Unemployment During a Pandemic, and How I’ve Survived

At its peak, one in four Americans felt the sting of unemployment. Some were temporarily furloughed, some were laid off with hopes of being rehired, and some were just flat out let go.

Now, I’m not going to spend this blog debating whether states should be re-opening, that’s not my point.

My point is that sting of unemployment, how difficult it is not knowing when you’ll have a job again. I’ve written about this previously, in fact, this is my second blog on my website (my website has been mostly used as a portfolio, but sometimes I have some thoughts), and both have been about unemployment, but the last post was pre-pandemic.

Now we’re well into 2020, and it’s pretty clear this is a year for the history books. Pre-pandemic, I was spending my days on Starbucks’ wifi applying for every job under the sun in the hopes that I’d land something that would give me money and… you know… a purpose. But when states shut down and layoffs happened en masse, what was the point? No one was hiring, especially in my industry. I felt purposelessness, hopeless, and lost.

Early on in the pandemic, when hospitals were running short on PPE, they turned to the crafters of the country and asked for cloth masks that could be used over their precious N95 masks to stretch out their use. I love to craft, but sewing was not my forte… I broke every machine I touched. But I wanted a purpose, maybe this was it! So I went out and bought a sewing machine, and armed with fabric, thread, the machine’s handbook, and instructions on making a mask, I set to work.

I don’t know if the mask instructions were confusing because I wasn’t an avid seamstress, or because they were just plain confusing, but I got them off Cricut Design Space, and they’ve since been changed, so I’m going with the fact that they were confusing. My first mask took me 4 hours to complete, start-to-finish, and looked like this:

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4 hours ⏰ 1 confusing set of instructions 1 new toy (a sewing machine) ~1 whole spool of thread 🧵 A pretty big mess 12 times I “broke” my machine 1 mask 😷 If I had a job in radio, I’d be helping. I’d be giving people essential info they needed for their day. But I’m not currently in a radio job, so I’m trying to help from the sidelines. When hospitals started asking for homemade masks, I sadly didn’t think I could help, yet again. I hadn’t sewn since Jr. High. I was convinced I’d break a machine. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided it was time to face something that scared me, and I just might be able to help in the process. I struggled a LOT. It took me a very long time. I thought about giving up… but I thought about our frontline, the nurses and doctors, those that still have to report to work… they can’t give up. So neither can I. It’s not perfect… it’s actually not even close… but I made one. I did what I thought I couldn’t do. If you’re looking for something to do, a lot of hospitals are asking for these masks! I found this pattern on @officialcricut Design Space, but there are a TON out there right now! Let’s rise up to help! Stay at home, make some masks, and #flattenthecurve

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Functional? I guess. Pretty? NOPE! I had to get thicker elastic because all of the other crafters of the world had bought up the right size, so I folded what I’d gotten in half and it was…. clunky. My next iteration used ribbons, but the liner fabric was still too big and, the front fabric flapped open weirdly. It took me five tries, modifying a little each time, before I got to what I thought was functional, so I made a bunch and then looked up my local hospital… just to find out they were not accepting the masks. So I turned to Facebook and asked if my friends and/or family needed any masks and the response was HUGE! I made and sent out over 100 masks before demand slowed down, and at this point, I felt needed. I had a purpose. And I had about 15 masks left that were unclaimed. So I thought I’d put the remaining ones on Etsy until they were gone, recoup a little money for cost, and that would be that.

They were gone in less than a day.

Clearly demand was still there, so I kept making masks and I kept putting them on Etsy. I didn’t want to overprice them, because I wanted people to get them who needed them, but when you take out the costs involved, I was making somewhere around $6/hour. I couldn’t keep them in stock. I upped the price a few times, with the hope I could have time to catch up, but it never came. I refused to make them double digit priced, so at $9 they stayed and remain today.

Shameless plug, check out my Etsy shop here.

I’ve made over 500 masks now, including the original amount I made for family and friends, but demand has slowed as states start to reopen, and that’s okay. I was working 10 hours a day, 7 days a week for a few months to keep up with demand. Now with the extra free time, I’ve taken up applying for jobs again. I still have the sting of unemployment. I still am wondering about when (or, as anxiety whispers in my ear, if) I’ll get another job. But I’m pretty proud of myself for picking up a new skill and helping to pay the bills during this “uncertain time.”

Now, if there are any program directors out there looking for a personality for their station, hmu! Links to audio, video, and my resume can all be found under this same domain! I can shamelessly plug… this is my website!

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