The reality of being unemployed past your thirties.

The reality of being unemployed past your thirties.

friends-unemployed

In my twenties I hit the ground running, I was focused, zealous and fearless. Some would even say I ‘peaked’ too soon. I landed my dream job at the age of 23 and was on more money than my parents combined at 24, but by 25 it all came crashing down. It wasn’t completely dire afterwards, though I had to rebuild. Everything I thought I knew was no longer. Everything that used to be, now was different. I went from co-hosting a Sydney radio breakfast show which had me interviewing celebrities and getting dressed up for red carpet events to someone who worked at a newsagents, a clothes shop and a jewelry store just to make her rent.

Eventually I got another job in radio, but it came with half the profile and therefore half the money: so I had to keep working one of my part-time gigs. I was also lucky enough to land a manager who booked me regular spots on national TV shows (which straight after I would run to the newsagents and be confronted by customers with: “Didn’t I just see you on TV?”).

Slowly but surely and by that, I mean with a hell of a lot of persistence and tears, everything went back to the way it had been. Bigger radio and TV jobs came along. Some would even say I was ‘back on top’.

My point is, this definitely isn’t a bust out the violins story but, in my twenties, I thought I knew what it meant to struggle and to have ups and downs in my career.

Enter my thirties.

When I was 29, I left my life in Sydney and risked it all for a new, happier life in London. Looking back on it now I can understand why my friends were constantly saying “I don’t know how you’re doing this, I could never!” “Are you fucking mad?” “You brave bitch!” I was moving to a new city, with nowhere to live, no job prospects and no support network.

Also enter a new phase of my career: where I was basically starting all over again. I became familiar with the term the ‘British guard’ meaning: anything I did in Australia didn’t count unless I had done it in the UK. So, while I took meeting after meeting with different TV/production companies and radio stations, I was working in a pub earning a minimum wage of 6 pounds an hour, pouring beers, rolling cutlery and dodging mice.

I came over with some coin to get me started but the conversion rate at the time was shocking: so more than half of what I saved was just gone. Yes, I should have researched more. Yes, I should have put aside more money before I left and I know I’m ultimately responsible for my own life, my own choices, my own actions and therefore my own shortcomings but in my (slight) defense: I was the first in my immediate family to do this. My Mum and Dad had just as much of a clue as I did. Cousins who had done it before did talk about their own ‘London war stories’ but they were from over a decade ago (therefore outdated) and I guess if I had really looked into how fucking hard this was all going to be, I may have chickened out and never done it. Blind hope and a little bit of that fearlessness that I had when I first moved to Sydney at the age of 21 was what I needed again at the age of 31.

So, slowly but surely (but with a hell of A LOT more persistence and tears this time) everything went back to the way it was, I started to get those TV and radio jobs again. I bet you’re thinking that this is where the story ends but either there’s something wrong with me or the saying ‘be careful what you wish for’ really is true.

After 8 months of being ‘back in the game’ I was more miserable than I was when I first moved to London. I was working 14-hour days, 6-7 days a week, my time was filled with catering for the same narcissistic evil radio hosts I came to know and loathe in Sydney and my life was no different to what it was in Australia. “Why was I here?” “What was I trying to prove?” “Was I really doing this for me? Or was I doing it to show those assholes back home that I could do it without them?” (even though the folklore goes that they were ones responsible for my success overseas **eye roll**).

So once again, I packed it all in for the search of something more. I returned home to Australia. I was back under my parents’ roof. I was living in my childhood bedroom (that I shared with my nephew whenever he would sleep over). I went on the dole. I then got a full-time job at the first radio station I ever worked at (which ignited that bright-eyed naive-of-sorts passion again). I got my Italian passport. Cleared my credit card debt. Saved more money to come back over to London with (this time fully aware of what the f**king conversion rate was). Reconnected with my family and friends and prepared for London 2.0.

Initially, I thought I had ‘cracked the code’. Yep, thanks to my new-found research and life experiences London 2.0 was off to a much better start. I aligned myself with recruitment agencies that got me work in environments that were not media-based. I was on better money. I had a better work-life-balance. I was home by 6pm every night. I didn’t work weekends. I had savings for the ‘just in case’ and most of my travels booked for the rest of the year were already paid for. More importantly, I learnt that what I did for a job didn’t define me. I was kicking London in the dick.

So I thought.

Unfortunately London 2.0 hasn’t also been without its psychotic flatmates and work contracts ending unexpectedly.

