I was looking for a job and then I was looking for a job and then I was looking for a job and Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now….

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In the grand scheme of things, career-search wise, I’m doing OK. I have a degree, I have experience including an internship, I actually know what I want to do, and I’m not subject to racial discrimination in my job search. However despite my constant searching and applying  on Indeed all I’ve got back in two months is a handful of rejection emails from the few companies who actually bothered to send them. Oh, and a call from a company offering teaching work in China which I absolutely don’t want to do but genuinely considered.

Inamongst all the thinkpieces calling millenials entitled, or making fun of them for having ‘fake’ sounding jobs involving social media or having ‘digital’ in the name (someone took the time to make an actual sitcom on the topic), few seem to question why so many of us still live with our parents. I know one person my age with the same education level who is in full time work. The rest are doing masters degrees or working menial jobs in the hopes of finding something more fulfilling. My sister graduated in 2012 and found every job she wanted demanded years of experience and every job she applied to as a short term money maker felt she was overqualified and would have no loyalty. I’ve found the same problem, despite the fact I have a three-month journalism internship under my belt. In truth, the hunt for a job feels like a fruitless, crushing dirge.

Dramatic-sounding perhaps, but hear me out. My recent internship (a piece of driftwood just about keeping me afloat in a sea of career hunting) was not my first flirtation with intern-ing. Back in the summer of ’16, towards the end of my degree, I was delighted to get a call from a local company in Hull who were interested in getting me to work as a content writer for 8-12 weeks. Unpaid, of course, I couldn’t possibly expect to get paid now could I? Their promise was 8-12 weeks with a ‘very real chance’ of a job at the end. Twelve weeks is a long time but it would just about cover the rest of my student flat contract and I was almost guaranteed a job at the end. I went along for the interview in high spirits, it was a nice office in the city centre, and the staff seemed laid-back with lots of freedom. I was told that I was the most qualified candidate. I had a second interview, involving a basic competence test, all was well. I got a call from the recruitment agency woman who had called me in the first place saying they were offering me a week-long trial to check I was right for them. A little annoying, considering I was repeatedly told I was the best candidate, and it was an unpaid internship (I was essentially being offered a trial FOR a trial) but it was still amazing to get such an opportunity considering I hadn’t even graduated yet.

So I went in with my coffee and pencil skirt feeling very business-like. I wrote some blog posts, transcribed a few radio bits they did, had to do some ‘business to business’ copy which was about the most soul crushing thing of all time but hey ho. I felt all was going well. However, after going home on the third day the recruitment lady called me again. ‘They don’t know how to go about training you’ she said (they perhaps should have thought of that before they hired an intern). She told me to take the rest of the week off while they worked out what approach to take. With a furrowed brow I agreed, but told her I felt fine with how things were going.

Two weeks later, I had heard nothing. I emailed the recruitment agency woman asking her if, when I did come back, I would be coming back to an actual job or I would still be expected to work 12 weeks on zero pay. She told me it was the latter. ‘They’re only a small company, so they can’t offer pay at the moment’. I was tempted to point out that this was at odds with how often I had been assured of their rapid growth as a business, and to ask if everyone else who worked their was lucky enough to actually get paid. I replied that I had to decline coming back at all, that 12 weeks of no pay would essentially leave me homeless for a while. She understood. Oh, by the way, that ‘job’ was at a company running a search engine FOR JOBS.

I’m happy to report the second internship went far better. It only required one interview, I was able to work from home, I was paid £70 a week, given one-to-one training, and had to the opportunity to do cool stuff like interview comedians and write previews for art exhibitions. I came out the other side with solid skills and a sturdy addition to my CV. One month later, I still have nothing. Trawling through Indeed.com every day is a Groundhog-day like affair. Content writer, marketing, social media executive and so on and so on. Most are offering more internships, usually only pointing out halfway through the job description that they won’t actually pay you. Particularly with any kind of creative endeavor. They offer ‘experience’ and ‘exposure’, but such things do not put tofu on the table. Those that will pay are rare, and mostly require a candidate with 5 years of experience in the exact same job, preferably at the same company, and a relocation to London.

When you find one that seems imperfect, but you actually have a chance of getting, it sends you to a 10-page application form that needs filling out. You have a CV with all the same information the form is asking for handily put on one page, but they still want you to fill out the form. Call me a lazy, entitled millenial, but when it’s the fifth job application of the day and you don’t particularly want it in the first place, the impulse to give up on page 4 of the application is very strong.

