My programming gig that I managed to hold on to for more than five months came to a screeching halt when I entered my sublet and saw the missed call from my agency.
I listened to the message and knew immediately that I was jobless. Again. Her voice was achingly heavy and she permitted me to call her anytime until 8 pm. This wasn’t a reminder to fill in missing hours or anything else that could be sent via email.
I called and she confirmed what I already knew. I comforted her through the disbelief as she explained that her boss explained to her that there was some “restructuring” taking place, and I was one of the casualties.
She couldn’t believe how I was taking it. I couldn’t believe she cared. I calmed her down and thanked her for reiterating how much she enjoyed working with me.
I also gave her the 411 on why I was able to speak without any hint of disappointment.
The past few weeks have been a tedious exercise in trying to remain grateful for that faithful check that arrives twice a month — as you grind away like a robot on steroids — or whatever lubricant — that keeps the joints moving at top speed.
Anyone who speaks to me weekly can attest to how I was disintegrating at a rapid rate — due to the increase in workload that happened with my consent — because that’s what it entails to keep your job. One of the newer editors ran away. I know she did because she asked for my help multiple times — and when it became clear that she would never quite get it — she bounced.
I was empathetic. I understood her frustration. It stemmed from the fact that because of how much we’ve committed to page views and clicks — the editorial world has become almost uninhabitable.
Our jobs basically require us to program a shitload of content from partners that are committed to providing you with mind-numbing jargon. Every morning — I have to stomach all the reasons why “relationships matter while also filing a case for Instagram babies and slideshows about sex without the “sex.”
When my co-worker left — I was asked to take over her vertical.
It sounded doable at the time — because, again, I needed to keep working for at least a year. When I decided to pursue editorial roles — four years ago — I was on a high from the previous years — that saw me working overtime to prove my prowess as a dedicated writer.
Starting from 2007 — I put in the work and garnered steady paying gigs to compliment guaranteed compensation from my day job. It was a flawless system that fulfilled my creative and financial requirements. And then — in 2013 — I decided to stop masquerading as a “client management specialist” and go full speed ahead into the bosom of an industry that l believed would validate me.
I chose the wrong time to be editorial.
The upside to my endeavors is that I have a whole audience that still humbles me each time I hit “publish.” The platform that hails me as one of its own — has been the greatest gift of my life. I’ve blazed these avenues with fire and sprinkles of showers — and each time — I’m received whole-heartedly — even when the minds don’t intersect. I love it all! I love the naysayers, the supporters and the rest that can’t be categorized.
Medium is my home.
The search for my dream job ended without ceremony. The freelance gigs that kept me jamming back in the day disappeared. A couple were for publications catering to Black women. One of them let me go because the traffic for my in depth pieces weren’t impressive enough, and the other spiraled into a war of outstanding payments and the wounds of betrayal.
Fair enough, shit happens. I still tried to envision the job that would make all the anxiety melt away. But it never came.
Instead, I was greeted with evidence of decay. Companies were hiring to fulfill immediate needs and after working you to the bone — they discarded your remains with acute casualness. When it began — I thought it was seasonal practice or just bad luck. Then after accumulated adherence to “promising start dates” and “unexpected end dates” — it became clear that the workforce had evolved into the beast of burden.
The responsibility of finding jobs and getting assistance from temp agencies — that have bots email you opportunities — that don’t exist because you notice the wording matches the alert you received two summers ago — is beyond translation.
So, after two years of the bullshit — I was gratified to land a content programming position that made me dizzy all day — but also gave me the pleasure of helping to pay my parents’ rent or whatever else they needed.
Here I sit — at the age when you’re supposedly past the unevenness of youth. You spent that time fucking up without circumstance and with the security of the years ahead.
“Yeah, sure, I can do whatever for now — but this won’t last forever.”
Well, in my case it really did.