In the last few months, I was let go at work, forced to move out of the flat I was living in, put all my belongings into black plastic bags and have had them sitting at Carly’s place while I rent out her Airbnb room. I also had to finance two trips back home to Australia. In this time I applied for 60 jobs on LinkedIn alone and woke most mornings with the anxiety that if I don’t find a job soon, I would be homeless and broke in the very near future. Fun! Yeah, London 2.0 has been just as hard at times too.

The good news? I have finally secured another job and I’ll move into my new pad at the beginning of next month. Phew! Today also marks another year that I’ve survived this bad-ass city. Yaasss!!

So the real moral of the story is: while I was home back in Australia for those months in 2016, I witnessed my 60-year-old Dad (who also happened to find himself unemployed) get up every morning, look at the job vacancies online, check his emails (to find no response from any of the jobs he applied for the previous day), and muster up the courage to do it all over again: it nearly broke him.

There is something utterly soul-shattering when you find yourself unemployed past the age of 30. The constant putting yourself out there. The way your heart skips a beat and then sinks when you check your inbox. The realisation that there’s now a much higher chance of someone younger and possibly more qualified than you going for the same role. The acknowledgement of how big the gap is getting from when you last did the job you love. But mostly, ignoring the constant feeling that you’re failing. It got me real dark most days and I had to really try to find the quick wins in life. I can only imagine how my poor Dad felt during his period. If I was struggling with this at 30, what was going through his mind at 60?

The truth: I’d love to wrap this up with something hopeful and with the reassurance that everything is always going to be ok, but I didn’t have the courage or the energy to put this down on paper till I was employed again. It’s funny how that 9-5 life gives you that feeling of purpose and how necessary that is for your mental health and self-care. So I get it: if you’re going through this or have gone through this in the past, it’s hard to hear or take comfort in those words, especially when you’re in the thick of it.

The real truth: I can’t guarantee everything is going to be ok, no one can, in my experience it hasn’t always been. Things that make it a hell of a lot easier? Take those FaceTime calls from your family (even when you can’t bear to actually ‘face’ them), have a good chin-wag with your nearest and dearest and get that ugly off your chest, have someone in your life that encourages you to remember all the things you should be grateful for and have those cups of peppermint tea on the reg.

One piece of advice: in these times of trouble try and avoid alcohol and drugs, if you can. I’m not a saint and it’s absolutely the first thing I reach for whenever I’m in despair, but I read this great quote and it’s really changed my mind set.

‘If you drink to numb all the difficult things in life, you’ll numb all the good bits too.’

Remember, every next level of your life will determine a different you.

Peace out Kweens!

Stay strong.

Big love,

Carmela.

x

Introducing Carmela Contarino, the #PowerKween behind ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied…’ 👸🏻♥️✨

Carmela is an Aussie in London with wanderlust. A TV/Radio rebel. Fierce feminist. Loud laugh-er. Emotional eat-er. Pop culture cat. Red wine wooer and karaoke kween. She hopes that her experiences are just like yours, funny, warm, loud, raw and that maybe you can figure out this thing called ‘life’ together. #YasssKween 🙌🏼

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2am phone calls: what we don’t share on social media.

2am phone calls: what we don’t share on social media.

I’m Carmela. This year, I packed up my life and moved back to London for the second time. I’ve also spent numerous weekends in Brighton, traveled to Dublin with my two besties, been to Ibiza for a wedding, spent a long weekend in Cyprus, celebrated a birthday with an old friend in Berlin, eaten every kind of gelato in Florence, did that weird pose next to that tower in Pisa, indulged in too much pasta while checking out the Cinqua Terra, drank Chianti dry, swanned around in Paris, pretended to be Mariah Carey in Capri and had way too much fun in Positano. I just came back from Prague and I’ll be in Copenhagen before Christmas. Yes, I’ll admit it, I’m obsessed with the ‘socials’. All my escapades are thoroughly (and I mean thoroughly) documented on every social platform: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Friends in Australia are constantly messaging me with curiosity ‘do you have a job yet?’ as it would seem all I’ve done since I left was exchange currency and plane hop from country to country. Friends I’ve made in London are constantly saying “If I have to see one more photo on Facebook” or “Of course you’re going on holiday again”.

This made me start to evaluate the kinds of things I was putting out into the big-bad-world-of-web and whether it was reflective of what my day-to-day life was like since I had put everything I owned into two suitcases and made my way to this cold, dark city.

The answer: obviously not.

On one hand, I wasn’t ashamed of the things I had accomplished and I guess ‘boasted about’ on social media this year. This was a result of (as a 31 year old) spending the previous year back in my hometown, in my parents’ home, in my old bedroom (which was shared with my 2-year-old nephew whenever he would sleep over) and it definitely took its toll.

