Kat Hudson

Kat Hudson
Location
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Birthday
May 16
Bio
Kathryn Hudson has been a writer for most of her life. Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, she currently calls Baltimore, Md., her home. As an award-winning journalist, Ms. Hudson spent several years as a newspaper reporter. She is currently raising a beautiful daughter on her own as a single mother along with two obnoxious cats (they are probably both French-Canadian). In her free time she writes. In her regular life, she juggles a cute infant along with a job in sales, blogs, and short films about everything. She welcomes new friends and correspondence, especially from befuddled new parents like herself.

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Editor’s Pick
MAY 7, 2010 3:50PM

Unemployed: Month three and I'm down but not out

Rate: 16 Flag

Losing your job sucks. Especially when you have no control over it. 

 

My heart almost stopped beating this week.

It's been three months since I joined the rank and file of the unemployed in this country. America, land of opportunity, thankfully shows a little mercy on the unemployed by offering insurance if we work long and hard enough. So, after getting my unemployment benefits, I made all the necessary cuts to my budget, like going out to eat and buying anything but the essentials. I also set up, through my state-issued debit card, text message alerts to keep me apprised of my account balance so I didn't get into trouble. And that's when the trouble started.

Saving my soul and budget 

My budget is as bare-bones as it can get. I take pride in shopping at the lowest-priced places. I learned recently that several area Dollar Tree stores have fresh and frozen food sections where I can score bags of frozen veggies, salmon filets (small but tasty), eggs (half a dozen or a dozen depending on the store), butter and milk for just a buck per item. As a single gal, I've managed stretch my dollars pretty far. I also find private-label stores, like Aldi and Save-A-Lot to really come in handy. I am watching every penny as I search for my next big thing.

Even so, I knew this month the rent would be late. I had no choice. I realized, while figuring my budget last month, that the only way for me to get a little bit ahead of the game was to fall behind a little on one thing. Since I've never been late on my rent and I knew I could catch up to it before being cast at the mercy of rent court, I chose to wait a few days to pay it. This would allow me to keep my cell phone and wireless Internet bill paid (necessary tools for job searching and general sanity), some gas in my tank for interviews and food for me and the cats. Then something went wrong.

Somehow the bank made a mistake. When I got the text message saying that my account was $200 beneath my projections, I went into a full-on panic. Even with all my financial creativity, this would leave me with just $39 to cover every possible expense for three weeks of the month. My heart felt like it was going to explode from the terror.

On being "un-helpless" 

Just a few weeks earlier, a reporter from The Baltimore Sun found me on Twitter. I've tweeted about looking for work and the sometimes desperate and helpless feelings I've had in the process. She asked to interview me for a story she was working on about the improved job outlook for Maryland. As a former reporter, I obliged. I figured it couldn't hurt my job search, either. 

The story was great. It didn't get any jobs offers flowing in, but it made me realize just how un-helpless I was. I have a lot more power than I give myself credit for sometimes.

I've spent the past few months really looking at my life. At first I felt some shame over my job track record. Any HR manager looking at my resume would become queasy from the roller coaster ride I've taken in the past few years as I've jumped from one job to the next, always hanging on for dear life hoping I could stay on the ride. But my car has often jumped the tracks. This year felt like complete derailment. Yet, here I am, a little bruised, a little sick, but alive after the crash. That says a lot about a person, I think.

I really do blame myself...sort of 

Pointing my finger at a lot of different people would be the easy thing to do.  I don't usually do it because it's not always fair. I do realize, however, that life and it's experiences shape the persons we become. And it all starts somewhere. Take my parents.

My father was probably the hardest-working person I ever knew. He was also the biggest dreamer. When he married my mother, proudly held down three jobs on top of his part-time career as a musician. He wanted to do it all. He also wanted to have everything including a family and stardom. He got the family, but his dreams of being a rock star died when he lost his leg in a motorcycle accident. He lost his job, too, and our middle-class existence went up in flames with it.

It was then that my smart, sweet mother stepped in. She nursed him back to health the best she could, but he was like a fallen soldier returned from the battle. He spent years not working. Instead, he was busy feeling sorry for what he'd done to himself and his family. My mother took over the job of bringing home the bacon which left her little time to be a mom. By the time I was nine, I was cooking dinner every night for three siblings and my father. My mother slung hash in a small diner in our small town. I went from careless kid to "Mom Jr." in pretty short order.

