Question 161: “Please fix my life?”

Dear Captain Awkward,

Hello! I hope all is well with you and things. I have a long rambling question that is either summed up as “money: how do I get it” or “life: how do I fix it,” so, yeah.

Relevant life history: Recovering alcoholic dry drunk unintentionally emotionally abusive father, unintentionally emotionally abuse mother, batshit crazy running in both sides of the family no matter how hard my mum tries to deny it, income wildly varying between working poor and lower middle class. I’m the middle kid and either “the scapegoat” or the only good one. I mean, the story my parents had about me was that I was their success because I was wicked wicked smart, well-behaved (unlike my younger sister), wasn’t going to drop out of college when I got there (unlike my much older brother), was going to make lots of money etc etc etc.

This story fell the fuck apart when I hit college for a variety of reasons: one of my roommates freshman year finally managed to do what all of the people I knew had been trying to do since I was little, and convinced me that my home life Wasn’t Normal and that was not in fact how all families were and seriously that shit is fucked up yo. And also that I was crazy in the head, not normal, because apparently it is not normal for people to lay in bed and cry for days and barf whenever they had to go to places and shit? Because I always thought I just sucked because I couldn’t suck it up because everyone was like that, you know? Everyone else just had willpower! And shit! And mental illness was a sign of weakness and you just needed to suck it up and get over yourself!

Regardless, I got on meds that worked to varying degrees of well, and therapy that worked to vary degrees of okay, and basically managed to slow my exceedingly fast downward spiral into a slow downward spiral that ended with me dropping out of my five year university program (we did internships and shit, so.) in the fourth year and getting an internship based almost solely on how the manager felt kind of sorry for me I am pretty sure.

I had moved out of the dorms sophomore year and into an apartment because, uh, it seemed like a better idea than getting someone to switch suites with me so that I didn’t murder my shitty, shitty roommates, and managed to keep myself pretty well afloat on student loan money (terrible idea, I know, but moving back home seemed like an even more terrible idea at the time, as I was trying to stop contact with my family for a time so that I could get my head screwed on straight which they were, uh, not. helping.) then panicked at the end of the internship and went back to school at a state school because if you don’t have a college degree you will die homeless and alone or something. And also I had been kicked off my parents’ health insurance and really needed health insurance because my meds at the time were over $900 a month so I had gone off them cold turkey and eurgh.

After almost a year of searching (because I had been searching the whole while I was at the internship, because I would have been totally okay walking away from that for a permanent position) I finally found a job that had my gut going after the interview THIS IS A BAD IDEA DO NOT TAKE THIS JOB IF IT IS OFFERED THIS IS A BAD IDEA YOU WOULD BE BETTER OFF HOMELESS I SWEAR DO NOT DO THIS.

I did it.

And it turns out my gut was right and it was almost a year of complete and total misery with an abusive bully of a boss, a hostile workplace, harassment that I was too fucking stupid to document and it was just terrible and I was looking for jobs and crying and puking every morning that I had work and trying to do school in between and being paid well but not getting enough hours to actually pay all of my bills/rent never mind groceries and stuff!

So clearly stealing things from work that I could hawk for rent money and shit is the logical solution, right? No, no it is not, but that did not stop me because it seemed to be the best solution at the time until I got caught and that was okay even because hey I’ll pay it back and whatever I get fined and shit except now I am being accused of stealing shit I didn’t which I really, really should have seen coming.

So now I am waiting for a court summons, and have ramped up my job search from the constant searching for almost two and a half years at this point to frantic desperate searching. And I do not mean like searching for jobs I feel I deserve. I mean doing that and then going to McDonalds’ and Walmart and etc etc and metaphorically begging them to hire me. Which is not working and my parents do not understand why it is not working and are of the opinion that I am just not actually trying hard enough!

Meanwhile, my sister has graduated with a BS, got a masters, and in her very first job is making almost as much as my mother makes after a forty year career. She is also living with my parents until she finds a job in Ireland (and has been living with them for all this time) so that she can move in with her boyfriend (which will actually be really good for her and I am really happy for her and her boyfriend does not suck which is great!) So my sister is doing great and living with my parents and her only bills are gas, credit cards, and student loans.

