As is customary I graduated from University without a job in 2012. Basically that meant that I became officially jobless when University was taken out of the equation.
Now, this was almost 10 years ago and back then I lived in Finland, which meant that there was some sort of a social benefit scheme in place for me to fall on. But unlike sooo many seem to think this social benefit scheme is not enough for anyone for living an actual life. For 1 and a half years I struggled with making ends meet while depression was creeping in and I couldn’t afford the one thing that would’ve kept me properly clear: a social life.
Joblessness is a very touchy subject everywhere: jobless people are often seen as less worthy and as if being jobless is their own fault. In most cases this is not true. It is also an extremely hard experience to go through, so all that negativity that society is spewing on those already down-trodden is seriously unnecessary.
But nothing bad happens without some good being brought along with it. And that was also the case with me going through the most depressing period of my life. I endured joblessness for 1,5 years and it almost broke me mentally. But in hindsight it also taught me a lot about myself and the world around me:
- My support network thinned and became a matter of life and death
When you become jobless you quickly realize who your real friends are. Some people tend to fade away; either for the embarrassment of having a jobless friend or the fact that you quickly become bitter and depressed, which makes you rather unpleasant to hang around with. But your true friends will stick through it with you despite everything!
I am one of the luckiest people in this regard and I understood it properly during that period; I have a close family and a bunch of friends who stayed by my side when I was at my worst.
- Staying positive isn’t always enough
As mindfulness guides teach us, we should all spend a moment each day to think of something positive; whether it being a positive thought about that particular day or overall in life. This has supposedly worked for a lot of people so at my most desperate I decided to try it as well.
So, every single morning before getting up from bed I had to think of at least one positive thing in regards to the coming day. The thoughts were usually small everyday things, but nonetheless important, like having a family and friends, and a roof on my head.
But in the end, no matter how many positive aspects I discovered in my life, the truth is that I was still more miserable than I have ever been in my life.
- Education does and doesn’t matter
It’s hard to make a credible CV if you’ve got no scholar credentials to add there. CVs without such credentials are the first ones going to the bin. And when you do have such credentials listed most recruiters don’t care if those credentials are relevant or even real.
- I realized how important being able to work actually is
Most people need a routine in their life, something worth getting up from bed for, and I’m definitely one of them. I’m not happy at my current job but it’s a job that pays my bills and keeps me busy while I look for something that’s better suited for me. And those are good enough reasons for me to turn up at the office day after day despite everything. Anything’s better than being jobless!
- The much acclaimed Finnish social security system is more of a punishment than a benefit
Imagine having to file in a begging letter to the social services every single month. Because that’s what being on the benefits actually is:
You are forced to beg for money month after month and each month you are evaluated, are you worthy of that money or not. The stress of whether you can afford to be alive next month or not never leaves because, due to human beings making these decisions, it might well be that for some reason you do not get money next month.
- Unemployment is mentally so draining that it can be hard to find support
Despite having the support network there’s only so much they can do for you. If your friends and family haven’t been jobless it may be difficult for them to understand your sudden increase in bitterness and negativity. They might even get frustrated with you.
I remember some of my friends telling me that I complain way too much (that was true) and shouldn’t be so picky with the jobs I applied for but instead should take a cleaning job if one was offered. “It’s a job after all” they said.
NEVER offer this sort of advice. Instead of helping, what this “advice” in fact did was humiliate and put me down even more. I had studied and worked all my life just to end up cleaning other people’s shit? I know my friends didn’t mean to do so but they hurt me.
- I was never good enough
I was too young, too blond, too loud, not experienced enough, too experienced, the wrong sex, the wrong age (the pregnancy issue), simply not enough of anything.
- I deserve better
I spent a shed-load of time reflecting on myself and going through the feedback I got from the few job interviews I was invited to during that period. And I always came to the conclusion that it’s not me, it’s them. Since then that view has only strengthened after I moved abroad: it was definitely their loss, not mine!
- Having a daily routine is everything
When there was no job to go to I made a routine for myself and it really was a lifeline that should never be underestimated. 5 days a week I woke up 9ish every morning, had breakfast, took my laptop and walked to the library to write and send more job applications. Thankfully in Finland, especially in Turku we have excellent libraries.
- It will end eventually
You will continue to study or you nail a job interview, one way or another the joblessness will end if you just keep faith and push on.
I kept faith. I don’t know how much longer I could’ve, but I did. But in the end it wasn’t faith or a successful job interview that got me up from the deep hole. It was life intervening as it often does:
I had started an internship in a small company with the intention of them hiring me after 6 months. But 2 months in one of the bosses decided to commit suicide. After that there was no chance of such a small company hiring me as a full-timer any time soon. I mean, what are the odds?!
After the shock and sadness I got angry. So fucking angry I’m surprised I didn’t break anything or anyone. And when I get angry things start to happen.
I didn’t see any other option than to get the fuck out of Finland. It was very clear to me that I was not wanted there so why would I want to stay? It only took me about a month to pass 3 phone interviews, pack up my apartment and to be on my way to the airport headed for Slovakia for a new job and a new, better life.
In the end everything turned out fine for me, but it did take some radical decisions to be made. Where would I be if I hadn’t gotten so angry and decided to fuck off? If I had refused to even consider moving abroad, would I still be jobless and stuck in Finland? Would I even be alive anymore?
One thing I’m pretty sure about; my life wouldn’t have turned out to be as brilliant as it is if I hadn’t become jobless and then, as a result, gotten so angry and frustrated that it prompted me to move out of Finland.
It wasn’t a small decision, by all means, but it proved one thing to me; our fate is often in our own hands. And if we are ready to make sacrifices and take risks the rewards are most probably more than worth it. That was the biggest lesson that my period of joblessness taught me and I have done quite well remembering it.