I Got Laid Off. And Honestly, It's Not That Serious.
As we learn to shift the narrative around work, taking on odd jobs needs to be normalized.
The Squeeze is a monthly column that features tips and tricks for surviving the rising cost of living. Each month, Erin dissects lifestyle and cultural changes that have been popularized during the global economic squeeze.
A few weeks ago, I was laid off from my tech job. Given the current tech industry climate, I knew my days were numbered. This is my third layoff in tech since 2020. This time, my company went out of business instead of just slashing departments. A new twist on an old classic!
I’m no stranger to starting over from square one when it comes to my career. I’ve had over thirty jobs in the last fifteen years, ranging from assembly lines to used car sales. While paying the bills is always top of mind, I’ve never been someone who formed their identity around their career. You can’t open LinkedIn these days without seeing 1200-word manifestos about the personality crisis someone experienced after losing their product manager job. These are often followed up by posts expressing the humiliation they feel taking a job they consider below them to pay the bills. I’ve started to realize that my precarious job history and general blasé attitude towards work might be more of a blessing than a curse.
As James Baldwin, and more recently a TikTok sound, once said, “I have no dream job, I do not dream of labour.” Every job I’ve ever had has felt like a liminal space to pay the bills so I could enjoy my downtime before my “real career” began. Now unemployed at thirty, I’m still not sure what that “real career” is. However, I started viewing every whack temporary or summer job I had as an essential part of the plot development along the way.
I grew up in a small town where the main industries were military, manufacturing, and meth distribution. While I dreamed of a journalism career, my room filled with Teen Vogues and Graydon Carter-era Vanity Fairs, it felt completely unattainable. Still a writer at heart, and as a way to tolerate the monotony, I tried to view every otherwise awful summer job as an opportunity to conduct an anthropological study.
One summer, while my peers worked unpaid editorial internships, I was a cart girl at a blue-collar country club. Every Sunday, an ex-porn distributor and his pals would roll up in his yellow ‘78 Camero, light up a meth pipe, and hit the links. Truly the Lord’s day! The club owner, who had a laundry list of DUIs, cracked beer after beer until he swerved a golf cart home down the side road. I was the only server that stayed the entire season, most leaving never to return after less than a week. I loved every second of it.
When I was twenty, I got a temp gig at a factory packaging adult diapers by day and slinging shots at the local country bar by night. Every Friday and Saturday night, I’d serve Budweisers to my ex-boyfriends and future NHL prospects while my boss was in the back railing lines with the bouncers. I’d already convinced myself I was living my “Flashdance” fantasy. Even my boss docking half my tips and being felt up while collecting glasses was just part of showbiz, baby!
By Monday morning, I was back on the line at the diaper factory. Most jobs didn’t require anything beyond supervising a machine or tossing something on a conveyer every few minutes. If you’re worried about AI taking over your job, I recommend supervising a machine slapping stickers on diapers for eight hours a day. The work was so menial I got through it by imagining I was a Sim going through the motions conducted by some higher power until my shift was over.
When I moved to Toronto to try and finally find a “real” job in my industry, I ended up working countless bar jobs to pay rent. One year later, I was only able to secure a temporary unpaid internship. Out of money, I moved home to work at my small-town Volkswagen dealership selling used cars and writing radio ads. I constantly got yelled at for laughing on the floor and was eventually fired for essentially "having too much fun.”
These are only a handful of my past liminal jobs. With jobs in my field being few and far between these days, I’ve realized I might need to take a break from my high-powered tech career. While I look back and LOL now, the bit really lost its sparkle when I fished beer bottles out of toilets at three a.m. When I think about it for too long, I yearn for my old job in the safety of my room where I clicked on things all day.
Whether or not the media wants to admit it, we are in a recession. Entire industries are out of work. An ever-increasing number of friends are returning to serving and retail jobs to pay the bills. While it’s discouraging to go from a six-figure remote job to driving for Uber or slinging shots for wasted finance bros, it’s really not that serious.
If there's one thing my job history has taught me, it's to let go of the belief that there are jobs and industries beneath you. You’d be shocked by the number of people at my factory and bar jobs who had master's degrees. The future has never been so uncertain and we’re all just toiling away trying to survive this late-stage capitalism hellscape. These days, everything is temporary. We might as well make the most of it and do the job for the story, before AI begins to pack diapers.