This is super relevant because I literally have no money. My bank account is a couple pennies away from being overdrawn. Rent has been an increasing scramble to come up with and I’ve tapped out all my resources for that in my support network, because we are all living either just above or well below the poverty line. My parents have been chucking money at me which really, really helped for a while and I’ve been able to keep up with rent and bills, but. That has ended. Hard.

And I have been trying for months to get them to let me move the hell back in because I literally have no money and no job and it is not like they are actually well off enough that they can afford to throw money at me without giving up a shitload of things themselves. Because lord knows they won’t charge my sister rent! But the answer has always been no no no and according to my mum, it is because she can not handle dealing with my sister (who has learned how to treat people from my parents so, you know, it is not a picnic living with her and she and my dad team up against my mum and etc) with another person in the house. My sister says it is because my mum does not want to add more animals to the house (they have three cats, I have three cats and a dog that my dad loves and a friend who will take two of the cats for the duration which my mother knows so it is one cat and one dog, both of whom stick to me like glue (point being, except for when I was out on job interviews, they would be chilling in the basement with me and not bothering anyone else))

It was looking like it was going to be okay for a while, because I had a friend I was going to move halfway across the country to live with her and her family and it was literally going to be perfect, we had a trial period with me + all my animals a bit back to make sure everything would work and I could spend some time looking for jobs out there and it was great and they fucking loved my animals and me and then I had to drop all of the money I had set aside for moving on car repairs and cancel the moving truck and unpack my things and it was terrible.

And then I just had a really good job interview that I got through a staffing company and I was positive I was going to get the job because it was entry level but I have some experience and they seemed to really like me and it was totally awesome! And then my contact at the staffing agency called and was like “Soooooo they talked a lot about how much they liked you and seriously they really fucking liked you a lot holy shit, but they decided to go with someone with a bit more experience instead.”

That is kind of how all my job interviews go!! They really like me, I am really fucking good at job interviews according to people who do not actually have to say anything about whether I am good or bad so that the fact that they are all WE LOVE YOU LOTS has to be true right? and I do extra curricular activities in my field and they just end up going with people with more experience. Or I have too much experience which I thought was a fucking myth but apparently not and I have tried every freaking combination of experience and education on applications to service industry and retail places and jack. fucking. shit. I do not know what I am doing wrong! And it is really fucking frustrating because I can not pay my rent tomorrow and it is not like I am refusing to apply for jobs that are ~beneath me~ or what the fuck ever because jesus christ no job is beneath me as long as it gives me money.

And then I am going to have a criminal record because I make terrible life choices and jesus fuck it is going to be even fucking harder to get a job then which, I don’t know, it is seeming pretty impossible right now! And I have six figures worth of student loans coming due because I, again, make terrible life choices and am graduating and already used up my grace period on medical leave! My friends are being really supportive and are great and all but we’ve all reached the end of our ability to help each other out monetarily. My girlfriend is… very middle class America and does not really understand what it means to Not Have Money no matter how much I try to explain it to her, and it’s hit a point where it is just too frustrating of a conversation to have so I don’t. At least it is long distance, right? :D? :D? 😦

So, my life is falling apart, it feels like, and a lot of it is due to me making really fucking shitty decisions. I have no idea what I’m going to do on the first and I am really, really angry that I can’t move back in with my parents but my sister is welcome to live there even though she doesn’t need to. I mean, I would understand it if they were all GOD WE ARE SO GLAD YOU CHILDREN ARE OUT OF OUR NEST AND IT IS OURS AGAIN GO DEAL WITH YOUR OWN DAMN PROBLEMS YOUR OWN DAMN SELF NOW 😡 Except… they aren’t. Because my sister is living with them with no firm plans to move out (or, rather, plans that are constantly changing, because first she was moving in September, then November, then January, now April) and it feels especially unfair because my concrete plan would be, as soon as I have a damn job, move the hell out. Living there makes me crazy in a very literal way. But hey as long as I can keep paying the copay, I am on meds and have an appointment with a new therapist in January.

I… don’t really know what sort of advice I am looking for or what advice you could even give me. I am just like, Captain Awkward, you are a cool lady and you give really good advice to other people and sometimes it is about things that are sort of similar to what is going on with me I think PLEASE TELL ME HOW TO FIX MY LIFE ;_____;

So Far Beyond the End of My Rope Not Even Warp 10 Could Get Me Back to It

I don’t know how to fix your life.