Also while these companies ask a lot of their candidates, the effort is not reciprocated. Job descriptions are often quite badly written out, some with glaring spelling mistakes. Plus, they are often written so cryptically, so ridden with vague business jargon, that it is impossible to tell what the company does and what they want you to do. Take this for example:

“The role of Digital Marketing Executive will be to implement the content marketing strategy for this prestigious business, devising creative campaigns which will help to increase awareness, brand and drive sales and play a key role in driving the next phase of growth.”

Can anyone tell me what the even heck that means?

So where does this seemingly incredibly unsustainable system lead? Ultimately, it means only the children of the rich can get jobs. If you can’t find an internship you can do from home like I was lucky enough to get, you have to hope Mum and Dad are willing to pay your rent. After several such internships, you may finally get a full time job that pays, congratulations! Better yet, a close relative of yours works at the company, instant stability!

This market ultimately has to collapse in on itself. Denying  many young people the chance to support themselves for the convenience of businesses who are somehow disgusted at the thought of paying a living wage simply isn’t sustainable. It isn’t just Wetherspoons that takes advantage, but cozy white-collar office jobs. It’s a symptom of late stage, unregulated capitalism. Everything to appease the bosses, even if it means literally not paying a wage. Recently, a screenshot of an unpaid job at a London anti-slavery charity went viral. It’s gotten so bad that even my classically conservative grandma is shocked and appalled at the state of things. Colliding with other problems like the eye-watering rent prices in most cities and the accumulating student debt of those doing masters degrees to stave off the daunting search for a job, something has to give. And when it does give, I just hope it’s not the workers who bear the worst of it.

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Bloody Hell

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NOTILE TE BASTARDES CORBORUNDORUM

It didn’t even take one day.

It wasn’t even noon before the pound sterling fell faster than Han Solo off the starkiller base bridge (sorry).

A matter of hours before Fuckface Farage admitted he should never have promised £350 million a week to the NHS since he can’t actually fucken do it.

No time at all before the UK lost its place as the world’s 5th largest economy.

I hadn’t even had my morning cup of tea before Pig Boy Cameron resigned, leaving the potential for an even worse (and unelected) haunted cabbage patch doll to take his place.

At this point, what’s keeping me optimistic is the hope that everything continues on this slide into chaos at such a rate that the public demands a return to the EU and Farage and his ilk are banished to Pluto.

But it’s not just this clusterfuck that has me turning from an optimistic young person to a jaded, disappointed twentysomething. To be honest, looking at what my country is doing is becoming harder and harder in recent years. I see no compassion, I see spite, bigotry, smugness and small-mindedness.

Take, for example, the microcosm of this kind of attitude displayed at Euro2016. Seeing Irish fans, whom I am claiming as my people thanks to my lineage, has made me smile. Seeing English fans has made me despair. Violent, bigoted, and arrogant – they’ve made us look small and stupid. Just look at this clip of English fans taunting refugee children and throwing coins at them. This is happening in TWO THOUSAND AND SIXTEEN.

The situation with refugees and and the reaction to it in general has made me feel physically sick at many different points. A certain inflammatory columnist (who shall remain unnamed to bypass the mini orgasm she no doubt has every time some talks about her) calling them ‘cockroaches’ was like a nightmare. Watching footage of Nazi rallies and propaganda films about the Aryan race in history, I shook my head and wondered how so many human beings could become so cold, so hate filled towards their brothers and sisters. Seeing that, and facebook comments on far right pages calling for them to all be shot and rejoicing as innocent children drowned, I realised the modern country I live in has every potential to fall into that precipice. And it physically hurts. How anyone can see the drowned bodies of people desperate to flee war and persecution washed up on a beach and think “good! now I wont have to deal with them as neighbours!” is beyond me. How anyone can throw things at children starving in tents behind chain link fences is baffling. No, not baffling, heartbreaking. It breaks my heart. And I feel utterly helpless.

Utter helplessness in the face of terrible things is one of the ugliest and most harrowing feelings in the world. Whether it’s watching disease take your loved ones, or watching poison enter the collective consciousness of your country.

I now live in a country where hate groups invade Mosques and harass people at prayer, where they attack Muslim women wearing headscarves in the street, where they talk about the people who gave us advanced medicine and our numerical system as “scum”. It’s like I’ve gone to a desolate, cold planet 70 light years away, I’m looking through a telescope, and I can see a distorted but sickeningly recognisable version of the kind of hateful atmosphere that lead to the holocaust. We think that it’s impossible, that we could never let it happen again. We’re wrong.

