Some things happen to us that make us question our worth. A person can make a dig at us and make us think we don’t matter. Or something in your circumstances can make you think you’re not good enough. The thing is, no one really has the right to ever determine the worth of a person or to really judge a person’s situation. But we do, and it is no thanks to the government that cause most to judge others who seek help from the government. There is a fine line I know, with accepting help and taking advantage. Those on benefits are tarred with the same brush, making everything really really shit. I can’t promise to write eloquently with this.
I graduated from Uni in 2009 with a degree in Music Journalism & Broadcasting. Yes, most think it is useless. But I got a lot out of uni and if it didn’t cost so bloody much to go I’d have done a Masters. I love learning; I get bored easily and I need to be challenged. If I do nothing, I become irritated. If I do nothing, I am nothing. Or something like that.
Before I finished Uni I was applying for jobs that were apt for my degree and experience. I was frequently greeted with rejection telling me I didn’t have the right experience. I’m nearly 27, and it turns out I STILL don’t have the right experience, and maybe I never will. See, I love music and I love writing- I know I’m never ever going to make a living out of it. I know I don’t write in a way that speaks for the masses nor do I write anything that deserves a payment for. My words will never be featured in The Guardian, I’m alright with that. Not a fan of that paper anyway. Music publications are dying out, and Melody Maker was probably the best one. The magazines/websites I write for and have written for are ones that do have content of worth, and they don’t pull bands apart in order to get people to read their content. I’d rather be unpaid for writing about music and for a publication that has morals than the complete opposite. I’m not materialistic and having lots of money has never appealed to me. I own two pairs of shoes and my clothes are slowly falling apart. I’d look stupid dressed up anyway.
So after Uni I did a few internships and worked at HMV over several Christmas seasons. Working at HMV gave me a sense of worth. The people were brilliant and the customers were mental. I frequently was sang to by customers, “Do you know this song?!” If I got it right, I’d usually get a hug. I’m all for hugs. I was a magnet for pensioners and the socially awkward, I enjoyed it. I got to speak about music and suggest new music to people. Then it ended.
Anyone who has ever had the delight of signing on will know how awful it is. I spent just under a year on JSA when I was living in Stoke. I stayed in Stoke longer than I should have done. I didn’t want to admit defeat and go back home, but I knew I had to. The amount of friends I had was decreasing and my reasons for getting up in the morning was slipping from me. I was living in a house that was covered in damp, the bathroom was ruined and I was sleeping on a mattress. I lived on a street that was hounded with drug dealers, more than likely prostitutes and general troublemakers. I lived two doors down from drug dealers who tried to sell drugs to my friends when they’d come round and I’d have things yelled through my letterbox..god knows what. They were probably looking for someone. I’d go to bed at 4am and wake up at 8am. I didn’t want to sleep in case someone broke in. Of course I couldn’t defend myself but at least I could run out, if I could. I also had nothing of worth. I still don’t.
I’d sign on every other Friday. People at desks next to me were either dealing with people who had failed to come in or had someone sat in front of them giving them reasons as to why they hadn’t looked for jobs. I used to go in with sheets of paper with lists of jobs I had applied for. I was never made to feel like I was doing anything of worth when I’d present this bit of paper to them. I didn’t feel like a 20 something year old. I felt like a child seeking approval from someone who could easily stop my £50 a week and I’d be, to put it bluntly, fucked. I never turned to my mum and asked her for money. For the most part I was living off toast, cereal and mashed potatoes. However, my mum would sometimes do a shop for me if I was really desperate. I was always desperate but I kept going on. At one point I asked about help with my rent, and I was told “We’ve done a calculation and we can give you £1 towards it.” I wish I was joking, but I’m not. Of course I was annoyed, but what else could I do? Fortunately my rent was cheap. I moved back to my mum’s that Christmas (2011) and had a Christmas job st HMV. That ended, of course.
I then had to sign on again on the Isle of Man. Most job centers assign you an advisor. Someone sits with you, and they look for jobs with you and give you some guidance. The Isle of Man doesn’t do this. You don’t sit down with anyone, you line up as if you are in a post office and this glass is between you and the person you sign on with. “Any work or changes?” No. No I still feel useless and I have no idea why I bother waking up. That hasn’t changed. Frequently I was belittled by them for the jobs I was applying for. “Have you thought about applying for jobs that you CAN do?” As someone who has been rejected by supermarkets, I’m unsure what my capabilities are. I was applying for jobs in England and on the Isle of Man. Jobs that required virtually no experience. They just wanted someone with a degree and good communication skills. I know my limits. I know what I can and can’t do.
I left the Isle of Man in June this year as I was fortunate to get an SEO Internship with a really good digital marketing company. I was being paid for it, which is bloody rare. I was only meant to be there for a month but was kept on for 3 more. It was totally new to me, and I loved the experience. Sadly no permanent role was there, but the experience I got there was extremely useful to me, and I hope has strengthened my CV.
Reluctantly I signed on last week. It wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be, but maybe it will become more and more painful. The hardest thing about signing on after working is knowing there is nothing you can do. You know people are looking at you as you walk to the job centre. I’m not taking your money to inject it into my arm nor am I taking it to feed 5 kids. I have no kids nor do I have a substance addiction. Not everyone who goes to the job center is a dole scrounger. There are people who have been made redundant, graduates etc. There are so many that want the chance to work, but sadly some companies cannot offer that.
When I apply for jobs I know I’m either going to be ignored or rejected. I’m slowly getting that “Why do I bother” feeling back. There’s a small part of me that knows I must, but the other part of me knows this is all useless. The harder you try, the less you realise you should bother. I think I can vouch for most people who are on JSA that when they are told “But you’re not applying for everything are you” really pisses them off. You’re more than welcome to go through my emails and see all the applications I’ve filled out (for paid and unpaid work) no two jobs I apply for are the same. Supermarkets and other retail places say I don’t have the right amount of customer service experiences. Has the job gone before I even hit send?
The government is frequently trying to find ways to improve the job market and how to cut benefits. You’re made to feel as if it is your fault that you cannot find work, but what else is there to do? Now, I do know that there are some who do treat getting benefits as a salary/living wage and that does need to stop. People do take advantage and in the long run, we will all suffer even more so for the government’s mistakes. If you tell the jobless they can only have their JSA if they pick up litter; what happens to the person who actually does it for a living? Will they be struck off because they’ve found someone who HAS to do it in order to keep their benefits? Would David Cameron or any other politician be able to cope on £70 a week? Would he want to pick litter up just to keep his benefits? He’ll say yes, but we all know it is just another lie falling out of a politician’s mouth. He wants to cut benefits for those under 25s. People cannot help their situations, and some do really need that money. A 19-year-old is kicked out of home and has no means to support themselves; David Cameron would rather see them on the street than give them a helping hand.
I have no idea why I’m writing this. Maybe it is because my self-esteem has gone from “alright” to non-existent. I have no idea. Maybe I’m just angry at how people on benefits are perceived. I know I’m in the minority with my views and maybe I could have written all of this in a more eloquent way; but how can you portray anger at the situation when you phrase everything carefully? I’d rather speak my mind and have an opinion than stay silent.
When I’m asked where do I see myself in the next 5 years, I really have no idea. Hopefully I’ll one day be able to wake up and have an actual career rather than wasting my days looking for something I’ll never have. I used to be quite sure, but I don’t know. I really don’t. For now, I guess I’m just another hopeless statistic.
I’ve got Morrissey’s words to carry me through though.