This is one of those times where you have to ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” and then ask yourself, “Ok, if that happens, what will I do then?

For instance, if you run out of money and your parents remain firm in not letting you move back in, what happens when you run out of money? Will you become homeless? What will you do, specifically, if you become homeless? What shelter would you move into? What are its hours and rules?  What can you keep with you? What things should you acquire for that eventuality? What would you do with your stuff and your pets? Could you visit the shelter now and take a look at it, and figure out transportation?

Your parents may be letting yours sister stay there because she does have the resources and an end date (even if it’s a changing one) to move out and they know it is a temporary situation, while they may worry that if you move back in it will not be a temporary situation. And I’m sorry, it IS a big deal to accept more animals into a household. Do they know about the theft and the court case at work, by the way?

So first step: Admit that it IS that bad. Figure out what immediate steps you will have to take to get shelter, food, a place to shower, where you will put your stuff, how you will keep yourself safe.

I have a few other immediate suggestions for you:

1. Find new homes for your pets. Your life is too unstable to have them right now. They are going to be a barrier for you in finding any new housing situation, and a financial drain in terms of food, veterinary care. I’m sure it’s heartbreaking to think of losing them, but you are responsible for them and to take care of them you have to take care of yourself. A lot of people who might take you in will not take your pets, no matter how awesome/cute/well-behaved/beloved/attached to you they are. That is reality.

2. Look into a 12-step program. Debtors Anonymous, maybe? I don’t know if they are the right fit for you – maybe there is one that is better? I don’t have direct experience with them and I’m not much of a Higher Power person, but when I read your story I think “Hey, that’s a group of people who have hit bottom and banded together to make their way back. They have had to face up to some serious bad life choices about money and learn how to forgive themselves. You could use some people like that around.” Find a meeting of some kind. Go, see what happens. Go back more than once. You could do worse than have an anchor like that, I think.

3. Level with your parents completely about your situation. Have the difficult conversation, or put it in a letter. Tell them about crime, imminent homelessness, and your mental health. They may still say you can’t live with them, and that’s their right to decide. Maybe they’ll stake you to move in with your friend, if that option is available. Give them the opportunity to know fully what’s going on and to help if they can. Be prepared for what you’ll do if they won’t. Negotiate any assistance you can from them. Would they allow you to list their address on job applications if you do become homeless, for example?  Could you store things, take showers, and eat some meals there?

4. Take an inventory of your material possessions and your skills. What can you sell? What can you trade? Do you need your car (to live in, for example?)

5. Go the fuck to the library. You are going to become an expert in job-searching resources for hard-to-employ people. You are going to become an expert on finding medical studies and assistance programs that might help with your mental illness and paying for some of your meds. You are going to file for every form of government and charitable assistance you can. You are going to become an expert on student loans and how to defer them or file for forbearance. You are going to know about every shelter, halfway house, food bank, public park with a shower facility in the city.

You’ve made some terrible decisions, sure. Guess what?  Rich people are not smarter than we are, and they are not perfect at decisionmaking. They just have a safety net that protects them when they fuck up. That doesn’t mean you aren’t answerable for your decisions. It means that you don’t have that margin of safety, so you cannot afford to be ignorant or to just let things happen to you. The cavalry is maybe not coming this time, so you must investigate every resource that might be available to you, and try every door that might open. As a college-educated person with some work experience, access/knowledge of the web, able to read and write well, etc. you have a level of privilege in tackling this that others do not. Use every advantage you have to save yourself.

6. Maybe you did this already, but there is a lawyer handling your theft stuff, right? If not, get one through Legal Aid or a local university’s legal clinic. There may be a way to salvage the situation, or at least make it have fewer future consequences for you.

Finally, I don’t know what you are doing wrong in your job search. If you haven’t noticed, there aren’t enough jobs for job seekers, especially new college grads. Maybe get rid of the idea that there is a level of job you “deserve?” Keep looking? Volunteer to keep your skills and network fresh?  Be prepared to relocate anywhere (one more reason to re-home your pets)? It’s the same tired advice, I’m sorry. Employers can smell desperation and we’re all at great pains to remain positive, even though no one is feeling all that positive and we are especially not feeling positive when this job could mean the difference between food and not food, between home and not home.

That’s what I can think of right now. I wish you luck.