It’s already happening. To Roma people in Eastern Europe. To indigenous people across the planet. To Syrians. We are the same species as people who did these things, who still do these things, we are perfectly capable.

Margaret Atwood once said that people would remark that the dystopian, misogynist society in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ could never happen. She would reply that of course it could.

It’s our duty to constantly fight this kind of hate. Hatred is a powerful force. To quote Hannibal “you are capable of righteous violence because you are compassionate.” We don’t need righteous violence, but righteous force. If people invade Mosques, we should form blockades to keep them out. If people throw things at refugees, we should stand in the line of fire and throw them back. We must treat this as a war, not an invasion.

But we haven’t found our force. We tried facts. This referendum should never have happened, but Cameron needed to cover his porcine ass so here we are. The Remain campaign had a simple message; this is a bad idea. Leave had smarmy, smug, puffed-up rhetoric about ‘taking our country back’ and ‘finding our place’, we just had hundreds of respected financial institutes telling us leaving would be A REALLY, REALLY BAD IDEA.

Apparently, meaningless but sexy sounding rhetoric wins. My flatmate walked past a car on election day emblazoned with the Ukip logo and blasting “land of hope and glory”. You can practically hear the stamping hooves of heroic crusaders on horseback, asserting their superiority over everyone else. It seems the majority of this bratty little island preferred to stick to that fantasy and cover their ears when those goddamn experts with their fancy book-learnin’ tried to tell them not to cut off their nose to spite their Polish neighbour.

We saw something uglier than ignorance too. MP Jo Cox was assassinated by a man who gave his name in court as ‘death to traitors, freedom for Britain’. A man mainstream newspapers described as a ‘timid gardener’ rather than a terrorist and a murderer, which he absolutely is, presumably because he spoke English and was white.

The Brexit campaign then flew a plane over her memorial urging people to vote leave.

So here we are. Our currency is in freefall, Brexit campaigners are backing out of every overblown ‘promise’ they made about NHS funding and restricting immigration. Young people overwhelmingly voted to stay, but we were smothered by older generations voting against our future. Our next PM will be unelected, Scotland will no doubt leave (and I will applaud them) and doors will be closed to us forever.

So well done, Britain, you small-minded, xenophobic, racist, arrogant, pissy little island. You’ve fucked everything up.

Someone gave you a gun and you shot yourself in the foot.

Myself, and the rest of my generation, have lost whatever flimsy patriotism we had, and the irony is it will be more difficult than ever for us to leave the country.

 

 

 

The bright side of being sad

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me being sad

Will Graham expressing my coping methods.

“There’s no room for demons if you’re self-possessed” 

“If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true, and that’s unacceptable”

(Both the wisdom of Carrie Fisher)

If I was going to describe the year 2015 for me, instead of using actual words I would probably just scream and punch something for half an hour. I had a devastating breakdown in my mental health, I had to deal with the fallout of that.  My stepfather’s illness got steadily worse and I heard the news of his death in the train station at eight in the morning trying to get home to say goodbye to him. No one in the station stopped to comfort me. One woman picked up her bags and walked away.  I spent Christmas with a family in mourning and read his eulogy while most people were buying stuffing. Even in the calmer parts of last year I dealt with my Mum’s appendicitis, my family moving house without me, and other slaps to the face. My family now joke that we’re cursed. As Carrie Fisher once said “the situation was getting worse faster than I could lower my expectations”.

It’s no coincidence that this was also the year I took up amateur boxing.

So now it’s 2016 and nothing that terrible has happened yet,save for the death of my great uncle Joe, who was in his late eighties. OK so that was not ideal… But, like a character in a movie with a hastily written tragic backstory (or an X factor contestant) I have changed a little.

I’ve always had a pretty sunny outlook, despite outward appearances of being quite grouchy. At heart, I tend to assume things will get better, or at least assume they can’t get any worse. This isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with a lot of crap in my life, but still I’ve always kind of kept on truckin’. I tend to be calmer and happier than most when things are ticking along smoothly, possible down to denial, possibly down to just being glad bad things that happened in the past aren’t happening right now. Having knowledge that life can be terrible can make you pessimistic, or it can just make you extra grateful when things are less than terrible.

This attitude isn’t always a good thing.

Flashback to early last year. I was living in my crappy, cold, dark house, with the knowledge that my beloved stepfather was terminally ill. If I felt bad about all that, I managed to push it right on down and ignore it. I looked at the positive. I had freedom, I was a university student living with my friends, young, healthy and I had my own double bed for the first time ever. I was no longer a bullied teenager living in a godforsaken comatose backwater village enduring my parents tempestuous divorce. I could come and go as I please, my stepdad was ill but he was doing ok at the moment, and I would often get good news about how his tumours were shrinking. Maybe he would be ok after all. So I just kept smiling, went out for the odd drink with friends and basked in the glorious fact that I could come and go as I please.

