Field Notes In/On Transition
2015 The Year That Josie Broke
I have very mixed feelings about the year 2015. It is the year that I went from being someone with a small nest egg for the future, and a year already in 2014 of employment disappointment; to someone with zero savings, no employment, or very little. But for all the long stretches of very real stress, and depression, in the end, at the end of the year, things are starting to brighten up again.
Early in the year my EI, or employment insurance ran out, but I had some savings, so I went to the bank, and took out a chunk of those savings in my RRSP, paying huge fees, and taxes to come likely, on that money, which I used to pay down my line of credit, and credit card, mostly, which I had overused while during 2014’s loss of hours at my old job, and eventual lay off, with sucky EI, based on the last several months I worked there, when I made less than I ever did the previous busier 7+ years at the video store. I also had a bit of good luck, you might say then too. I was paying for some insurance every month on the credit card, that I hadn’t noticed, as I am not careful enough with these things, or wasn’t at the time. The insurance, my banker helped me apply, and MasterCard accepted my claim, or their insurance company did, however it works, the upshot being they took over $3000 right off my card, backdating my claim a few months. It was kind of shocking, but I was overjoyed to get a break from somewhere on money.
I also had for a few weeks a bookkeeping/light editing job, for a dog walking company that didn’t work out, in the end, but was a great learning experience, and I made a new friend, and met a cool dog or two. So, a win in my book, even if it was only a day a week for a few weeks.
A friend turned me on to a background talent agency that specializes in atypical looking folks for TV/movie backgrounds. We used to call it ‘extra work’ back in the day. I am still with the agency, and have a one day booked for the coming month, but overall it hasn’t been a great experience for me. I have only been booked a couple of times, and at the weirdest early/late hours, which is I guess typical. Now that I am collecting Income Assistance aka Welfare, or ‘wellie’ as we used to say back in the day, I am going to try and have myself available for more days, but the stuff I have done, so far has all ended up on the cutting room floor, or you just couldn’t see me, in a zombie horde on one show. I don’t get enough work, and so far the pay is crappy. I will keep being available, until later this year when I yearly fees run out, then I think that experiment is over.
The best part of 2015 for me, really was after trying to get help getting into a ‘self employment course’ last winter, and being shunted into resume workshops, and applying for jobs I really thought I could get, but never ever getting any interviews. My goal was to get into a self employment course, but I kept being stymied, in the end, my idea of crowd funding to raise money to write my memoir, and to start selling more of my art prints, and crafts, was not a sound enough idea apparently for WorkBC.
So I wrote them a strongly worded letter, that I no longer wanted their services. I would do my own business on my own without their helping me get a course if they thought I couldn’t do it, seriously, fuck them. Sorry not sorry to say this. It always came down to, ‘you don’t have a business plan’. This frustrated me so much, I wanted to take a course (that I obviously being unemployed couldn’t afford on my own) so I could learn how to do a proper business plan. Deaf ears. These ‘help you find work’ places have no room for creativity, or non ‘traditional’ jobs. I was not getting interviews even. A 49 year old Trans woman is not employable unless she has professional certification, and even then, it’s not like any employer, especially in trendy Vancouver is going to say we aren’t looking at you because you are Trans and ‘old’. But that is exactly why so many interviews never happened.
So, almost to spite WorkBC, I got a bit of help from my friend Kate, and did my crowd funding campaign on my own, for my memoir “All My Empty Dresses: Memoirs Of A Strawgirl.” I was reasonably successful considering that it was funding a non famous trans person’s memoir, and not some cool gadget that makes coffee, and butters your toast, or a famous cartoonist making a graphic novel. I raised over $2000 in 60 days online, and a couple hundred in person. I used up the last of my RRSP savings while doing so.
And far more importantly I wrote a few thousand words a day for several months and have a finished draft, that has the interest of a mid list Canadian publisher. I sent out a few mass emails from my very disorganized email address books. An old co-worker, it turns out is a publisher, and asked me to submit when I finished. I finished at the end of November, and have given the first few chapters to ‘friends who edit’ for notes. I have gotten some notes back already and am slowly carefully considering and revising the first few chapters which is the submission. My plan is to finish up, and submit in a couple of weeks. It will of course at least take a few months to hear back from the publisher, so I have to find other ways to earn, in the mean time.
I have talked a bit about the crafting of Strawgirl Dolls, I think here, I have sold about a dozen or more of those, as well as some calendars with Strawgirl prints as the monthly image. I still have a few left, and can easily obtain more, if anyone is interested in getting a nice wall calendar. I even sold a few coffee mugs, as the online printer I used has a wide array of ephemeral printing options, and have enough big sales that I was still able to clear some profit, even getting things shipped to myself, and then reshipping things to people outside Vancouver, as well as a few local sales.
The other part of the calendars etc, was fulfilling campaign perks. As the memoir won’t be ready quite as soon as I’d hoped (right now)! I wanted to fulfill the rest of the perks people bought, including my old poetry books, and calendars, dolls, and more. I relied on credit for this expense, I had hoped to be able to afford through getting some ‘side work.’ The side work never materialized, and it gave me a lot of stress, as did paying most of my December rent with Cash advances on my credit card. So grateful to have had that insurance earlier in the year, or I really would be broke now, in terms of room left on my card. I post even more personal stuff on facebook than here, and I began to be even more open about the dire straits I felt I was facing.