36 thoughts on “Question 161: “Please fix my life?”

  1. I feel for you greatly, life has seriously given you a raw deal. The Captain’s advice is great if you want to go the “responsible citizen” route – i.e. stay within the trap that our fucked up society has created for you (and for millions of other people too). There is no way that whatever “bad decisions” you have made are the sole result of all this. The game is rigged from the outset for anyone who isn’t privileged.

    Only you can decide which route you need to take, but I would like to alert you to the fact that there is another way, that involves escaping society’s trap. It just requires seriously thinking outside the box, and a level of adaptation and uncertainty, that many can’t deal with (although I think the reality of being homeless is even more uncertain, personally).

    Namely, this other way involves saying FUCK YOU to society, its laws, the debt you “owe” – all of it. Rather than get a job, pay stores for food, pay other people rent money, etc, you can reclaim your birthright as a human being and live directly off the land, squat in the wilderness somewhere, live off the grid, and garden/hunt/gather and scavenge whatever else you might need (i.e. dumpster diving). I know quite a few people who are doing this right now, who don’t have to be a wage slave to survive – and who are living FAR more fulfilled, happy lives than anyone struggling to survive within the confines of the system.

    Yes, doing this alone is quite difficult, especially if you have no knowledge of the skills it takes – but with other people, it isn’t hard at all. It definitely requires daily work, but you’re working directly for your own survival, on your own terms, rather than for others, and you will still have FAR more free time. It is also easier the more primitively (low-key) one lives. In that respect it is similar to being homeless, except that you can have a (small, rustic) home of your own with a fire to keep you warm rather than a cold underpass or an overcrowded shelter, live in the forest rather than in a dirty city park, and eat far better than junk food. You are also far safer in the wild than in a city, any day.

    I also know people who have student loans and have no intention of ever paying them back. As long as they stay invisible to the system (no official address and no official job), there is nothing the banks can do. They can’t dock your pay if you don’t make any (at least by official means), especially if they can’t even find you!

    Regardless of what you choose to do, I thought you should be made aware of this alternative (along with everyone else, really). To find others who also think this way, and more or less live this way, I would go to the various primitive skills gatherings that are held around the country every year. Also google “rewilding”.

    Whatever you decide, I wish you the best of luck.

    1. This advice seems remarkably unsuited to the LW’s situation. First of all, they’re maybe struggling with psychiatric problems like depression or anxiety, which means that they probably should have healthcare. They also need a certain level of stability and cooperative oversight–both for managing their health problems and for making sure that those problems don’t get worse suddenly. Someone with a history of depression does not sudden upsets. They’re also struggling with legal problems–they should at least wait to figure out whether they’re facing felony charges. They’re also broke and exhausted, and clearly reaching out for a little bit of help and support. That isn’t something you can find while Galt, not if you’re already without the internal resources and stability that allow you to hie off to the wilderness. Really, what they need to do is stay put, find support wherever they can, and prepare for the storm that’s coming. Pulling up stakes right now would be very dangerous.

      1. Well, maybe. But from my own history of depression, trying to “fit in” to mainstream society was the EXACT THING that was causing it, and when I realized that I had another option, that opened the door out of it. Frankly, why do you think we are having a societal epidemic of depression right now, and growing each year? Maybe its because living the rat race is toxic to the soul? All my friends and I consider those following the rat race to be “the walking dead”, just going through the motions of life, without following their true vision (or even realizing that that is a possibility).

        Hence my desire to at least offer another option for consideration.

      2. Also, I am extremely dubious of medicating symptoms + returning to a toxic living situation (moving back in with abusive parents) as a true solution for depression, in general. Maybe that is what the LW feels they need to do in the short-term, and only they can know what’s best for themselves. But in general I think we all need to seriously start looking at the root causes of depression – as a psycho-spiritual disease serving as a red flag for something that needs to be addressed – rather than treating it the same as a physical disease that can be fixed by taking a particular medication (although I don’t really think physical disease should be dealt with in only that way either). With our ever-expanding pharmacopia of drugs to treat depression, and ever expanding use of those drugs, why is it that depression keeps afflicting more and more people? While those drugs may be absolutely necessary to help people manage their depression (a bandage on the wound, so to speak), do any of you really consider them to truly help the healing of that wound?