I’m sprawled on a couch that I didn’t buy — spewing out lyrics on a laptop that I did in fact purchase. I’m numb from the fact that this time next week will be the day before my last day earning a steady paycheck until — whenever.
I should be panicking, but I’m not.
I’m okay with this — because the job that let me go after burying me in more content than was permissible — sucked ass. I’m not pitying myself because I know how hard I worked from the first day — up until the moment when I was asked to take on someone else’s shit in addition to my own. It was more than I could handle, but I did what I could and more. I worked extra hours for free to make up for the consequences. I never complained whenever the reins of our CMS gave out — under the strain of excess. Too many people, programming way too much — all at the same time. I recognized the signs of wear and tear.
The job starts off well. You get used to what the description promised in the promos. And then just as you perfect your game — a serve is thrown in your direction — and all hell breaks lose. You’re forced into the regimen of “barely keeping up.”
It’s a trap and I’m now convinced that having a job has become more costlier than its worth.
Employers are privy to the fact that 2008 was a hell of a year.
The landscape shifted and the effects have been irreversible. In my industry of choice — I can testify about the shock of realizing why major companies — don’t give fuck about your talent or durability. It’s not about what you can contribute — it’s really centered around how long they can afford your ass.
You can write breathtaking blogs that give pause or pitch a new source that could potentially lead to lucrative avenues — and still receive an urgent voice message from your recruiter — who’s still too young and inexperienced to comprehend the basics.
I envy her disposition, but then I don’t because it took me long enough to get here. I had to sort through the good times to get to the present. There is no dream job and I’m okay with that. The concept of showing up somewhere for the benefit of planned runs to Starbucks and cubicles bedazzled with life clips — never quite registered as my life’s mission.
But, I liked the idea that I could work according to my efforts and the original agreement without being sidetracked with an updated itinerary — mandated to swallow me whole — and then spit me out with generic reasons why I can no longer be afforded what was promised when the offer was accepted.
I’m not sure what you’re muddling though in the arena you excel in — but in my world — writers are virtually extinct while piles of scheduled offering — whipped to painstakingly deplete your brain cells — continue to evacuate anything we mustered — back in 2004.
Employers feel good demanding pages of your time and expertise, while offering salaries that can barely keep the roof over your head from caving in. These scam artists are delighted with the idea of tricking you into this arrangement — and then crippling you with additional bullet points — once you’ve proven your flexibility.
None of them want to be saddled with the responsibility of hiring you. They regulate the task of tracking your sick days, vacation time, etc to the bots that delivered you. Direct hire is no longer an activated status. Longevity is practically archaic — and the whole goddamn thing is a vibrant collage that is meant to brighten your entry and secure your exit.
If you are prone to the symptoms of having to support yourself without any assistance — you’re screwed.
You may have to travel to Burbank from Gardena for $25 per hour or you may have to commit to the startup in that cool as shit space in Santa Monica — for $16 per hour. Or you might have the luxury of working from home for $26 per hour while trying to produce content for five facets of a vertical that used to be — three. You will be required to hold it down after learning your fate — by continuing to program prettied trash with no lunch breaks — as you train the guy who was probably hired to replace you.
Either way — no matter how much you spread yourself through the lanes of the morning commute or stain your couch with sweat at the first glance of the headlines waiting for your edits — you will almost always end up where I am now.
Jobless, broke, relieved, frustrated, exhausted and most importantly — doing what you do best.
I write for me and for you. I write for those of you who can relate and the ones who are lucky enough not to. I write because after five months of transferring garbage to clogged folders — I realize that I’m a relic. I write because words mean so much — now more than ever. I write because I accept that I miscalculated the market and set myself up for failure because I’m an artist — and that’s just what we do.
Note: Almost three weeks ago — I agreed to take down this piece because the article I wrote right after mentioned my former employers, which was a mistake. I deleted both, but I’m reinitiating this one. It previously went viral because it’s truthful and it was a gut reaction to what I had just experienced — hours before.
I won’t be silenced.