Post #2: Sheena C., from Occupied Duwamish Territory, WA

"What you do does not define who you are and what you are capable of doing."

Dear reader, 

How are you?

Thank you for being one of the first 100 people to receive unemployed together’s newsletter.

In the past week since the soft launch, I’ve received emails and stories and introductions from many of you. While I continue to respond to each note, I also want to say — please keep them coming. 

Each time I conduct an unemployed together interview, I hear the same thing: Thank you for doing this, for sharing these stories. And each time I’m told a new story, I think: I am lucky and privileged to be trusted with these stories.

What I ask for and what I receive are deeply personal and emotional accounts of tough times that push people to question their identities, self worth, and sometimes place in society. But inside each tale, hope, conviction, and gratitude seem to prevail, or at the very least, are pretty detectable as I hear internal dialogues turn into action. 

Sheena’s story, below, is what I mean.

Despite suffering a miscarriage, which she attributes in part to being laid off this year, Sheena is resolute in her gratitude toward her life. 

She was a general manager for common spaces at The Riveter, a co-working startup. She’d been with the company for two years, but held this new position for just six months before the pandemic forced The Riveter to shut down. She’d been a personal trainer and coach and healthcare receptionist previously. The hardest aspects of losing her job, she says, were the routine and sense of pride she had. She really liked what she was doing.

The furlough came first, in late March. Eight weeks later, she was permanently laid off.

The company started making the decisions fairly quickly and she said she appreciated that it acted quickly to make sure employees were covered by the government early on. 

But as she began her job search, she discovered that she was wrestling a lot with the question of what she was going to do next. Read below to see how she answered it. 

Thank you, Sheena, for sharing your story. 

And thank you, reader, for being here. 

Take care of yourself,

Hope


Post #2: Sheena C., from Occupied Duwamish Territory, WA 

I am blessed.

I’ve always had that mentality of “You’re blessed no matter what.” But after I was laid off, I felt depression and anxiety creep in as I looked for jobs. I got caught up in a dilemma and debate within myself.

“You’re not going to be this anymore. What is it that you want to do?”

I don’t know anymore. But I came to a decision: my job title doesn’t define me. 

There wasn’t a specific conversation or event that led me to this. It was more of a collective reflection through conversations with friends and a lot of reading: Putting all this into perspective with the stories of really, really bad racism -- everyone has their struggle but it’s not like anything our Black friends and family have experienced to this day; and also, there was me trying to take pressure off myself. There’s so much pressure already in being a partner, a mom.

I was tired of fighting with myself. 

I am Sheena. I’m a daughter, a mother, a friend. I can do anything — and if I get a job that I am “settling” for… that’s OK. I have a family to support. 

My daughter was three at the time I was laid off, still pretty young to understand everything. But she understands there’s a virus out there and everyone is sick and this is why we can’t do a lot of the things we could do before. 

From time to time, we will pray at night and she keeps praying “for the doctors and nurses and scientists so we can see our friends again.”

She’s four now and I’m pregnant. Again.

I was pregnant in April and I had a miscarriage. In June, after the layoff.

Miscarriages are very common but still hard to talk about. It passed naturally; it was only eight weeks or so. 

I’m thankful I didn’t have to have a procedure done, or was further along. I’m really grateful. Really grateful for my health. 

The layoff, the heightened racial awareness with Black Lives Matter, educating myself on racial history, being there for my sister (she and her longtime partner broke up and I flew to Austin to help her move back, then took a road trip on the way home)... I didn’t feel like I was stressed, but I was stressed the fuck out and that’s one of the many reasons why I miscarried.

I was thinking about a lot of other stuff other than myself.

I work with COVID-19 testing billing now. It’s a part time temporary job I started in August.

I try not to downplay it when I catch up with friends. Instead of, “Oh I have a temporary job. It’s not the best. It’s really mundane…” I think: “I have an income and it’s work that is helping the world.”

I'm still putting feelers out there though. For all the years that I’ve had LinkedIn, I haven’t used it as much as I have the past two.

Moving forward with job searching, I'm still going to hold to "What you do does not define who you are and what you are capable of doing." That's not to say to settle for the crap job. 

Aim for what you want to do, but if you don't get it, there's more to life.

My partner and I were able to move in with my parents after I lost my job. It’s a privileged place to be in, to still have family around; to save on rent and have grandparents who can take care of our daughter when we need to work. I really feel for single parents who don’t have help with their children.

In the future, when things improve, I would like to try to stay in this mindset. Hang out with my kid, just doing things with her, being outside. She likes art and I do that with her. 

And something I’ve been trying to do -- a little bit of a side hustle -- is calligraphy. 

It’s mostly a hobby, but just having more time to do that has been awesome. Making more time for myself. 

We’re blessed, so we’re going to be OK. 

We have a roof over our heads. We have family. We are loved. 

We had things to lose. Others didn’t have things to lose to begin with.

-- Sheena C., 34, from Occupied Duwamish Territory, WA 

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