Letter to a Young, Unemployed Artist - It's on You

I know you. Better than you think. You're the product of a loving family that never really understood what it was you actually wanted. Your folks are hard working people and were always behind you if you needed anything, but their best guidance advice was: "do what makes you happy, kid." So you had the freedom to study whatever you wanted, but complete freedom is often confusing and you ended up picking something fun, life-affirming and completely useless outside academia like comparative literature or art history or even worse, something that everybody wants for free like creative writing or video editing.

You were a great student. Better than you ever were in high school, almost graduated with honors, maybe you even did a master degree while you should have been looking for work. You ended up not quite cutting it in academia and not quite cutting it in the real world also. At least, it's the perception you got of yourself. At the first opportunity you get, you go for broke and decide to use your time on employment insurance to try and improve your situation. It's a courageous decision, but it's also a reckless one. Welcome to the real world, kid. From now on, you're responsible for everything that happens to you.

The folks can't help you. Your significant other can't help you either unless (s)he is the CEO of his/her own company. Your friends will bring your resume to the HR department where they work and walk away feeling like they did a good thing and they totally did. They helped you to the extent of their abilities. Nobody will get you that challenging, creative and life-changing job for you. So starting with the first employment insurance claim you make, every decision you make counts. Every choice you make could save you or break you. This is what being an adult is really like. Making life-altering decisions with your common sense for only safety net.

Are you going to take a few weeks off or jump right away into your quest? Are you going to play the law of averages or only apply to job you really want? Do you even know what you want? If so, do you have a convincing pitch, ready? Have you even worked on it? Those are only the straightforward questions any given job candidate has to figure out. Unemployment is an abstract place to be and you'll spend time in your head, facing yourself. If you're lucky, you will not spend enough time unemployed to face the hard questions. But given your studies and how your experiences translate to your resume, don't count on luck

These are the hard questions. Will you get insecure and stop sending resumes after a painful rejection? Will you take it personal? Are you ready to take responsibility if an opportunity vanishes at the last second? Will you eventually give up? Every decision you make, consciously or not, counts. You are not better or worse than another candidate, but your choosing of unemployment makes you less appealing and you have to make yourself a wanted commodity through cover letters and interviews. A lesson I've learned during unemployment is that no opportunity dies unless you let it. Nothing in your life dies before you do, both literally and metaphorically speaking.

Maybe you've never had to step up before, but if you decide to gamble with unemployment, you will have to. Not for an hour. Not for an evening. There is no time stamp on this. The only variable you can measure in this situation is your willpower. Sounds motivating said like that, but do you have it in you? Do you have it in you to weather complete uncertainty for possibly months? Maybe you have a wife, kids even. Will you be able to put them through this, so dad doesn't devolve into a bitter, scornful asshole? It's difficult and despite what your self-preservation instinct scream at you, you're on your own. Whatever happens is on you.

There will be countless questions and all the answers are within. Don't waste time looking elsewhere.You are alone with your fate, so get to work.


I'm a pop culture blogger and author living in Montreal, Canada with my better half Josie and my dog Scarlett. I am a proud member of author collective Zelmer Pulp and have about a dozen of short stories published to my resume.

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