This morning, I woke up more with more peace than I've had since getting laid off. The conclusion of my unemployment isn't ideal, but I'm happy about the trajectory it's placed me on.
Since my lay off June 30th, I've been a robot. No feelings, no friends, just survival and job search activities. At the end of July, I hit a rough patch, and the longest period of my life without suicidal ideation was pierced.
It took a week to realign myself. I needed to mourn the loss of wellness I'd only recently achieved. It wasn't a full return to chronic suicidal ideation; it was a loss of motivation to live with occasional suicidal ideation. I'm not at risk of suicide because I've got the cats, but the waning of my will to live was something I told my doctor about for posterity.
It would take three separate validations to lift me back into relative mental wellness. The first two were interviews with universities in Nova Scotia. I interviewed for a residence life job in Halifax and an accessibility services job in Sydney. Getting those interviews was meaningful because it told me my resume works, and my qualifications are valuable.
I can pinpoint the moment when the Halifax opportunity extinguished. It was the "do you have any questions?" part at the end. I did, two thoughtful pragmatic questions. 1) Is a tuition waiver included in compensation, 2) are staff entitled to use campus health services?
Over the course of the interview, I had disclosed (dis)abilities and my intent to be a part of the academic community in addition to working on campus. I got the most sheepish "no" for both inquiries. The position was a 1-year contract, and tuition waivers were only offered to permanent staff, and staff were to fend for themselves opting into Nova Scotia's notably strained health care system. The interviewers visibly felt badly communicating this quandary, and I could not hide my disappointment.
I approached the job in Sydney with much less pressure. It's a lot harder to get to and live in Sydney, so I had a hard salary floor identified for a move to be worthwhile. CBU has an idiotic policy of not disclosing compensation until an offer has been made. The interviewers thought it was dumb too. In addition to asking the dollar amount of compensation, I asked the same two questions that torpedoed my first interview and got the same two answers, but worse.
I'd read online about CBU staff having access to campus health services, and I was very happy about this arrangement. I was prepared to swallow the no tuition waiver, but I had to ask anyway. What I wasn't ready for was a policy change coming into effect Fall 2023. Because of a problematic explosion in the international student population (there's a W5 episode about it), staff were no longer allowed to access campus health services.
I learned this after reading CBU's multi-year accessibility plan, which did not reflect well on the university, *while interviewing for a job in the accessibility services office*. At that point, I internally withdrew my hopes for the job. As a (dis)abled applicant, I needed to tell them that policy change is a major barrier to recruiting (dis)abled staff.
The interviewers seemed shocked and concerned, like they'd never thought of the policy change as structurally ableist. However, at that moment, it was undeniable. They accepted the reality of the situation with discomfort and said they would have conversations around health services access for (dis)abled new staff with relevant parties. CBU's commitment to accessibility felt hollow, but if anyone was going to ignite a cultural shift, it would be someone unapologetic like me.
I put the opportunity out of mind and said "if I get a call, it'll be a good problem to have." It's been over 3 weeks, and I haven't even gotten a "thanks for applying" email. I sized-up the opportunity correctly.
Two days ago, I broke through with a marginal victory. I landed a casual position with University of Toronto moving services. I'll take underemployment over unemployment, and I'm not at all against physical work. In actuality, I'd rather stay in shape doing menial labour than emotionally exhaust myself in customer service.
It's a win on 4 fronts: having income (obvs), access to staff development resources, internal candidacy for permanent jobs, and the social grace of "I work at U of T." I have a one-line explanation of what I'm doing with my time. The ability to offer a relatable, respectable account of your time concisely is pivotal to effective job searching and networking.
I can pursue permanent employment prospects intentionally now. The pressure to gain immediate employment has lifted. I can shove a sock in the neurodivergent urge to extensively consider alternatives; there were 4 career pivots floating in my "just in case" bubble. I considered med lab tech or nursing education through the Ontario Learn & Stay Grant, pre-apprenticeships in arboriculture or masonry, a 5-course GIS certificate from Seneca Polytech, federally funded through Quicktrain, and a self-study plan to become an NRCan Registered Energy Advisor.
I'd carefully ruled out arborist training last week. If I ever pivot to a
trade, it will be masonry. I want to build tiny brick houses and
artistic brick/stone sculptures. Arborist training was considered
favourably for timing's sake. Masonry training doesn't start until April or May.
Over Winter term 2023, I completed a Quicktrain course in Indigenous-Canadian Government Relations and the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Training Course. Accessibility and decolonization are conversations happening on campuses across the country, and I wanted my familiarity to be evident to hiring managers. Given the call backs from Nova Scotia, I am satisfied to say it was worth it.
I'm registered in two more Quicktrain courses, both from Seneca: Foundations of Sustainable Event Management, and Introduction to GIS (the first of 5 in the stack). Event planning is desirable for student affairs, and GIS skills are valuable in countless ways. Unless a permanent job falls in my lap soon, I'm planning to complete both.
The U of T gig also shackles me to Toronto more than I've ever been. I accept that I'm going to be here for a while, and I can finally make time investments in the people and causes I care about in Toronto. I can give myself permission to be social instead of fastidiously upskilling and job searching.
Toronto is more like home now, even though I'm still in a challenging housing arrangement that moving services won't pay me enough to escape. My last post closed foreshadowing the path to permanent employment. I walked on dread for 53 days, but I'm out of the subsistence-guilt feedback loop that tore me away from mental wellness. Today, I walk on bricks of palliate enthusiasm.
This bitch works at U of T 😎