unemployment during COVID-19

At the time of writing this, over half a million Canadians have applied for employment insurance. I am just one of these Canadians.

To be honest, applying for EI was confusing, scary and tear-inducing. I might have had a cute mental breakdown in my bed. It was very cute, though.

Now, as I wait for confirmation on my claim, I’m navigating the peaks and pits of this particular brand of unemployment. Here’s what I’ve discovered.

HIGH: I have never had so much free time in my life.

Not even as an infant baby child was I this free of obligations. I had places to roll to in my stroller, people to blow spit bubbles at, parties to be passed around at. I didn’t have time for ab-so-lute-ly nothing.

This truly is the most available I’ve ever been. Some days it’s exhilarating. Like, “Should I just, you know, write the next great YA novel?” Or, “I can finally learn the entirety of the Italian dictionary!”

LOW: I have never had so much free time in my life.

No really, I have never been so free of obligations. I wake up and nobody anywhere is expecting me to be doing anything whatsoever.

Read that sentence a few more times to understand the panic that ensues.

Here comes the, “Wait, what the &*@$ am I doing?”. Oh, and don’t forget the, “Do I have any purpose on this overly heated planet anymore?” Yeah, it gets even darker from there.

HIGH: I have the ultimate excuse I’ve always dreamt of.

All those times I wanted to not pay rent. Those days I didn’t want to put pants on, or give the government money, or see that kinda-friend I scheduled a date with for some reason when I was drunk. Now, thanks to my girl COVID, I have the most valid excuse of all time.

Sorry landlord. Sorry co-workers. Sorry kinda-not really-friend. Sorry Canada! I unfortunately can not meet your financial, social, or pants-wearing requirements today. I am in self-isolation. You know, deadly virus going around. TTFN!

LOW: I have to actually deliver this excuse to people.

Turns out, telling the government you can’t pay them is a lot less liberating than it seems. Not only is it tough to admit, but it’s quite literally tough to do. I can’t get a hold of those guys right now even if I had extra coins to toss them.

Seriously, anyone have a direct line or, like, a carrier pigeon?

Plus, telling your brand new landlord that rent ain’t happenin’ this month? Not a fan.

HIGH: I can plot my post pandemic career glow up.

Sudden unemployment gives your brain permission to wander. “Should I make a huge career move after this?” “Maybe start a non-profit?” “What brilliant e-commerce idea has yet to reveal itself in my psyche?”

For a girl who just recently quit her 9 to 5 with no master plan and a serving gig to keep me afloat, my imagination is running especially wild. Even my cynical self can admit that the possibilities feel palpable.

LOW: I regularly convince myself there IS no post pandemic.

Like I said guys, it gets dark out here. But level with me, unemployed folks. Has this thought not crossed your mind? Not even once? Not even as a fleeting spark to a nerve ending somewhere in your Vitamin D deficient body?

As the whole world sits in uncertainty, my lowest lows envision a long lifetime of quarantine, bidets, and #StayHome hashtags.

HIGH: I have a sense of humour about this weird time.

LOW: I feel the immense weight of this time.

Listen, getting laid off sucks and this virus sucks and we’re all scared as hell. But you know what? At least we’re scared together.

At least the whole world is collectively talking about the same thing at the same time. When does that ever happen? When do we ever find ourselves all fighting the same enemy?

And, if anything, at least we can all share a laugh — even a nervous one — at the incredible lunacy of our current reality.

Or at the expense of my unemployment. Either works.