Back On Track

Hey friends, 

I think it’s time for a little career update. (What a concept!) 

I could sum it up this way; “We’re not in Latvia anymore, Toto!” 

Hmmm, that bastardisation of a classic movie line only works if my writing sticks in your mind like chewy clings to hair….

For those with more than my old blog posts ruminating around in their heads, you can get the context for that declaration here

Remember when I briefly worked for those number-lovin’ Lats last year? What a misstep that was. 

*eye roll*

Two weeks ago I started a new administrative job in a small property law practice. Being a part-time role, it is much less financially rewarding than my stint at the Latvian Embassy, but it is so much more rewarding in ways that money can’t buy. For instance, I don’t have to rush out the door and battle morning peak hour traffic…. whoop glory! 

Most importantly, I fit there. 

As someone who bangs on about non-conformism and can’t think of anything sadder than wearing a workplace – or any place – cloak of invisibility, it may seem strange that fitting in (at work) rates so highly for me, but it does, and here’s why. 

When you fit, there’s ease. 

This means that if you’re wired like I am, a compelling, confounding yet alluring mix of confidence, rebellion and stupidly high expectations of myself when it comes to learning (some) new things, feeling a sense of ease and rightness is critical to not having a meltdown when, shock, horror, you don’t perfect something after 3.4 minutes seconds. 

I know, right? It’s not as if anyone in the history of ever – except me – couldn’t grasp something after one rushed explanation… oh, is the sarcastica font showing up on your screen? I sure hope so. 

Being the new girl, being a beginner, starting over again; that can be challenging. 

The thing is, there’s no alternative path. New things are new. And I, and you, can’t know in advance everything that is required. Bummer dude. 

As my new job is in a legal practice, where I have many years of experience, the familiarity of that helps me cope with any omygodimissedthatthing freak outs that may crop up. I’ve held similar roles before and I’ve loved them and excelled in them. It’s been a while though, so some forms, processes and procedures have changed, and the way things are done always changes from business to business. 

Do I scan it and copy it for the file? 

Is it filed under number, number, name, date or name, number, number, date? 

Why are these phones not working!? (That one’s universal but the frustration is always new!)

Knowing what a PDF is isn’t the same as being familiar with Adobe. 

Where are the pens? 

Who took my pen? Seriously, give it back. (Yes, I have an issue with pens, deal with it.)

Overwhelmingly, what I feel every afternoon as I follow the tram tracks to the office, is that I’m back on track. 

I have a job I know I can succeed in, and that makes me so happy. 

Bonus: Mirrors everywhere, cheeky selfies have never been so easy! 

 

Now gainfully employed, I remain, your compelling, confounding, alluring pal,

Annette  😄 

 

 

PS If you’d like to contribute to my getting back on track fund, just click here. Thanks!

 

 

New start? Hardly.

My name is Annette and I’m on Newstart.

Newstart is a government allowance, a welfare payment, provided to adults seeking full time employment.

In exchange for Newstart, I am required to search for a certain number of jobs per month, and to report in person to my parole officer job services provider once a fortnight, to provide them with details of my job search efforts.

In the past 26 weeks, my job services provider has provided me with a grand total of three roles to apply for.

Just three, in 26 weeks. (Leaves me thinking they’re working harder for Centrelink than they are for job seekers. There’s a massive industry of people who have jobs based solely on other people not having jobs…. hmmm, curious.)

I have applied for job after job after job this year, fortnight after fortnight. I have worked for short periods, but have been mostly on the hunt. I apply for administrative jobs, from office coordinator to receptionist roles, I apply for roles I know I’m overqualified for, some roles that really interest me, roles that don’t spark anything, and jobs I think I’d be bored stupid in. I’ve applied across industries from public accountants to plumbers, from law firms to mysterious ‘private advertisers’. I apply directly and through agencies. I don’t even discriminate against ads with horrendous grammar and spelling errors, they need me the most! I write cover letters, tweaking them to suit each role, and I’ve checked and updated my CV. On paper, I’m doing everything right.

I send my applications out…     crickets.

No responses at all, for months on end.

