I received the following request to guest post on May 18, 2019
I’m a single dad, 48 years old, and I’ve worked in the TV industry in broadcast operations for the bulk of my career. For nearly a decade, it was my privilege to work for American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) in Riverside, CA. In fact, I was so lucky to have worked there that I really didn’t “feel” the economic downturn and subsequent recession of 2008 at all. Then, in 2014, after the “Great Recession” had been declared to be over, the Paul Ryan Budget was introduced in Congress. It was announced that my entire department was to be replaced by servicemen and women returning from base closures overseas. It was at this time that I got my first tiny little dose of the bitter pill they call “The Gig Economy.”
It was like I had been living in a fallout shelter for all those years; I emerged to an economic landscape which I didn’t understand. On several occasions whilst looking for work in my industry, when I thought I had been offered a job, it turned out to be a “gig.” I was commuting from San Bernardino to Los Angeles to work graveyard shifts, putting my then 4 year old son in all-night childcare while I was at work, then looking after him when I got home. It would have worked, too if it weren’t for the simple inconvenience of a human being’s need to SLEEP. Obviously, this was unsustainable.
In October 2015, I couldn’t believe my good fortune when I was offered a great job in San Diego — a place I had always wanted to live! I had to stay in a monthly hotel for the first month or so, and a couple of temporary arrangements later I finally found my home — a 325 square foot micro-slice of paradise down by the beach in a wonderful town called Encinitas. We love it here, and my son’s school is amazing! Rather than a public elementary school, I think of it as an “Eleversity.” I’ve never seen it’s equal, and he is absolutely thriving there! What could possibly go wrong?
Enter AT&T. Or as I call them, “Globocorp.” Globocorp is to media companies what “The Borg” were to civilizations on Star Trek TNG (yeah I know, nerd alert). And they saw my happy little workplace, where you could take your dog with you to work, and management would declare “beer-thirty” breaks every so often just for fun, and, in their cold little corporate robot “hearts,” Globocorp decided “this does not compute.” So they bought my happy little workplace and turned it into a corporate misery factory, shutting down the Broadcast Center and replacing it with an internet streaming app. When the corporate tax breaks were enacted in 2017, the CEO announced it would give $1000 bonuses to all of its 200,000 employees — $200 mil in all! Then they laid off 23,000 people, including my boss, and myself.
I’ve been out of work for over a year now. I was fortunate enough to have fallen into a deep state of crippling depression early on as a result, and this enabled me to qualify for state disability payments. Those benefits have expired now, and Unemployment has denied me for not working in the past year. Figure that one out. So, now I am faced with the real possibility of homelessness. I have been trying desperately to find another television job, but I fear I have become John Henry in a steam engine world. And I have to be honest with you. The world simply doesn’t care about some random, middle-aged white dude and his problems. I know, I checked! The overwhelming reaction to the story I’ve just recounted is “pull yourself up by your bootstraps!” or “Just go get ANY job — the unemployment rate is at a 40 year low!”
Except, it isn’t. And my bootstraps are in the local pawnshop, attached to their BOOTS! My personal unemployment rate is at a 48 year high, and I live in the lowest rent area of a very high-rent town, which means the rent is too damned high. So I’ve been researching — everything. Dropshipping, affiliate marketing, voice acting, Fiverr, YouTube channels, Textbroker, surveys, micro tasks — freelance EVERYTHING… and the only thing I’ve made any money on so far is meal delivery. I deliver food, at the discretion of the Android task master that lives in my phone, to rich people who are too lazy to get off their business-class asses and drive to Whatever-burger. My car gets about 17 miles to the gallon in the city, if it’s in a good mood that day. So, in a city that is 85% luxury homes, I’m clearing minimum wage — barely. But that’s how they rig the whole 4% unemployment number, isn’t it? They include Uber drivers and Doordashers, pretending that’s full employment. I’m here to tell you, it isn’t.
There are times I wonder if this dog is too old to learn any new tricks. At 48.5 years old, have I really outlived my usefulness? My heart tells me no, and my brilliant, happy-go-lucky son lifts my spirit each and every day. It is for him that I will find a way forward. I dread to think of what might become of me if I didn’t have his needs to put ahead of all else. I know there are some out there who are alone. I really hope they find their way. Come hell AND high water, I will find mine.
May 18, 2019
P.S. I had not intended to write an entire submission just now. I began to give you a little background in the hopes that I could make an extra $75 or so, (I have 13 days left to come up with $1500 for rent), and the next thing I know, this is what poured out. Is it something you can use? Please let me know as soon as you are able, and thank you for doing what you do!
Steve A Boyd, Sr.
I replied the next day:
Wow, you write wonderfully. I hadn’t planned to read submissions or accept new ones till I got through my backlog, but… your story grabbed me and also reinforced what I’ve been thinking, that being out-of-work when unemployment is at a record low is almost more painful because people assume you are doing something wrong if you can’t get a job.
One question — I’ve been getting a number of people like yourself who email me and I am not even able to respond to all of them. Though those who are as coherent and heartfelt as you are, I do generally answer at least once. I’ve been thinking of reviving an idea I had of a closed Facebook group — Unemploymentville Tourists — where maybe collectively people could brainstorm getting each other jobs a bit or just commiserate. I used to have a forum, but it got overrun with SPAM. Would you use a Facebook private/closed group? The idea is a place people can talk where it would NOT be findable by a private employer.
Do you have anyone you can borrow from for the rent? Anyone you and your son can move in with if you can’t make rent?
Write soon and I will be thinking of you.
