourism, and I have the Paris Attacks to blame for the company’s stagnation—it still came as a shock. I am relieved that this is not a commentary on my performance. I feel assured that she did her best to advocate on my behalf, and I am proud of my newfound skills and confidence in the workplace. Yet the end result is the same: I’ve been let go.
While I will say that I am deeply disappointed, this unplanned departure will set me free. While I enjoyed the cultural aspects of my job and working with our team of knowledgable guides, I have struggled to find meaning in many of my tasks. I have questioned the intense sense of urgency expected to accompany each mundane item on my to-do list. I have struggled to find meaning in arranging car service. I have had trouble keeping my voice level and tone neutral when the angry client on the other end of the line tells me to “Go get bent” because I cannot offer him a refund. Whatever that means. I call myself a writer, but lately I’ve spent more time composing innocuous customer service emails than adding to my novel’s word count. I’ve felt burnt out. I’ve felt overlooked. Perhaps this is my opportunity to make a change: flip 2016 the bird, and try to make money doing what I love. Perhaps this is my silver lining.
Since losing my job, however, I have sent my CV to about 30 advertisements recruiting writers and editors, and sent the email equivalent of a cold call to about ten websites. I’ve mainly been ignored, but I’ve also been asked to write for free. Make money as a writer? …are you cackling yet? Because I am. Millenials are labeled lazy, entitled, and unwilling to work their way up. However, with a degree in Creative Writing, published pieces, and some professional experience under my belt, I’d at least like to get paid for my time. Many of the advertisements that do list pay seem to be offering under $10 for 500 words. Perhaps I am looking in the wrong places, but there seems to be a general devaluation of the written word, or at least what people are willing to pay for it. At this point, it seems more probable that my cat will go viral before I will pay my rent through my writing. I’d considered this before, but that was when I was employed and it was a slightly bitter thing to laugh about over a glass of wine during l’apéro, when it felt admissible to moan about feeling unfulfilled by my line of work.
Instead of organizing gifts for everyone on my Christmas list, I am now tallying up my various expenses to cut the fat from my budget. Am I allowed a sapin de noël? Can I afford to keep up my platinum hair? Can I renew The Paris Review? Bah oui, but I’m going to have to hustle. That “fresh start” feeling manufactured each New Year’s Eve will actually strike a chord this year. It will be a fresh start. On December 30th, I will be out of a job. It will be the beginning of another bout of unemployment.