By Gabriella Aros
Entering the Fall 2022 semester, I had it all. I was starting my last year of college and worked part time at an apartment complex that allowed me to gain customer service and administrative experience. I was comfortable with where I was and had coworkers who made my job easier. My environment was great and for the first time ever, my anxiety was an afterthought in my day-to-day life.
Things didn’t last, however. That October, I learned that the management company worked for was being fired, and a new company would be taking over the property. I knew my job wasn’t safe. Despite knowing most of the residents by name and understanding the ins and outs of the property like no one else, one paper, I was a part-time, 19-year-old college student without a degree.
How do you go from a steady income to no money stream at all? I didn’t know. I never thought I would have to experience unemployment, at least not now. My coworker told me that since I was laid off, I was eligible for unemployment benefits from the Federal Government. I filled out the necessary forms and figured I would live off that while I searched for a job and continued school.
That didn’t pan out exactly. See, I had failed to realize that since I was in school, I would need to get my unemployment forms signed by a professor every week proving that I was attending my classes. I tried to do it. I even brought the forms in my backpack to school, but my anxiety came crashing like a tidal wave and that, mixed with the sense of pride instilled in me by my upbringing as a Chicana woman, made it hard to admit to my professors that I was jobless and struggling financially. I respected them and worked hard to gain their respect in return, so although it seems like just a signature, it was much more.
I had no choice then. I had run out of options. I went to job interview after job interview. I submitted my application to 8 different places before I heard a response. Although it was disheartening, there was nothing I could do but keep working. I was living off a pot of beans I had made at the beginning of the week and froze to later reheat when I was ready. I switched to cheaper shampoo and facewash to save money, even turning off my A/C to make sure my electricity bill wasn’t too high.
I eventually got a job, and things feel like they are working out again. I was fortunate to have enough saved up to be okay for the few weeks I was struggling with unemployment, but it was still worrisome, and my mental health was at its lowest.
My biggest piece of advice is to keep moving forward. I know it is easier said than done. The cheap meals and nights in aren’t as great as the typical college experience of parties and eating out with friends, but the situation I found myself in is common for a lot of people. The only way to survive is to keep going and make do with what you have.
Gabriella Aros is a senior at the Missouri School of Journalism