Unemployment Nine: Kiss free time good-bye, but for how long?

I apologize for only posting once since returning from our honeymoon, but my work situation took a sudden turn, leaving me minimal free time.

Before leaving for Hawaii, I was down to one part-time blogging job, which was, for all intents and purposes, basically covering my share of the rent and not much more. This was not due to lack of productivity on my part, but rather, to constantly being asked by the powers that be to limit my number of posts. Since the job pays by the post, fewer posts mean less money.

more confused than ever

Just before our wedding, I spoke with a former boss of mine from the days of way-back, whom I hadn’t seen in more than 15 years. She mentioned that she might have some free-lance copy-editing work for me, as the publication she works for was running behind on a large anniversary issue. I was pretty happy about this, as I figured the combination of income from this job and the blogging job would at least allow me to contribute SOME money into our household besides my share of the rent.

Things took an interesting turn while I was in Hawaii, however. As anyone who has ever worked on a weekly publication knows, Thursdays and Fridays are the nastiest days, and usually involve long, late hours. My old boss had a person who copy-edited every Thursday and Friday, but that person was lucky enough to land a full-time job (probably one I applied for, with the way my luck has been going), so I inherited more hours — many more hours.

The good news is, obviously, more hours mean more money. The bad news is that I’m having trouble adjusting to a complete 180 in my schedule. I went from a very flexible, relaxed pace directly into pure chaos, basically forfeiting any ability to make plans for Thursdays and Fridays, since I’ve been at work until 9:00 and 7:30-7:45, respectively, on those days.

The other piece of bad news is that the new job is still a free-lance gig. I’d always had full-time jobs until my October 2008 layoff, and I have a very difficult time dealing with the uncertainly of part-time and free-lance work. A full-time job can obviously come to a sudden end, as I found out all too quickly 20-plus months ago. But at least companies have to put some thought into laying off full-time employees, as they are faced with issues such as severance pay, COBRA and unemployment benefits. All it takes to sever a part-time or free-lance relationship is a phone call, as I found out when my first part-time job ended in that fashion on the last day of November.

The other worrisome thing about this new job is that it’s a vivid reminder of all of the things I hated about working on the print side of things before I permanently joined the Internet unit of my old job in 2000.

I’ve gotten used to the immediacy and speed of the Internet, as opposed to having the same story read multiple times over by multiple people.

I also loved the flexibility that working on the Web provided. Most of my tasks could be completed from any destination with an Internet connection, which was bad because it meant that you were perpetually available, but it was good in that I didn’t feel like I was tethered to the chair in my cubicle. However, as seems to be the case with most print jobs, it would be impossible to work outside of the office, due to reliance on various software elements of the publishing system. Working from my balcony — where I’m typing this in a T-shirt, shorts, flip-flops and a backwards hat, while enjoying a cold Miller Lite — is not an option.

Another thing I always hated about working on a print publication is the fact that you’re the only people in the office late on Thursdays and Fridays. It always burned me up knowing people who made several times my salary were out the door at 5:01 p.m. on the dot nearly every single day, while I was stuck there for a few more hours, looking at the same stories over and over. My old company made it even worse with an annual e-mail memo that triggered multiple rounds of profanity: The company was happy to announce that summer Fridays were in effect for all employees, in 36-point type, with an asterisk. The asterisk referred to a line in eight-point type that read, “Note: Summer hours do not apply to employees with weekly deadline responsibilities.” Well, fuck you very much, too.

This is a great publication with a fantastic staff. I’m not trying to paint a picture of incompetence, here — actually, quite the opposite. This is just the way things work in the print world and, after 10 years of working on the Internet and reaching a certain level of independence and self-reliance, it’s a shock to the system to find myself sitting around and waiting, dependent on other people.

My other, even bigger issue is that I don’t know how long I can keep up this pace. I’m working a lot more hours at the newer job than I had ever anticipated, but I have no clue how long this gig will last, and I didn’t want to give up my blogging post, partly because I didn’t want to find myself left with zero income, and partly because I honestly enjoy it. So I’ve been online at 7 a.m. every day, trying to do two or three hours’ worth of work on the blog before trekking into the city, and then, after full days there (the earliest I’ve left that office thus far has been 6 p.m.), I’ve been coming home and doing more work on the blog. I’ve only been doing both jobs for a week-and-a-half, and I’m already extremely concerned about burnout.

I’m obviously not a money-hungry individual, or I’d have gone to law school or taken up drug-dealing instead of majoring in journalism. When you go into my field, you know mansions and yachts are not part of your future, but you make the sacrifice in the name of doing something you love. However, the only thing keeping me going right now is the fact that this new job is paying a hell of a lot more than the blogging gig. I easily make more money for two days of copy editing than an entire week of blogging, although even the combination of both jobs won’t exactly result in a trip to the Acura dealer to upgrade my 1997 Honda Accord. I just honestly don’t know how long I can continue at this pace.

On the other hand, since either job can disappear from my to-do list with one phone call, I don’t know how long I’ll have the opportunity to continue at this pace.

All I want is a full-time job and some sense of stability. Is that really too much to ask? Apparently, in today’s economy, the answer is yes. FML.

8 comments on “Unemployment Nine: Kiss free time good-bye, but for how long?

  1. Lynne says:

    Are you back at PIW?

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