Just this week, I got a call from a prospective employer. He confused me with another applicant, then asked me how much I expected to get paid. That was his only question.

On Newstart, I get $333.40 per week (as a fortnightly payment of $666.80).

According to The University of Melbourne Poverty Lines: Australia December Quarter 2015 report (Table 4) the national poverty line for a single adult is $520.51 (weekly). That’s $187.11 more than someone like me (single, no dependents) receives weekly on Newstart.

To keep things simple, I’ll break things down the way I actually budget each month, which is based on two fortnightly payments, totalling $1,333.60.

From that, let’s deduct just some of my monthly expenses:

  • $867.00 rent
  • $35.00 mobile phone (not on contract, just reduced)
  • $60.00 internet (fixed contract)
  • $90.00 average winter utility bill (this will come way, way down across summer, but I’ll have aircon costs)
  • $26.00 foxtel (not on contract, I negotiated this rate #likeaboss. I could cancel it, but I haven’t. Judge away!)
  • $150.00 groceries (this definitely fluctuates, I have a well stocked pantry & freezer, and generous friends)
  • That’s $1,228.00, which leaves me with $105.60.

I haven’t included petrol, occasional doctor’s visits (last month, I needed to go twice in the space of a week), my minimum credit card payment, a new sketchbook or pad of watercolour paper, insurance premiums, buying a magazine on a whim, or blog hosting costs, but $105.60 (remember, that’s per month) only stretches so far.

My purpose in sharing these figures isn’t to illicit sympathy, or to get into a debate about the merits or pitfalls of the welfare system, it’s simply to share the realities of living on Newstart with you. It’s no picnic.

I maintain a pretty positive outlook, that’s my nature, but there are financial pressures at play, choices to be made, corners to be cut. If I can offset those worries by listening to a podcast in bed on a weekday morning, then that’s where you’ll find me.

When I was last out of work, I remember crying at the kitchen sink on more than one occasion — what is it about doing the dishes that brings on the tears — worrying about paying the rent on time, or feeling utterly gutted that I ran out of mayo. True story, an empty mayonnaise brought me completely undone, you can read about it here.

I think a lot of people simply don’t know what being on Newstart means, so when they hear the ‘lazy, no hopers, living off YOUR taxes, blah, blah, blah’ tripe that shows like A Current Affair trot out once a quarter, (side note: stop watching that shit, seriously!), they don’t have an accurate frame of reference from which to make their judgments. That’s never stopped anyone though!

Anyone who claims living on Newstart is easy, or that it’s a long term option that people choose, is utterly misinformed. Try it for a month or two, I dare you: if you’re single, try and live off $1,333.60. It’s not easy.
I am actually super proud of the way I manage it, even if my RACV roadside assistance is now overdue.

I am so grateful for the Newstart allowance, without it I don’t know what my life would look like right now.

I’d most likely be homeless, and desperate in ways that I don’t want to imagine. *shudders*

Of course, I’d rather be earning my own money, as I’ve done for most of the past 30+ years.

I know that my next job is out there, it’s just a matter of time, effort and opportunity meeting.

That’s the new start I really need.

Frugally,

Annette

She works hard for the money

You can always tell it is Sunday night by the flood of memes about the Sunday sads, Mondayitis and sometimes LOL inducing complaints about going in to the office, appearing all over social media.

If I were to create a playlist for Sunday nights it would include Everybody Wants To Work by The Uncanny X-Men, Manic Monday by The Bangles, Material Girl by Madonna and She Works Hard For The Money by Donna Summer.

I work for the government. Well, technically, I don’t have a paying job, so the government provides me a benefit called Newstart while I look for work. I have been working for Our Tone (PM and gun Minister for Women) for a while, and frankly he’s starting to creep me out. I think he’s confused that I’m not at home ironing.

Once you have been unemployed for a year, your job services provider calls you in to discuss the Work for the Dole program.

My consultant Elise started the conversation with ‘It won’t be as bad as you think’. What a sales pitch! Where do I sign?

While I am pleased that I won’t be picking up rubbish from a roadside, the notion that I haven’t been working for the dole for the past 49.5 weeks really got me thinking about what we consider ‘work’.