I had these little OCD ticks, but whatever, they would get better.

Spoiler alert, they did not.

So before I knew it I couldn’t function on my own, and I spent most of the day exhausted and in tears. I believe this is partly down to my refusal to just be sad already.

If I had just said to myself “hey, your life is crap right now. That doesn’t mean It’s gonna be crap forever, although it may get crappier yet, but instead of being lil’ miss happy sunshine giggle fairy, just brood a little bit and acknowledge that you’re not happy” I may have spared myself a repeat prescription of prozac.

I’ve always joked that I would make a great goth (I have the colouring for it) but I’m just “too chipper”. Well maybe forget that.

So surprisingly enough, this year I’ve found myself feeling sad sometimes. I’ve recently been putting up with this super fun chronic fatigue thing my body is doing, and a year ago I maybe would have just ignored it and told myself sleeping to much is better than having insomnia. The urge to do that still comes up. “Oh I’m fine besides that, it’s just a little bit annoying, you know?”. I don’t want to worry other people, and I don’t want to worry myself, so part of my brain goes “leave it, hun”.

I have pledged to myself that I shall not leave it. It sucks that so tired my eyeballs hurt. It sucks I can hardly face a 9:15 lecture. It sucks that in third year, when I have work piling up, all I want to do is curl up in bed.

And about that, it’s not just tiredness, even when I don’t feel the need to nap I want to snuggle up in my bed and act like the world is on pause. And it’s only expected that I should feel like that. I’m grieving, goddamnit, I’m recovering from a serious mental health episode. I am now going through life knowing it’s potential for random, sustained cruelty. I have threads of real sadness in me that weren’t there before.

Acknowledging this brings a strange freedom. I find I’ve become bolder, more assertive, more motivated (when I’m not napping). All the inspirational facebook posts in the world had nothing on the motivational power of an awful year. I say things like “fuck it, we’re all gonna die anyway” and I mean it and I do the thing.

And when I feel sad? I let myself be sad. I listen to sad music, and I cuddle my stuffed rottweiler puppy Ronnie (who I definitely didn’t get as a Christmas present just this last year) and I just let it happen. I keep an eye on it for bigger problems, but I let it happen. I think about all the reasons I’m sad, I have many, and I just let myself be a moody bitch. I’m experiencing the effects of grief, the fatigue, the irritation, the infamous “seven stages” which are meant to follow each other in an orderly queue but instead hit you all at once and just swim around, not making a whole lot of sense.

Sometimes I’ll remember something arbitrary I did with my stepdad once. I’ll remember the time we had a carvery on my way back to Uni or when we went to a beer festival or when I found him holding his hand in pain by the fridge cos the chemotherapy made him extra sensitive to the cold. And sometimes I cry. And I just let it happen. Same with horrible memories of my illness. Memories of my stepdad will come from nowhere, when I’m cooking, when I’m trying to sleep, and It’s like a big knife in the chest. Grief likes to ambush you, and it can hurt physically. I’ve decided not to ignore that. That sadness will be there forever, and trying to forget it would, as I’ve learned, be very unhealthy.

Obviously sadness can take over your life, sometimes to the point of crisis. But It’s a natural emotion, and I’ve always believed emotions are a part of us, they are not separate, they aren’t switched on and off through sheer force of will, they are us. So now I’m practising what I preach, and I’m letting myself feel bad as well as good.

 

Dial C for Catcall

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If you are a woman who has to walk down a street on a regular basis chances are you’ve had things shouted at you by men. This can range from a presumptuous “hello!” a mildy degrading beep from a car or a more terrifying and vulgar suggestion (GET YER TITS OUT). Maybe someone even followed you around.

A viral video has been doing the rounds showing a woman walking through the streets of New York dressed in jeans and a t shirt and receiving around 100 catcalls. At one point a guy does follow her around for several minutes, asking why she won’t respond to him. Another guy tells her she should smile and be grateful of the attention. It certainly highlights what women have to deal with. It has since come to my attention that the video is problematic in its own right (accusations of editing out white men) but the interesting thing is what the video has generated.

