Homeless for the Holidays
The week before Rosh Hashanah this year was not at all what I had expected. On Sunday, while recovering from the flu, I paid bills, gave tzedakah and sent out a few holiday cards. I got up and went to … Read More
The week before Rosh Hashanah this year was not at all what I had expected. On Sunday, while recovering from the flu, I paid bills, gave tzedakah and sent out a few holiday cards. I got up and went to work the next day just like normal. Except it wasn’t a normal day – when I got to my office, it had been cleaned out. Instead of our holding our Monday morning staff meeting, my boss presented me with a pink slip.
Still a little under the weather and definitely shocked, I made my way home and baked brownies. In a moment my entire life had changed – for the better or for the worse I wasn’t sure. I did know that all my expectations were tossed on its head for that morning, that week, the upcoming holidays, my moving plans (I had been looking for a new apartment), my career path. I won’t lie, I didn’t like my job, but the crappy paycheck was far better than no crappy paycheck. I got laid off the day Ben Bernake had announced the recession was “likely over” but I had been job hunting for over a year already, so I didn’t see my newly acquired unemployment status changing as quickly as it arrived. The next couple of days were a bit of a blur. I told my roommates that on account of my dramatically decreased salary, I was going to need to move. I didn’t know where I was going to go, but paying rent for an apartment I wasn’t living in didn’t make much fiscal sense (I had been de facto living with my boyfriend for the last several months). Luckily for them they found someone new right away, which meant that by the end of the month was likely going to be jobless and homeless. While so many of my friends were thinking about apples and honey and wishing everyone a sweet new year, I was virtually “pounding the pavement” in my pajamas in front of a laptop looking for a direction in my life. Where was I going to find a job? Where was I going to live? At a time of year of introspection and forward thinking, I had dropped a few rungs on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Instead of thinking about being inscribed in the book of life for 5770, I was wondering about how when I packed all my worldly possessions into a Uhaul shortly after Yom Kippur, where that U-Haul was going to go – which puts things in a whole new perspective. But as the dust from the last few weeks has finally begun to settle, I finally have a moment to think back on my year, and think about the year to come. First, I feel very fortunate. Why, at a time like this, would I feel fortunate? Well, it was no secret that I was very very miserable in my old job. I had been job-hunting pretty much since I had started working there. Now, I didn’t have to spend my days unhappy in a job I hated. I also didn’t like my apartment. I felt that I was paying way too much money for way too little space. I had found the place on Craigslist, and although the roommates were nice enough, it just didn’t feel like home. So even though I am scared and unsure about what comes next, I will no longer be in those unwelcoming environments – and, for that, I feel fortunate. Of course, I also feel scared. It is great to be excited about what might come next and be upbeat about making one’s life better by not doing what you dislike, but options for the future seem few and far between. Just before the layoff I had interviewed for a job in which I have been only one of ten applicants that were offered an interview out of a pool of 125 people who had applied for the job. Although there are jobs out there, there are lots of people also looking for work. Ditto the New York City housing market. I didn’t like my apartment because it was expensive and small. Yet the decrease in my salary meant a decrease in my living options. The only places I could afford now were tiny rooms in weird shared spaces or located way way out in the outer boroughs. In other words, Rosh Hashanah was nothing what I expected. Being wildly distracted and stressed, nothing worked like we had planned. My boyfriend and I missed the services we planned on attending (in part due to a misread email). At the last minute his mother came to town so we made dinner for a few people, which meant I cleaned his apartment like it was Pesach (not that is was that dirty, but I alleviate stress by cooking and cleaning). But 400-pound elephant in the room was our decision whether to move in together. We had only started dating shortly after Purim, which is not really long enough to chose to sell off half your furniture and shack up together. But we did not really see too many other viable options if we wanted to keep our relationship strong and growing (moving in with my parents eight hours away may have solved my affordable rent issues, but would have really killed our sex life). So Rosh Hashanah was filled with lots of conversations about the future – about our relationship, about our domesticity, and whether I should look for another job in another city (more opportunities, but again not so good for us). With Yom Kippur right before us, there are lots of things still totally up in the air for me. The High Holidays haven’t as much of a time of reflection as a time for action. In three days I will be packing everything I haven’t sold off into a U-Haul and consolidating stuff with my kitchen – at my boyfriend’s apartment. I’m writing this amongst moving boxes and piles of stuff that needs to go to the trash, to Goodwill, and stuff that needs to be E-cycled. I’ve spent the week emptying closets, organizing, sorting, and cleaning not just my life, but also my boyfriend’s life. It’s probably not what he was expecting to do be doing during the High Holidays either, but this is the season for self-reflection – some of us have just been doing it very fast and furiously with far more immediate change.