A Diary of Unemployment

Brandon Lueken chronicles his life after being let go.


April 12, 2010

I walk into work, am held at the front desk, and promptly told by my supervisor that I have been let go. I ask if I have done something wrong. She says, “I am killing the call center.” My company has finally made good on a longtime promise. I catch the accountant in the elevator, who gives me my last check. I do not step foot in that building again. This is the first time I have become forcibly unemployed. Every other time, I have left on my own accord. I feel lifted of a great burden. Looking for sympathy, I spend the afternoon with a coworker who was let go the Friday before. He shows me how to apply for unemployment.

April 19, 2010

One week later, I am leaving the house less and less. I never made many friends in this city, and as such, rounds of sympathy drinks have been few. Over the weekend I caught up with a friend at the farmer’s market, and we talked almost non-stop for two hours. It feels good to be out in the sunshine making human contact, doing things in the city. For a while, I feel normal. Life isn’t so bad.

April 21, 2010

I discover my unemployment has been delayed because I reported for work on the 12th, even though I didn’t work that day. I am annoyed, but I don’t need money yet; I have some savings to live off of. What I’ve heard of the Portland, Oregon job market is true: it is one of the worst in the nation. Of the few jobs posted, a surprising number of them are scams. The most popular one wants me to bring my own credit statement to the interview. I try baiting one by requesting more information about their office location and the time of the interview. I receive no return email.

April 22, 2010

I try leaving the house and go to the library for my job search. I discover that my laptop has a loose connection, which causes the screen to flicker out of focus, and become tinted green. After a day and a half, I fix the problem by shaking the computer violently. However, if I try to move the computer from my desk, the problem returns. Because I spend so much time on my computer looking for jobs, I feel condemned to my house.

April 25, 2010

My unemployment finally comes through. I will receive $116 a week. I was hoping for $200. This will not cover my monthly rent. My job search becomes more frantic.

April 28, 2010

I am officially on food stamps. The process was surprisingly easy, despite the 75 minutes I spent on a bus getting there. I’m reading a book of Chuck Klosterman essays, and a young hipster starts to chat me up about the book. I admit that I have just cracked the book, and have no strong opinions on his writing one way or the other. I feel adrift from human contact already.

May 01, 2010

Frustrated that I have not been called back for an interview, I start a blog about unemployment. Perhaps by discussing what jobs I am applying for, and why I am applying for them, I will somehow be better prepared for my inevitable interview. I discover the reason I am applying to most jobs is simple: I need money. By this point, my schedule which got me up around 9 or 10 every day has totally broken down. I sleep until 11:30 every day, apply to jobs from 1 to 5, and then spend my evenings cooking dinner, watching movies, or reading books. My housemate works at night, so I rarely see anyone during the day. My biggest accomplishment every day is going to get the mail, which is a three minute walk outside.

May 07, 2010

My dreams are becoming more intense. Last night, I dreamed that I had a unibrow like a werewolf, and I was humiliated at my high school graduation because of my deformity. I have still not received any contact that wasn’t a Craigslist scam. I am running into some difficulty because I will be attending graduate school come fall. I feel bad about lying to employers who want someone for a long-term commitment and my pride prevents me from applying to a lot of summer jobs. I don’t want to canvas for a political campaign. These are the same people I lied to while I worked downtown. Yes, I already donate to your cause. I’m not registered to vote in this state. No thanks, I already support a child in the Philippines. I feel even worse when somebody is honored to meet a generous donor such as myself. Saying “no” would lessen my karmic load.

May 10, 2010

After a series of conversations and some preliminary investigations, I decide to move to Seattle at the end of the month. There are more jobs, more contacts, more opportunities for happiness in Seattle. Also, my future roommate was only given three dates to end his lease, and May 31st was the only one that worked for the both of us. I have twenty days to make this work.

May 18, 2010

I have had two phone interviews for positions in Seattle. One was scheduled, the other woke me up. Attempting to appear adaptable, I blearily answer questions. Meanwhile my future roommate and I have discovered an apartment fitting our specifications. Things are going well until I have to pay the deposit, for which I have to borrow some money from a friend. In between all of this, I register for fall classes at graduate school. I have more pressing needs, so my return to school still seems unreal even though this is the ultimate reason I’m moving to Seattle.

May 20, 2010

Today, I have jury duty. I have never been called jury duty before, despite living in three states. I spend 90 minutes reading, and then play rummy with two ladies. I lose abominably. No one is called, and three-quarters of us are dismissed by 11 a.m. I have the whole day ahead of me, so I decide to be productive. I apply to ten jobs. One rejects me the next day, another is a scam.

May 22, 2010

Due to some bad math and documentation on my part, I discover that instead of getting $100 back from the state of Oregon on my taxes, I owe them $100. I do not need this right now, but their evidence is compelling.

May 24, 2010

My housemate’s girlfriend moves in the day after she graduates. I am happy to interact with someone during the day. She introduces me to Glee. I devour most of the season in less than a week. The show connects to me on an emotional level: I relish the fact that a show named Glee is about the disappointments of life, which in turn explores how we perform for ourselves and others. How many of my recent interactions have been framed to hide just how desperate my situation is? I try not to think about that, and focus on the positive. I have settled my housing issue. We will be moving in on June 1, but will arrive in Seattle on May 29th because that’s when my friend’s van is available. I have two more job interviews scheduled – one on the day I move in, the other the next day.

June 01, 2010

I have moved to Seattle, and have an awkwardly non-sentimental goodbye with my best friend and now former housemate. After living roughly 20 feet away from one another for five years, we will probably never live together again. My first interview is for a minimum-wage receptionist position at a local non-profit. The interview is fifteen minutes long and I am rejected the next week. My apartment is smaller than I originally expected, but is conveniently located. I spend three days re-arranging my room before I find something that works.

June 02, 2010

I interview at a local alarm company. They take issue with my desire to further my education, which has classes in the evening. The interview lasts a whole hour, and despite the fact they seem willing to work out a schedule that will work for the both of us, I never hear from them.

June 07, 2010

One of the phone interviews I had in late May was with a private high school. My graduate program is a Masters in Education, so I took the news that the initial position had been filled poorly. But they have another position available, they want to talk to me about. I have another phone interview, and although the position is only for the summer, it gets me more experience working in education. We schedule an in-person interview for later in the week. I also discover that I get unemployment in Washington, but not food stamps.

June 09, 2010

I interview at a staffing firm. After describing my interests, my job history, and my future prospects, the recruiter determines that I need to work for a moral company. She then explains I would hate most of the jobs that she has, but they work with a few non-profit organizations, which may have some openings soon.

June 10, 2010

I interview at the school. They are excited about me, but have to iron out some details before they can offer me anything. Later that day, I interview at a hotel. I am rejected, because no matter how much I want to work in a hotel, which I think would be a fun job, they always reject me. People get degrees so they can work in hotels now. I decide that I will never apply to another hotel.

June 16, 2010

Today is Bloomsday. After almost a week, I am offered a position at the school. It’s just for the summer, and I still have cash flow problems. I accept. Not all of my problems are solved, but I will not starve.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Brandon Lueken is a graduate from the University of Puget Sound with a Bachelor's Degree in English. He has done many things, including editing his college newspaper, writing and directing a short play, angering large groups of people en masse, and acting as both the good and the bad shoulder angel. One day, Brandon hopes to give people their dreams, but whether this is literal or figurative, no one knows.