I have never had so much satisfaction from work I have done, as I have sending out all but the memoirs to folks, at least filling some campaign perks, and selling my calendars, dolls, and having a couple of really good readings, being the poet, performer that I know is hiding inside me.
Many people urged me to apply for social assistance, or the aforementioned Welfare, this winter. I was very intimidated by this, as it’s even deeper in it’s hoop jumping than WorkBC was, and my experience there, aside from a good resume refresher course, was not positive. One reason I have worked at the jobs I have in life is to avoid things like welfare, or even going on EI when finishing a job, though I have used EI a few times. I felt like my autumn, despite going through my savings, was a great time of healing around the idea of working for myself, and that I could work as a self employed person. But I also realized that I would need a bit of help to get myself where I wanted to go. So a week or so into December, I applied for ‘social assistance,’ and after a lot of hurrying up and waiting and hoop jumping, on the 30th of December, they cut me a cheque, which covers most of my rent.
But far more importantly to me, my friends, especially those in my choir really came through for me with generosity that I hadn’t expected from anyone. I got this huge gift bag of food, and a little cash, and other stuff to help me through December, and one choir member paid me to cat sit their kitties while they were away for the holidays, I even did some cooking for a very busy choir friend, and it was immensely satisfying, just going shopping and making a big soup for my friend to eat for a few days while they were so busy. Another group of friends, mostly anonymous, gave me some (to me, a lot of) cash. I even had a friend who is an online friend, I've never met in person, gift me some cash, in an e-transfer.
I am beyond grateful to all the people who just helped me, given me opportunities to earn money, without any prompting other than my own honesty about my situation, and how afraid I was becoming of my future, how much more than usually down, cynical and depressed I was about the world.
My world, my friends picked me up, dusted me off, put some money in my pockets, and helped me feel brave enough to face whatever challenges occur.
So many people have been so generous to me, and most of my fears of being further ignored by the system with welfare, have evaporated, with a friendlier more helpful follow up and setting up of my file. I am on a bit of a probation, as I have to prove I am searching for work every day, possible, for the next five weeks. This will help make me more organized at least for that amount of time during my work search.
As far as working for someone else, what I desire is low key and part time. No stressful full time right away environments. Things may or may not work out this way, as there are really only so many jobs out there, and it seems most of those are in frontline health/social care work, or retail, which is something as a Trans woman I’d rather not delve back into. I spent the first half of my transition thus far educating people about being Trans allll day. So much emotional labour, unpaid, and stress causing, in fact.
I have some leads that I will be following up on, and keeping track of each step with Welfare. I welcome being a bit more organized in job searching actually. But I also have to finish my book, keep editing, as well as turn my eyes towards making more money from my crafting, and writing. One thing I really want to do is start doing some ‘video blogs’ in place of or in combination with this blog, and my other blogs. I want to make enough through wellie, and bits and pieces of work to escape from the need for wellie, as soon as I possibly can, so that I can spend my summer editing my hopefully to be legit published memoir, whilst travelling across Canada, blogging, video blogging, and selling my crafts and making my own way. I have stated this several times in this blog: my best product is me.
Watch out for even more productivity from me, mostly based solely on things only I can provide, my stories, my art, my self. If the publisher takes a pass on my memoir, I won’t actually shop it around, as my original plan was to self publish anyway. I am going to raise my profile with more consistent blogging, video and otherwise. I am a very high strung person, but i feel if I get the same kind of respect, love and people actually listening to me, like I have in the last moth or so, 2016 will be the year I am finally doing all the things I want to do, and not worrying that I can’t afford to live, and that no one will hire me, because I am hiring me, and I give good benefits, and pay well, am appreciative of hard work, and thoughtfulness.
I have zero resolutions to make this year coming up, as I am nothing but resolve, in terms of getting myself into a place eventually, slowly, methodically, where I am self sufficient and finally being the Josie that I know, and my wise friends can see more of than I can, is in there.
2015 may have been a very difficult year for me as ‘an earner’ and productive member of the workforce, whatever. Money, 2015 was not my year of money, of earning more than I spent, or feeling at all safe from the world. But it was the year that I realized how much love and support and real affection people are willing to give me, and how much I am willing to return. My other goal for 2016 is to be able to continue to grow myself into the person I always thought I never deserved to be; that I have already discovered, many folks see me as already. I have to keep reminding myself that my 4th anniversary of living my authentic life is coming up.
All the things ‘Joe’ put on hold, or pushed to the side, in disbelief: feelings of belonging, community, love, he felt were never his due, or that he was only ever 'allowed' to be on the fringe... as he wasn’t me, (and he indeed actually had those things, but just could not believe it) these things are real. I have community, I have support, I have love, maybe I always did. But it is only now that I am realizing the depth and the strength of those things in my life, thanks to The Femme City Choir, thanks to my many friends and family who have been beyond generous, and more supportive than my shame filled brain lets me accept, far too often. I have been humbled and delighted as I rolled in my ashes the last month, and have been hauled up into a new start, yet again, in my new authentic life.
The adversity I thought I was very much alone in, turned out to be adversity that I had so much help and support in getting through, that now despite so much hew and crying from me, has only made me stronger and more fierce. The adversity doesn’t make you stronger; the support, the love of the people pushing gently you through it makes you stronger, makes you fierce. I only hope that I can live up to, and repay in whatever way I can, the kindness I have been shown, and live with the strength that these wonderful people helped me find within myself.
Watch out 2016, Josie is coming for you! #2016YearOfJosie