        1. Jessica, I think that one reason your comments are making some people (including me) itchy, is that in response to a “Help I might be homeless soon and my life is awful” question with “Maybe you should change your entire worldview,” which is kind of a tall order for someone who’s barely standing on her feet. I’m glad you found what worked for you. But you sound awfully judgmental: the walking dead? Really?

        2. …Maybe because more people are being treated, instead of invited to ignore the problem? Before antidepressants, there was alcohol. There was also misery.

          And frankly, this is so not the hill this woman should die on. She should get some help, and that might well involve both therapy and medication.

          And YES, antidepressants do have a salutary effect on depression. That’s like saying that insulin doesn’t cure diabetes because it doesn’t actually get your body to produce its own insulin. It’s like saying that a prosthesis doesn’t cure an amputee. The disease is the chemical imbalance. The medication corrects that chemical imbalance. It isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t work for everyone, but it does work. You’re being ignorant here, and it’s irresponsible given that this thread was set up to help a woman who has basically said that she went off her meds and out of care because both options were financially unfeasible, and not because they didn’t help. She does not need your paranoid crap about how antidepressants are a psychiatric conspiracy. She needs a goddamn doctor.

        3. Hello Jessica! I was away from the computer all day so didn’t get a chance to respond earlier – I’m glad SweetMachine and Piny have this in hand.

          It’s very cool that you’ve turned poverty into an adventure. It’s a way to take control of a situation and find the good in it, and I totally want to be your friend when the zombie apocalypse comes.

          Like others, I take strong issue with the “if you’re not scraping by and living off the land you are the walking dead” comments. Psych meds do not carry a moral value that is different from an asthma inhaler (I need 2 different kinds of asthma inhalers, btw!) or any medication that treats a chronic condition, so I’m dubious about your dubiousness and would like to say a big yay for science!

    2. This sounds like an especially bad idea for the LW, who (in addition to all the stuff piny pointed out) is without the kind of start-up capital such a plan would require.

      1. there’s really not much start up capital involved. I’ve known a small handful of previously-homeless-now-traveling-farmer crusty punk kids. their lifestyle is still confusing and hard, but much better than being homeless in a city alone. they’re currently part of an organic farm that provides them room&board for labor (and is part of a cooperative of such farms), but unfortunately I can’t remember the name of it to save my life. :\

        of course, that doesn’t solve the very real mental health issues.
        which one can always focus on medication and the healthcare costs — or look into alternative mental health collectives.

        1. *it is also of course because said friends had already taken the homelessness route and became train riding/traveling through that, so.

    3. Oh god, believe you me, I have totally considered it before everything got this fucked up. Unfortunately, my mental illness can’t be entirely blamed on this shitty rat race, no matter how much I wish it could. So one of the major things holding me back is that I need a certain level of medication to function and for that I need health insurance. I am really, really lucky to live in one of the very few states that has government insurance for poor people so I don’t end up bleeding out in my bathtub!

      And honestly, I would say screw the student loans, but because my parents cosigned on some of them, instead of just going into default and the like, my parents would end up stuck paying them back which they really can not afford and I am not the sort of person who could live with myself after doing that, you know? Like, if it would just affect me and my credit and my life and everything, that’s one thing. But I can’t justify fucking up other people’s lives because I currently have a “fuck the system and the horse it rode in on” mentality going on.

  2. If possible, I think that the LW should really try to stop comparing themselves to their sister. That way lies madness, and what good does it do?

    Good luck with the job search. In this economy it really is a numbers game, so keep trying.

    1. I was thinking I shouldn’t comment on this one due to lack of any useful ideas, but yeah, Marie’s got the right idea.

      I also can proffer only humble hugs.

  3. I’m currently in a (much, much less dire) financial and emotional rut, so I feel like I can empathize with you, LW.

    I don’t know if you’re feeling this, but one of my biggest problems when things start piling up is that there are just SO MANY THINGS that it is REALLY REALLY important for me to do, and they’re all so goddamn overwhelming that I just hide from them. I tell myself “I’ll get to that when I’m done [insert pretty much any procrastination activity here]” when really what I’m doing is huddling under the covers hoping the world will go away. Meanwhile my problems are getting bigger and I’m more overwhelmed and on top of that I need to do things I should have done WEEKS ago and I feel like if I do them late that I will dissolve under the judgment of people thinking that I’m just a lazy, irresponsible waste of space.