Firstly, you’ll have to work out how to live on $326 a week.

Actually, once I put aside the rent, there’s only $124.

That $124 has to cover groceries, petrol, car insurance, electricity and gas, internet plan, home insurance, credit card payments, and the new 12 month phone contract you may have signed up for a week before you lost your job. I’m glad I don’t suffer FOMO when it comes to communication devices.

If you are super lucky, and find a job in the first month or so, it’s not too bad, as most of us have a well stocked pantry, and sympathetic friends.

If not, your work will include not allowing the seeming futility of sending out applications – week after week, often with no response whatsoever – to drag you down. It’s disheartening.

You’ll have to work at staying connected with people. They’re busy – at work – and if you’re used to socialising with them over drinks and dinner, well, refer to $124 above.

Depending on the season, you might have to work at setting utilities restrictions. Last winter I set myself incremental goals – no heater until noon, then 1pm, then 2pm. I’d make another cup of tea, or put another layer of clothes on. Some days it worked, some days were a bust, because it was bloody cold.

The work that may surprise you the most is the work of frugality. I’ve found myself comparing junk mail, looking for bargains, then foraging in the freezer and searching the dark recesses of the pantry to see what’s on hand – chickpeas and tuna and rice, oh my!

The most rewarding work is the work of perseverance. Even though it hasn’t resulted in a job offer yet, I’m pleased to say I remain optimistic, knowing this too shall pass, though there have been occasional tears at the sink and worries in the night.

Nobody chooses this level of subsistence. The notion of people ‘bludging’ if their only income is $326 a week is not only offensive, it’s impossible.

Perhaps that’s why Donna Summer’s voice has been reverberating in my head lately.

I work hard for the money too.

 ———–

I wrote this about three weeks ago, as a sample piece for an internship. Given that I haven’t heard a thing, I decided to publish it here. It’s an important topic, and not just to me. 

I’m thrilled to say that I now have a casual job! That means I’m working hard for more money, which is awesome – and for the first time in over a year, I’m mentally fatigued at the end of the day. 

Boo-yah! 

Annette

Taking Stock – January 2015

I know I’m not alone in this, but gosh, how fast did January seem to zoom past us? We’re already one twelfth into 2015. Seems an appropriate time for a Taking Stock post, given that Easter eggs are already on sale.

Have you succumbed and snuck a sneaky six-pack of hot cross buns into your trolley yet? Those marketers want us to rush from one holiday to the next don’t they. You’d think they’d put the Valentine’s Day stuff out before Easter stuff.

I’m going to pump the brakes on February for a minute and take stock of the first month of the year. I’m using the list that Pip always posts at the end of her Taking Stock posts on Meet Me At Mike’s.

Here’s what’s happening in my world. If you want to get on the Taking Stock bandwagon, you can use the blank list at the bottom of this post. Credit it back to Pip please: credit where credit’s due, it’s easy and nice to do. 

Making : Lots of art, and enjoying it so much. You can follow my ‘progress’ here.

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I’m also doing another round of an online course called Inspiration Information, and I’m joining in with a month long creative challenge called #Tinkersketch, which you can follow on Instagram.

Cooking : I roasted a couple of capsicums today, I think I’ll put them through some pasta. I also made my first ever lamb roast for Straya Day. It was super tasty and fed me all week long.

Lamb Roast = Strayan
Lamb Roast = Strayan

Drinking : Soda water & cordial. I haven’t had a drop of soft drink all year. Feeling lighter.

Reading: how to look at a painting by Justin Paton. It’s a great book about art, and seeing what’s there.

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Wanting: Work. I just ticked over a year of unemployment. Sheesh, enough already.

Looking: At clouds, everywhere I go. I’m obsessed by their shapes and colours.

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2015-01-28 12.58.41

Playing: If I can find a recorder, I’ll be playing With Cat Like Tread for Eden. I hope I can remember it properly. By the way, have you been watching Eden’s weekly newscast? You totally should. It’s awesome – check it out here.

Deciding: I’m trying to decide whether to write a bit about the highs and lows of being on Newstart.

