This is one of those blog posts I’ve wrestled with writing for months. It just doesn’t sit well with me to get all serious on y’all and point out any of my flaws (and believe me there are shitloads to point out.) However, in the name of being cathartic and all that … here we go.
I like to think that most of my blog posts are fairly lighthearted. I’m not a whinger (Got Beef? aside) and I would say in life too, I just don’t complain that much. I’m one of life’s ‘copers.’ I’ve always been a strong woman (far from infallible mind you,) and have always employed that ‘quit your moaning and get on with it woman’ attitude.
Being a ‘coper’ isn’t ideal. People don’t tend to notice if I’m struggling … erm, because I don’t tell them … and leave me to deal with things on my own. I hate asking for help. I find it really difficult to admit if I’m struggling and this can prove to be a big problem. I would say that only my Other Half would ever know if anything was on my mind … and that’s only because I’ll either suddenly go silent, begin ‘angry cleaning’ or start slamming the cupboard doors (he’s left open!)
I digress. In October, I finally had to ask for help. From the Job Centre no less. Ick. I want to scratch myself just thinking about it.
You see, after graduating, I had a cunning plan. I would do some PA work to tide me over until I found a job I really wanted. After all, I hadn’t spent the last four years studying how to write for nothing. Surely, spending a year studying Shakespeare would count for something, right? Erm, wrong. Turns out, it counted for pretty much sod all (although if anyone wants a quote from Much Ado About Nothing, I’m your woman.)
By the time October arrived, I had applied for over 200 office jobs. Bearing in mind I was applying predominantly for jobs I had spent the last twenty years doing (as well as numerous copywriting/freelance writing jobs in the hope that someone, somewhere would just know from my cleverly crafted, beautifully scribed covering letter that I am, in fact, just what they were looking for all along.)
To cut a fairly depressing story short, I finally came to the conclusion that this whole job hunting malarkey wasn’t quite going according to plan and I should just swallow my pride and go crawling to the Job Centre to see if they’d help me.
I just need to point something out here before anyone gets the wrong impression about me, (which generally I’m not bothered about but this one’s important.) I’ve never asked for Benefits before, even as a single mum for 7 years, BUT in hindsight, this was stoooopid. Seriously … that’s what they’re there for, that’s what I should have done years ago but I was just too stubborn and embarrassed and I have the utmost respect for anyone brave enough to ask for help if they’re not coping – it’s not easy to do, as I found out.
So … off to the Job Centre!!! That first day of signing on Jobseekers was H-ard. I’d driven past it before and cringed at the bunch of louts loitering outside. Talk about fitting the stereotype. Can of Tennants? Check. Nicotined stained fingers? Check. Pitbull? Check. It was everything I’d ever envisioned it to be. But worse. The Jeremy Kyle show was taking place right outside for everyone to see.
The first time I walked past them and into the building, I remembered my Mum saying something to me when I went to hospital to have my first child, 16 years ago. “Leave your dignity on the doorstep Kate, and collect it on your way out.” She was right then and it’s exactly what I did when I turned up for my first interview. By the time my name was called, I’d worked myself up into such a frenzy, as soon as the poor bloke asked me to confirm my date of birth, I burst into tears. Not cool.
As the weeks passed, I became immune to the sights I saw outside. The groups of ‘yoofs’ that congregated outside and the layabouts that pretended to look for work inside, were obvious. They knew how to work the system. But I didn’t want to trick anyone. I just needed a little interim help. Perhaps more fool me, but I’m sometimes too honest for my own good I guess.
I only ever told one person I was signing on – to everyone else who asked why I was going to the town centre every fortnight, I pretended I was going to the dentist. Pretty pathetic. I was embarrassed and saw the whole thing as a sign of weakness. However, I began to recognise people signing on as people ‘just like me.’ Women I had previously worked with who had been made redundant; a Mum who needed help while she was doing her Masters; a single mum whose ex continued to evade the CSA (or whatever their name was that week.)
Now I have found work, albeit temporary work, I’ve gained a little perspective. I’m thankful I’m working. God am I thankful. I’m also thankful I don’t have to sign on (at least not for now,) and the next time I need help, I may just ask a little sooner.
Pride cometh before a fall … or is that two birds in a bush?, and I’m glad I saw sense before it was too late. In this economic climate, we can’t afford to be too proud to ask for help.
Bloody hurt though.