    I don’t know if you’re feeling any of that, but I imagine you are feeling overwhelmed (duh). And If you have any of the avoidance tenancies that I do, might I suggest a little tactic that my friend gave me that I’ve found immensely helpful?

    1. Make a list of everything you need to do. A real, physical list. Decorate it with pretty colors if you’re that type of person.
    2. Put that list on your wall (or somewhere easiliy accessible that you will see all the time)
    3. Do one thing on that list every day, and then cross it off. You only have to do one thing! (unless you have 20 things to do in 10 days, then do 2 things). The point is to make the huge avalanche of responsibilities into easily bite-sized pieces, and then having physical confirmation of making progress. The feeling of control and accomplishment I get when I cross something off my list with a thick black sharpie is indescribable after feeling so powerless and useless for so long.

    Also, above all else, keep one thing in mind. Know it like you know nothing else in your life.

    You will be okay.

    You will. Have faith. I do


    1. Ah ha ha I am totally the person who gets all super overwhelmed and goes and hides from everything in hopes it will magically do itself. It hasn’t before but this time it will surely work right? Right??

      I am really lucky that right now my only responsibility is to apply for jobs, because I find that really easy to turn into a consistent schedule (I like consistent schedules) that’s like, Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday five job applications a day, Thursday-Friday drive around looking for WE’RE HIRING!!!!! signs. Saturday-Sunday hit as many retail/food places as possible to turn in applications. Consistency: totally fucking great.

      Thank you for the visible list suggestion. It really does feel ridiculously good to cross something off of a list, and I bet it would feel even better if it was something I could see all the time rather than just when I happened to pull up the google doc or whatever.

      1. One practical change: try crossing off your list with a highlighter instead of a Sharpie. Same sense of satisfaction, and no wondering later which heavily-crossed-out-item you accomplished. Otherwise, you might add it back to the bottom of the list by mistake!

  4. i got nothin too, but wanted to offer my positive thoughts and love. You will prevail.

  5. This sounds like a really tough situation, LW. I wish you good luck and good courage, and I hope things get better. In relation to your parents, maybe it might help if you try to reframe the issue in your mind as a strategic issue, not a fairness issue. It does seem unfair they let your sister live at home but not you, and in your shoes I’d probably also be resentful. But maybe you could try to put that aside for some purposes. You need to move back in. They don’t want you to. Maybe rather than focussing on why this isn’t fair, you could try to figure out their real concerns with you moving in and whether you can do something to address them. Don’t just dismiss their concerns, however unfounded. Eg, as the good Captain suggests, if they don’t want more animals, you find new homes for the animals. If they don’t want a kid at home who spends all their time in the basement, you might be able to reassure them it won’t be that way. I should add that I am not advising signing up to anything that violates the boundaries you feel you need to set with your family due to the fucked-up-ness mentioned in your letter. But if you could try to see it like a negotiation, and think of things you can comfortably and honestly bring to the table to make your parents ok with you living at home, it might help more with getting what you want. Again, I wish you all the best.

    1. Maybe rather than focussing on why this isn’t fair, you could try to figure out their real concerns with you moving in and whether you can do something to address them.

      That is kind of the problem? No one in my family is ever willing or able to just come right and say This Is The Problem no matter how direct you’re asking. There is lots of hemming and hawing and shrugging and dancing around everything so I feel like I am playing detective trying to figure out what is going on. It’s like that with everything anyone is uncomfortable talking about, so I’m used to it, but it still makes conversations hard.

      And so part of the problem is that I am trying to address concerns that may or may not exist. Like, okay, you can’t handle another person in the house when sister is living there, would that be addressed by me staying in the dang basement all the time, since it has a separate entrance and everything? Or is the problem not actually about another physical body taking up space and more about the additional… uh I am not actually sure of the right word right now for what I am thinking? Something about drama?

      The point is, that is excellent advice, I am just not sure how to make it work for my situation. Or if I am like that person who just needs to accept that the lady does not want to date them and there is nothing they can do about that and the lady has been telling them that all along and they have just been ignoring her.

      Unfortunately, I suspect that I am like that person in this case!

      1. Given that you like schedules and consistency, how do you feel about compartmentalization? If you like it, my suggestion is to put That Family Stuff in a giant box, mark the box with “LATER” in large letters, and shove it in the back of your mind’s closet for a while.