Some people still fail to see what the problem is. A debate has opened up with a large amount of people (mostly men) asking what the big deal is. The fact is men just don’t get catcalled. Unless they pass a drunk hen party on a night out it is very unlikely a woman will try and grab their attention on the street (or anywhere else for that matter seeing as we’re conditioned to be submissive in romantic situations but that’s another topic for another time). Some dudes are genuinely curious as to why this all seems to bother us so much. After all, it’s mostly complimentary! Some guys are simply out to tell us to stop whining and get over it. The same points come up over and over again so I thought I’d throw in my opinion about them. Do with it what you will just don’t pull any gamergate shit on me.

 We are social animals and there are hundreds of opportunities to pay someone a compliment, strike up a conversation or greet them. That’s what friends, family, acquaintances and so on are for. You can even start a conversation with a person while you wait for a bus or buy a cup of coffee. There really are so many ways to make friends or brighten someone’s day. Don’t waste your energy on women in the street. No woman has ever turned round to a catcaller and thanked him or tried to continue the conversation. It’s just social etiquette. You would be freaked out if someone you’d never seen before beamed at you and said GOOD MORNING, and that’s without the obvious sexual undertones of catcalling. And you have to keep in mind this happens constantly, it isn’t a one off. One reason it pisses us off is because it happens so often. Even the most polite catcall makes you feel self conscious, like someone is obviously sizing you up and feels the need to inform you they like what they see. Recently I was walking to Uni and a builder walking with his coworker said “hiya!” I gave him a weak smile of the ‘leave-me-alone’ variety, which is more than I should be expected to do, and I heard him say “I didn’t get a hiya back!” It seems harmless but it pissed me off. I felt like I was only there to give him some amusement. What he was saying was “you exist to please me with how you look.” That gets a little disheartening.

I read someone say that men are “just like that”, that it’s a natural by product of a testosterone fuelled sex drive and men will never stop acting on. Firstly I would like to point out that is never us so-called “man hating” feminists who say men are mindless sex beasts who can never be changed. Feminism believes such behaviours are produced by social conditioning and a warped view of masculinity presented by the patriarchy. Yes I said patriarchy. We’ve had one female prime minister in the history of our country it is not a great leap to say we live in a world built by and for men. It’s this thinking that tells men they must constantly give off an air of sexual vibrancy and women an air of sexual timidness. We can reverse that, we are reversing that. The very fact not every man catcalls women is proof enough this behaviour is not inherent. I am always saying we should not simply accept bad things and ever so britishly put up with them. We should always consider if there is a better alternative and head for that.

It is often said by men that they would love it if women tried to hit on them everywhere they went. That’s how most male-fantasy-beer-and-body-spray ads work anyway. Women flinging themselves at men. Hetero heaven! However it is still different for a woman. In a world where we still blame victims of rape for their attacks and catcalls can turn into “fuck you bitch!” when they go unheeded, being chatted up by a stranger is no fun. The reason I smiled at the builder even though I didn’t want to? I didn’t want to deal with the potential consequences of not smiling. Hell, I even got a sulky response for not returning his greeting! Catcalls don’t come from a place of sincere romantic approach. At best they are wind up attempts. Men of immature dispositions showing off in front of their mates. They don’t want to make you feel good, they want to irritate you. Men shouting at you in the street are not out to improve women’s confidence, they are out to control it, to mock it. They are out to feel big. Sometimes I flip the bird at such comments, assuming I am at a safe enough distance that I wont have to deal with any potential ugly consequences. Most of the time the van has beeped at you and is halfway down the road before you can get indignant. Even if you can make some sarcastic response, you still feel humiliated.

For those men who still don’t get the picture I will outline an alternate reality. Imagine living in a world with an abundance of gay guys, almost all of whom are bigger and stronger than you. In fact you are regularly told that they are bigger and stronger than you, which really helps you feel safe. Also, small side note, they own and control pretty much everything. Now on a regular basis such men shout things at you. They may comment on your appearance, ask you for your number or just generally be lewd and gross. If you don’t respond they get angry. They may even yell abuse. Sometimes they may even shout insults at you and tell you how ugly you are. In nightclubs they might grab your backside without permission and then have a smug satisfied look on their face when you turn around to glare at them. You are also told by your Mother that if you try anything they might beat you up or worse, so don’t do it. Gay guys twice your size feeling you up without permission is a standard part of a night out. Now imagine the same type of people are telling you it’s not a big deal you should be grateful for the attention, you should get over it, at least you don’t live in a country where small straight guys aren’t allowed to drive. Imagine some people like you say they actually like being approached by such men and they take it as a compliment so you should to. Just imagine all of that. Now tell us again why catcalling is no big deal.