Its been a strange year and everything I had planned has blown up. I was feeling happy when I quit my job at the end of last year. It was killing me, the constant nagging and nit-picking of the managers was getting to both me and my work colleague. I was having panic attacks and unable to sleep due to the stress of it all. We had both had enough of the sh*t, we both had sleep issues and had been working very hard late into evenings and overnights to get things completed yet nothing was every good enough for the management team. Even if we met deadlines, we needed to have achieved more than planned. We were incompetent. As soon as the project was delivered, we both quit. We had done our bit, we had finished the project – we had reached our personal target – over to the business to run it now!
I left the building on my last day in Dec 2019 with a sense of relief. The weight on my shoulders had lifted and I felt free. I started the year with optimism that a break and a fresh start at a new place would brighten my view of work.
How a virus can put paid to all that. The beginning of the year started well with the ability to detox, decompress and get a few jobs sorted on my house. I had tickets booked for gigs and festivals and was looking forward to the summer, with a holiday booked too. The ability to go and do some ‘life’ things rather than being locked to a work schedule. I met up with my ex-work colleague and we both looked much better from leaving, we could sleep, we both felt more relaxed and felt we have made the right decision.
Workman were booked in and things were happening on my house which were long over due. As the work neared completion talk of the virus began to appear and the views of it being a ‘flu’ were rife.
Then as I started to look for a new job, the March lockdown kicked in. The job market stopped overnight. As I wasn’t working I was not affected by the immediate stay at home request. I enjoyed being able to go out walking and cycling with no traffic! I couldn’t meet my partner as we don’t live together so the isolation was the hardest bit for me. Living on your own in these times are the hardest, I was a prisoner. We could only call and skype each other, we both felt the isolation. We started to see cancellations for gigs and festivals, depressing. Everything started to be, ‘next year then, roll on 2021’.
I gave up looking for work during April and found voluntary work sewing scrubs with a local group. This gave me a sense of purpose and enabled me to have a daily routine. I had tasks and deadlines. It was something completely different and refreshed my skills that had laid dormant for years. I enjoyed it and was a complete break from the office grind. I started seeing dividends being cut and my passive income streams started to dry up. Not an immediate problem but would cause an issue in the long-term if this continues into next year.
In May as things started to ease, I could go and visit my partner and form a support bubble so that has been encouraging. Our summer holiday was cancelled, we have moved it to next year. I applied for jobs and had a few interviews – but they came to nothing – I am not the 30-something male that they want. I started looking for side hustles, I found a virtual platform recommended by a freelancer and I joined. It wasn’t too bad, I had to completed some tests to gain access to restricted work areas but I found it different from what I had done before and things started to look up.
I continued to sew and have a purpose. I walked and cycled and felt like I was starting to relax a bit. The decompression phase was beginning to kick in after all the anxiety of lockdown. The workplace world still causes me to panic. I look and get put off by the job descriptions as they want either full time office attendance or the ‘world of experience & qualifications’; it is definitely a buyer’s market as people ask for huge amounts of experience for lower salaries. I think I am not ready to return to the workplace as I was so traumatised by my last employer. They killed my spirit and my mojo. I question my ability to do anything now, I lost my self-esteem by the end. I felt I couldn’t even write my name without getting it wrong!
I continue to seek out virtual platform jobs and as the sewing declined I sought out more tasks to earn money. I read the user forum and found that veteran users are moaning about the poor pay rates and the lack of work. You could earn a reasonable amount of income on the site but now it has fallen off a cliff. The number of users has grown considerably due to the pandemic and the user base has expanded globally by over 300k users in the past 3 months. It was mainly a US/European based but now it is global. It has affected pay and access to work. I read posts about people earning good amounts per month on the platform with ease last year, I am lucky if I can earn a tenth of that now! There are also comments about the quality of the work going down too as more people join who either try to scam the site to gain cash for doing nothing or just write gibberish. The restricted area was supposed to offer higher pay rates due to the time required to complete them and demanded that you pass tests before you can access the actual tasks – to control user standards – the rates had been dropping and users had been boycotting tasks where rates were really low – so the platform reacted by opening it up to the global user base. Their boycott backfired and the pay rates will remain low as other countries see these rates as good. Everything is paid in US dollars so the exchange rate determines the best earning potential so globalisation shows it hand again!
The money I make is just pin-money but it would be good if I could find a hustle that would give me an increased income so I can continue to live without the need for a job and flex my hours and days. I am now starting to see more jobs advertised as remote working or flex working – which is what I would prefer. Maybe something will appear for which I am qualified. What is clear is that companies have frozen their investment in new projects while they survive this pandemic. – Which is fair enough ! I would if I was a business owner – It has had a devastating affect on their incomes and ability to trade. I have ex work colleagues who are losing their jobs as the furlough scheme winds down and they find that their employer cannot keep them on. Many are because the business just doesn’t have any projects so has no income to pay them. They are prioritising those workers who are vital to the running of the company. They are looking at the bare minimum cover and making do with the staff they have. The only local jobs near me are warehouse work. They are turning over staff on a daily basis as people try it out find it too physical and quit as they cannot keep up with the pace required to meet pick targets. I am too old to try it, I know my limitations.
Financially, I have watched my net worth crash with the markets and also start to rise slowly. I have watched my dividends dry up and passive income fall. It really began to hit hard in June when the withdrawal of dividends really started to impact my bottom line figures. I have been bombarded with emails and letters notifying me of dropping interest rates on savings and none keep pace with inflation! I am seeing my cash eroded as I survive on it.
I am moving money to chase the best interest rates but it feels like fool’s gold as the interest rates will drop in a few months as the government try to push people to spend their money. I will put some into my ISA to use my allowance and accept the perils of the market roller coaster. Its OK for the politicians in their ivory towers with guaranteed pensions and work-for-home flexibility. They can quit and not have to claim or live off benefits. They end up with non-exec roles and quango placements.
I can feel grateful that I can pay my bills and I am surviving. I panic over not having a job as it gives me a sense of purpose – if i could fight that demon by finding purpose in other areas then I may conquer and contain it. Work is my only social connection too as I have no social circle or friends and have limited ability to gain any due to social distancing and restrictions on gathering. I have been such a work nomad I have never made any proper social circles or friendships that last.
I do need to find some work long term as I am not FI. I have enough to live a frugal life and cover my costs but nothing for luxuries or big plans. I need to fight my inner demons and break this self-esteem issue that clouds my mind with negative thoughts. Then I will feel more confident in my job applications and maybe even get some work. It’s not the status I seek but a sense of belonging and contribution.
I need to spend more time working on my personal development and kick this demon into touch!