        Right now you’re trying to figure out your basic daily survival. That’s a full-time job, and if your Family Stuff has been Stuff your whole life, it will keep until you’re in a safe place.

        (But if they’ll store some of your stuff, GREAT.)

        Wishing you open doors and lucky breaks, LW.

  6. LW, in addition to looking into resources like libraries, food banks, shelters, food stamps, welfare, and all the other things that have been mentioned, you may want to take a look at how other people in a similar situation cope.

    There is a blog called The Boxcar Kids. It is written by an unemployed single mom with 4 kids, one of whom has health issues. They and their pets live in a travel trailer in a park. For a while, they were living in a tent. She does a lot of things to make ends meet, including networking, editing papers, tutoring, helping other people run their e-bay stores, making stuff to sell on etsy, collecting stuff to sell in her own ebay store, and accepting donations. Much of what she does is part of the “grey economy” in that many people wouldn’t recognize her money earning efforts as jobs because she doesn’t really have employers. Other people who post in her comments talk about taking on low cost child care duties (babysitting), housekeeping, lawn/yard care, small home maintenance jobs etc just to keep money coming in as they continue to upgrade their skills and look for work.

    She has been unemployed (and the whole family has been homeless) for over a year. It has been very hard and very, very stressful but somehow she has managed to move them from tent to tiny trailer to somewhat better trailer through sheer will power and hard work. Perhaps she can be an inspiration to you and offer you some ideas for earning income while looking for a “real” job/jobs.

    Good luck..

  7. Make sure you have a lawyer for the criminal stuff. This is not optional. A public defender or lawyer can make a mistake less terminal.

  8. Check into whether your area has a “home share” organization. Those organizations coordinate arrangements so someone (typically elderly) who has a bigger house than makes any sense for them to live alone in but who doesn’t want to give it up can share it with someone who needs a place to live, in exchange for the kind of physical work around the house that the homeowner would usually do but can’t manage anymore. Or sometimes it’s just that the homeowner and those who care about him/her would feel better if the person was not living alone, but there are no family members willing/able to move in, so low key companionship and just having someone around who would know if the person was ill or injured has value.

    Those organizations screen pretty carefully to protect the elders from being taken advantage of, and I won’t lie: it’s possible that your legal issues would be an insurmountable barrier. They WILL do a background check. But you come across to me as someone that kind of haven would be perfect for if you can get it, and you say you interview well, so I thought it was worth mentioning. Especially if you can get your legal problems squared away (I’m with Jason: get a lawyer to minimize the long-term impact of your bad decision).

  9. I strongly recommend that LW start trying to find a good social worker to help them out. A lot of community resources like food banks, shelters, community health and mental health centers, etc. offer case management. Take one of them up on it if at all possible. Becoming an expert on paperwork and systems that can help you via the library is a good idea and can’t hurt, but a good case worker has a broad network of contacts and practical know-how about how to solve exactly these problems that comes from years of experience helping a lot of different people in similar situations to LW’s.

    1. I’m going to bigtime second this. If the LW lives in or near a big city that’s best, but even in less populated areas, social workers can hook you up with all sorts of resources you can’t find on Google.

      (I’m also going to throw in that depression is a medical problem just as much as asthma is, and antidepressants are as much of a legit medical need as an asthma inhaler. Don’t let anyone–most especially yourself–tell you that you ought to fix everything with sheer willpower. Antidepressants are a crutch… and crutches are awesome because they help people walk who couldn’t otherwise.)

      1. Indeed. “Crutch” and “band-aid” have become pejorative… but actually, if your leg is busted you should get a crutch, and if you have a cut you should definitely put a band-aid on that shit.

  10. Holy shit, I did not actually think this would get answered since it was so long and rambly and kind of pretty obviously written at butt o’clock in the morning! So this is exciting!

    That is a really good point about seeing if my parents will store some of my stuff. Because, you know, if I have somewhere to store shit, I can totally manage to get me and a carload of things out to my friend, and hey, maybe the McDonaldses (and similar places) out there will magically be more willing to hire me than the ones around here, which would be totally fucking awesome.