Now here is where it started to REALLY get interesting…
First off, thank you for the kind words! You absolutely made my day. Going through a career crisis, a possible housing crisis (and most likely a midlife crisis!) can really cause a person to experience some self-doubt and anxiety. A little validation every now and then goes a long way!
I wanted to write back to you immediately upon reading your email, but I was out “dashing” for DoorDash until a couple hours ago. I would love to review the book. Do you have it on Audible yet? (I’ve just gotten into narrating and producing audiobooks on ACX). I think what you’re doing with unemploymentville is absolutely brilliant, as it fills a genuine need that has been largely overlooked — the need to connect with others who are not only feeling what you are feeling, but may have some ideas that you haven’t thought of yet. And I think a Facebook group would probably be one of the very best ways to amplify that message of support. It’s definitely something I would join!
As to your question about borrowing money from family for rent and whether or not my boy and I have somewhere to go… Well, that’s a hard one. I’ve been in touch with the Motion Picture and Television Fund (MPTF) requesting assistance, and I’m waiting to hear back from them. They’re a wonderful organization who help people in my industry in all sorts of ways. Another great charitable organization is the Actors Fund, who I will be contacting tomorrow.
My 82 year old father, who lives in Utah, STUNNED me today when he offered the entire contents of his rainy day fund, to add to whatever I am able to put together towards June’s rent. I simultaneously feel incredibly lucky that I have a father who cares for me so deeply, and yet also deeply ashamed that I may actually have to take it.
One way or another, though, the prospects for June’s rent aren’t as dire as I perceived them to be 24 hours ago.
Again, thank you so much for your kindness and your generosity of praise. I would love to contribute to your site and your Facebook group.
Did you see the interesting part, he NARRATES AND PRODUCES AUDIOBOOKS? I IMMEDIATELY wrote back
Apologizing in advance — I may jump around a bit from topic to topic. I’m writing while still consuming first cup of coffee
Well this is a remarkable coincidence. I am trying to create the audiobook version of Out-of-Work to Making Money. I’m going to send you the PDF version now. You will quickly see that it contains many people’s stories, so I want it to have multiple people reading it. Certainly I want a male voice reading the male parts and a woman reading the women’s chapters. I wouldn’t want a woman reading the part of man talking about his wife’s support when he was out-of-work.
To further complicate it many chapters are interview format and so I think I need to hire one reader to do the questions throughout and inter splice them with other voice actors. I’m open to suggestions on the best way to handle this. I’ve considered whether to read the chapters that I wrote myself. Much of the book is moderately emotional and I’m a bit unsure about hearing someone else read my words and whether I’ll feel anyone has done it well enough.
My concern is that, as you know, ACX wants a level of consistency and professional quality. I posted on Voice123.com one chapter for men and one for women. I have some good candidates for each, and was supposed to be over the weekend picking someone, but the weather was beautiful and I spent almost all of it outside. So I didn’t get to it. Or maybe it was divine intervention delaying me until your email arrived. Do you have a profile on Voice123.com or Voices.com?
I had originally planned to try and hire one producer who would coordinate assembling the audio tracks and getting it correct just to have it done sooner. But the one person I approached said he is too busy with projects and the other one wouldn’t give me even a ballpark of how long (days on a calendar wise) he thought it would take to create such a thing. So I gave up and went back to the idea of hiring everyone myself and using Audacity to assemble. I’m fairly adept at Audacity, but….. there are only so many hours in a day and I currently have a full-time job and a long commute and a house and a husband (kids are grown, but family relationships still take some time as well) and book promotion I’m trying to do.
Take a look at the book and give me your thoughts/advice on how you would recommend it get created on audio.
That is tremendous about your father. Good Karma for you both. And yes, your $1500 total is not seeming so far, far away now at all. Especially now that I know you do audio.
Steve replied almost immediately …
Wow, you are amazingly clear headed for someone who’s on their first cup of coffee! I’m on my first cup, too, and about to get my son off to school. I hope I can respond in complete sentences…
I DO have a voices.com account. https://www.voices.com/actors/ElvisLee#bio . My demo is a “broadcast demo” and needs to be updated now that I have some audio book narration experience under my belt. One thing I absolutely can do well is edit, and if you need someone to compile the whole thing as well as play a role in narration, I’m your guy!
I’ll follow up with another email soon, as I have to get my son to school. I was just too excited about your email, I had to write you a quick note to let you know that you’re speaking my language!
Talk to you soon,
I asked Steve for a quote to produce the audiobook. His price was about twice what I hoped to pay (ouch), but did include the offer to read one or more chapters of the audiobook. He explained his reasoning on the price in terms of the number of hours he would spend on it.
In addition to not loving the price, I was wondering whether I was about to hire someone based on feeling they needed the money, or liking him, versus being confident in the job that would be done. I decided to think about it.
While I was silent, Steve got busy and recorded Chapter 2 — Treading Water. He sent me the recording, you can listen to a bit of it in the Audio Sample for Out-of-Work to Making Money on Audible
Wow! I LOVE his performance.
If I say yes, I will have one less narrator to find and this chapter that he has read is a critical one. It’s early in the book and needs energy and humor in the reading. Steve’s got both. I send him an email, subject line: DEAL! and send him a deposit via Paypal that allows him to pay his June rent.
And that is where the story gets…. more….. interesting. (To be continued).
Note…. if you want to make a long story short, go grab Out-of-Work to Making Money, 21 Comeback Stories Every Job Hunter Should Hear on Audible
If you want the rest of the story, follow this link over to Unemploymentville to hear it.
Thanks for listening!
Originally published at http://www.unemploymentville.com on December 8, 2019.