Wishing: For a money tree, those bills aren’t going to pay themselves, and Newstart doesn’t cover them. Not even close.

Enjoying: The cooler days. I’m longing for autumn!

Waiting: I’m waiting to hear back about a couple of jobs I went for last week. Come on!!

Liking: Instagram – there are so many great creative people out there.

Wondering: Whether I’ll ever be able to accept the generosity of others without crying. It’s one of those things that is wonderful, and difficult. I’m looking for the lessons in it. I’m sure there are lessons in this season and I want to learn them all.

Loving: The sky. Instagram. Bed. Creativity. Making things.

Pondering: What else I can do to create some kind of income stream…. am I brave enough to try copywriting, offer my services in organising/decluttering, or maybe I should join a travelling band of ragamuffins.

Considering: How much I could make as a ragamuffin. It might not work, I’m a bit of a homebody.

Watching: The Block Triple Threat, for now. I love Scotty Cam, but all the redundant editing could be too much to deal with!

Hoping: I’m hoping to continue to be hopeful. Hope is a choice. I choose it, again.

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Marvelling: That my blog is almost one year old!

Needing: Quite a lot, and not much. It’s a paradox.

Smelling: The aroma of #sundaybakingsunday – today’s scent was zucchini bread.

Wearing: Fave trackies today, with my trusty #teamstripes 17Sundays tee.

Following: A bunch of artists and painters on Instagram.

Noticing: That once you open your eyes to it, beautiful things are everywhere.

Knowing: This too shall pass. Most days I have pretty easy access to that mindset, some days, not so much.

Thinking: How great it is that I am part of an online community of people who practice encouragement, kindness and generosity. Their juju holds me up.

Admiring: Taylor Swift’s songwriting abilities. I’m an out and proud TayTay fan. #shakeitoff

Sorting: I still have to sort through my shoes, but I think #hoistthehangers has been a great success. Did you follow along? You can read about my adventures in decluttering here, here and here.

Buying: Just the essentials. Yes, essentials often includes chocolate. I’m settling for the Coles brand at the moment, it’s two-fiddy.

Getting: Ready for autumn, it’s my favourite time of year.

Bookmarking: I’m not much of a bookmarker, I’m a Bloglovin kind of girl.

Disliking: Counting every cent, every week.

Opening: This week I know I’ll be opening some awesome mail. I’m so excited about that.

Giggling: The babies in tunnels videos that are doing the rounds are pretty cute.

Feeling: Calm again. I’ll be okay.

Snacking: on #sundaybakingsunday goodies and corn relish dip and crackers.

Coveting: New bed linen, or trying a new moisturiser, or being able to buy anything that catches my eye. I miss being able to shop for pretty things. Speaking of which, I wouldn’t say no to this awesome dress by 17Sundays.

Wishing: For instant recall of every person who has done me a kindness in the past year. I’d love to be able to list you all. I really would.

Helping: Naomi pass time at the Apple Store last week was fun. You can check out her January Taking Stock post on her lovely blog here.

Hearing: Harry Connick Jnr today, while I was reading. I’m loving him on American Idol.

Would you like to take stock too? Go for it. You could do this on your Facebook page, or on your blog if you have one, or you could even take photos of all the things and make it a photographic essay on Instagram or Tumblr. Here are Pip’s latest prompts. Remember, credit where credit is due…

Making:
Cooking:
Drinking:
Reading:
Wanting:
Looking:
Playing:
Deciding:
Wishing:
Enjoying:
Waiting:
Liking:
Wondering:
Loving:
Pondering:
Considering:
Watching:
Hoping:
Marvelling:
Needing:
Smelling:
Wearing:
Following:
Noticing:
Knowing:
Thinking:
Admiring:
Sorting:
Buying:
Getting:
Bookmarking:
Disliking:
Opening:
Giggling:
Feeling:
Snacking:
Coveting:
Wishing:
Helping:
Hearing:

That’s all from me for now.

How are you enjoying 2015 so far? Tell me just one thing, or all of the things, that you’re enjoying or working on so far, in the comments.

Cheers,

Annette x