To give you some background, this exercise was so I could secure an Italian passport (as my working visa had come to an end) but mostly it was to save enough money so I could return to the UK this time round and not find myself broke, job-to-job, miserable and a little lost. But considering everything I’ve ‘posted’ about since I landed back in London, how could anyone possibly know that?

How could they possibly know that in some sense I was here because I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere anymore? How could they know that maybe I was sadly and selfishly reveling in the fact that I had no one to be accountable for: no partner, no children, no mortgage, so it was easy yet somewhat necessary to make this choice? I wasn’t showing that aspect of my life on social media now, was I?

To think of it, was I really showing anything that was going on in my world? Maybe not. Maybe, it was just highly-filtered travel pics and funny hashtags. Maybe, it was lacking of the struggle to be alone, the struggle to find somewhere to live, the struggle to find work and the constant struggle with money.

The moment that really hit me was when I received a phone call at 2am from my Mother on a Thursday. I was living with Carly. I answered thinking Mum, the silly woman, had gotten the time-difference wrong. A minute into the conversation I could see she was in a car and looking pale (still oblivious to what that could mean). She continued on about how my Uncle Tony was taken to hospital earlier that day and even at that point I didn’t register that something could be wrong. I thought that my Aunty’s brothers and sisters were just on their way to the hospital because it was a close call. That’s how wonderfully naive I was in that moment.

It’d been 15 years since we had lost anyone in our family, so I was out of action when it came to thinking the worst in these situations. I remember saying “So he’s ok right?” Mum broke down in tears and started to shake her head “No, he’s gone” (actually, I don’t know if that’s what she said, but it was something of that nature). Immediately, whether it was the shock or the sudden sadness, I started crying and screaming, waking Carly up in the process.

“Carmela, what’s going on?” She shouted. “My Uncle just died” I replied.

With those 4 words it was like time froze. Did those words just come out of my mouth? My Uncle? My favourite Uncle? The one that would always ask me, never if I had a boyfriend but how work was going? Or how life in Sydney with his son was?

Carly and I lived in an open space, our bedrooms were like cabins on a cruise ship but with no doors. I spent the next 3 hours in the bathroom crying, trying to not to wake her. I dreaded the next morning, worried of how this would feel in the light and how I would even broach the subject with my Aunty and cousins (one cousin in particular that had become like a brother to me). It didn’t feel real. It still doesn’t feel real.

Carly and I have had numerous conversations in the past about what we saw on social media but mostly, about what we didn’t see. Was it a mask? Was it a lie? Was it just the shiny stuff? Or was sharing about the difficult things just too hard and portals like Facebook an escape?

I was apprehensive about sharing my Uncle’s story on social media. Thoughts of it being cheap and cruel ran through my head. But this was my life. This possibly was the real story of my life since I returned to London. It was clear now, that it was never about overseas travel, disposable cash, copious amounts of alcohol and naked dancing. It was about something more. There were lessons to be learnt here.

I had to hear about the news of my Uncle passing via FaceTime. I went to work the next day, puffy faced and red-eyed because I had just started a new job but most importantly, I desperately needed the money. I had missed out on grieving with my family. I missed out on being at my Uncle’s funeral. So yes, this was the real story of leaving your old life and moving overseas. This was what it was really like to be away from home. Suddenly, my passport wasn’t shining so bright anymore, the days felt long and the nights even longer.

So these days, whenever my Mum calls me at an ungodly hour, my heart skips a beat, it’s almost like I can’t breathe. Phone calls at 2am from now on will never be the same.

I still catch myself crying in the most ridiculous places because they remind me of my Uncle (a deli section of a supermarket) because I haven’t dealt with this properly yet. And the truth is I may never. Because I wasn’t there. I’m going to have to live with that forever.

I read his eulogy over a pint in a London pub. I called my cousins after the wake. I message my Aunty most days to see how she is. It sucks.

So, I’m Carmela. This year I moved back to London from Australia for the second time. I’ve traveled numerous parts of Europe and it’s been amazing but it’s also been fucking hard too. I’m not sure if my social footprint reflects this. I’m not even sure if it should or if it has to. I just know if you asked me you’d always get the truth and so maybe I need to continue telling my truth on here too.

Big love,

Carmela

x

Introducing Carmela Contarino, the #PowerKween behind ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied…’ 👸🏻♥️✨

Carmela is an Aussie in London with wanderlust. A TV/Radio rebel. Fierce feminist. Loud laugh-er. Emotional eat-er. Pop culture cat. Red wine wooer and karaoke kween. She hopes that her experiences are just like yours, funny, warm, loud, raw and that maybe you can figure out this thing called ‘life’ together. #YasssKween 🙌🏼