    The same tired advice is still really helpful, because it means there isn’t something really obvious (or not so really obvious) that I’ve overlooked and should be doing. It’s like, hooray! I’m doing everything right, I am awesome! coupled with gdit I’m doing everything right and still nothing. It is really reassuring to hear from people who have vastly different experiences that no, I am not a terrible person who has been wasting her time because she overlooked some key part of job hunting, I am doing what I can in the circumstances it is just the circumstances suck balls.

    Seriously, thank you for answering this. What you’ve said is both helpful and reassuring, and I really appreciate it.

    And to everyone offering positive thoughts/hugs I hugely appreciate those, too. That is a pleasant (and by pleasant I mean totally awesome) surprise. ❤ for everyone!

    1. I was reluctant to respond here initially without knowing how things were going to go, but since it didn’t become any kind of flamefest… One thing that clanged a little bit to me about your letter is the bit about the stealing. They way you stated it made it sound as if you basically view your theft of your employer’s property as something morally neutral that you did that didn’t work out. A traditional “bad decision.”

      That’s not how a prospective employer’s going to view it. A record of stealing from your employer is absolutely going to make it extremely difficult for you to find a job. The best way to deal with it if you wind up having to disclose it (which you should not do if you’re not asked about it) is to take a bit clearer responsibility for what you did (which was unambiguously wrong and a criminal act) and decide for yourself why it’s not going to happen again so that you can explain it to a new employer in a way that’s believable.

      I’d especially lose the bit about how your boss was abusive and the workplace was hostile. Absolutely irrelevant to the fact that you stole, but more importantly if you include that it sounds as if you’re planning to never steal again unless of course you have an abusive boss and a hostile work environment in which case, you’ll just be more careful not to get caught.

      Stealing from your company doesn’t make you evil (most of us have done it – gasp) but a RECORD of stealing from your employer is going to be a hard thing to overcome. Start by owning up to it fully.

      1. I think this is exactly right. Any hint of justifying the stealing because of bad stuff that went on is going to sink the LW with new employers.

  11. The only thing I can think to tell you LW, is that you’re probably not as stupid or as lazy as you seem to think you are. There’s this myth in the US, called the American Dream. That if you work hard and follow the rules you’ll succeed, in fact the harder you work, the more you’ll succeed. The painful inverse to this rule is that if you’re not succeeding, you must be lazy and stupid. But it’s not true. Rich people are just as lazy and stupid as poor people. We’re all just people. The shit storm that’s going on in your life doesn’t mean that you’re lazy or a bad person.

    Being a good hardworking person does not mean you’ll live the good life, and if you’re not living the good life, it doesn’t mean you’re not a good hardworking person.

  12. Hey Letter Writer, all of this stuff sucks! I am sorry! As a fellow job-seeker, though, I also want to chime in with “you’re not missing anything; the economy really just blows” chorus.

    I would suggest that you might want to consider making time in your job-applying schedule to volunteer at an organization that is relevant to your professional interests (such as they are)… you might even be able to call it a part-time unpaid internship. Getting experience, even unpaid experience, on your resume is super helpful, and so much of the job market is about networking–volunteering can be a good place to start. A lot of the time, organizations just need someone to do admin-type work or fairly simple Internet research. I highly recommend for looking for these, and if you don’t see anything there, you can try Craigslist. If you can’t commit to the time the internships are looking for, you could look at volunteering for fewer hours weekly at a pet shelter–it demonstrates reliability and will give you someone to name as a reference who can say “she shows up on time and follows directions!” which will probably be helpful in the job hunt. And it might be a good way to get an animal fix back in your life if you do end up giving up your pets.

  13. This is a bit late, so I don’t know if you’ll see it or not, but hopefully you will! If you can’t find a social worker and end up going the library route for information, it will probably be really beneficial for you to actually talk to a librarian at the library.

    There are limits to the how-to-fill-out-forms-sucessfully advice and networking resources that they can give you compared to a social worker, but they ought to be well-versed in what the local resources for this kind of stuff are (lots of libraries even make guides with this information and either put them on their website or provide print copies in the library). Librarians get a masters degree in how to find information that it’s hard to get from google, and talking to one might save you a lot of time. They may want to ask you some questions about why you’re looking for the information, but that’s just to clarify that they understand what kind of information they’re looking for so that they don’t send you to sociology papers studying the homeless when you really need to know about places to get help with food and housing so that you can get the help.

    Good luck!

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