After dividing my childhood between school and taking care of my family, I'd had enough. In the middle of everything, my mother nearly died from heart disease, no doubt brought on by the stress of trying to hold it together for everyone for so long. At 18, I felt bad about leaving her behind with my dad and two younger brothers. I followed my sister's footsteps east to work as a live-in nanny. Not that that was my dream, either.

And I ran, I ran so far away 

Truth be told, my folks had converted to Jehovah's Witnesses after my dad's accident. They went from fun-loving hippies to semi-crazy Christian fundamentalists in no time at all. I had spent most of my life dreaming of becoming a writer which meant going off to college and living in New York City. That was not meant to be--at least not the way I'd envisioned. The elders of my parents church ordered them not to let me accept any of the five scholarships I'd been offered to various schools. I didn't know what else to do but run far away.

I spent a  year in New Jersey working for a pretty dysfunctional family headed by a single working mother.  I then moved to Maryland and met my ex-husband. We married when I was 22 and my parents, for a time, disowned me because he was not also a JW. My life was a precarious last step away from hell, only I didn't know it.

I managed to go to the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland, a career school that graduated Robin Quivers, sidekick to shock jock Howard Stern as well as a slew of local broadcasting luminaries. I graduated at the top of my class (I was also class president) with a diploma in Broadcast News. Only problem was, I was married and most of the good jobs where not in Baltimore. My husband wouldn't hear of us moving for my career, so I spent the next few years at jobs where I never quite fit in. I heard the words "You're fired" more times than I could count when I was still in my twenties. 

"Honey, do you know how many times Sally Jessy Raphael was fired?" My mother, now back in my life, always said this when I called to tell her about yet another moment in front of "the firing squad."

"How many times, Mom?" I knew the answer.

"Eighteen, honey, eighteen times. You're just in the wrong job. Don't worry, you'll find the right one." 

By the time I'd reached my thirties, I had been fired from seven jobs. I couldn't bear the thought of hearing those words anymore. I managed to find a job at a small newspaper where I did everything from ad design to writing stories. That's where I was at my happiest until my boss hired a new production manager who made me think of nothing but leaving.

I came home crying to my husband. In typical male fashion, he just wanted to solve a problem. "I make more than enough money for both of us, hon. Just quit. Then you can be a freelance writer." And that sounded great.  

Out of the frying pan and into the fire 

Three years later, almost to the day, I found out why he was so gosh-darned agreeable that day. My husband, now of ten years, had been cheating on me with men. He was gay, but I would be the one getting screwed when the divorce happened. He got the house, the cars and though he paid a tiny bit of alimony for a few years, it was hardly any skin off his teeth. My top salary was $30,000 a year. His? Somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000.  

I was almost glad to say goodbye to the alimony last December. I'd finally found a job that paid enough for me to live alone and pay my bills--barely. That was okay by me because it meant not being dependent on anyone else but myself for everything. I didn't know in another month I'd be hitting the pavement looking for work again.

I've never been a woman of extravagant tastes. Since moving three times in the past five years, I've happily cast off unused items and things I held onto for sentimental value. I am less about things and more about experiences. My treasures lie in the friendships and memories I've created, not the tchotchkes I've collected along the way. They tend to accumulate dust and don't equal happiness, anyway.

The last few years since my divorce have been a real struggle for survival. It hasn't been all bad; I have grown more through my adversity than I had ever grown as the formerly "kept" person I'd been while I was married. Every day is a new fight, but I'm no longer a new fighter in the ring.

Paddles...clear! 

This morning a new text from my bank account arrived. Somehow, the last text was completely wrong. I found an extra $300 that went missing and now I can muddle through for the next few weeks on a tight budget, but a livable one, at least.

As I've been writing this piece, the property manager for my building called me looking for my past-due rent. I tried not to cry when I explained to her that I had some unexpected expenses but that I'd be able to pay everything in full with late fees next Tuesday. She was nice about it. I have tried my hardest not to be a problem tenant or miss my rent which I know means a lot to her. It totally flies in the face of my perfectionism to miss even one payment, but the one thing about myself I've discovered more than anything these past few months is that I'm human.

I can see why things have worked out in my life the way they have. I have always tried to please everyone else, to be "Little Miss Perfect." Rather than admit my failings to the world, I used to hide them like a hideous scar. Now I bare them to the universe and challenge the would-be gawkers to look away. That attitude has paid off in many ways.

While I look for work, I just can't afford to be anybody I am not. I can't accept doing things that I am not. The price is just too high. Even if it means suffering a little longer, I'm stronger than that.   

*********************************

UPDATE! Please Read!

I found a blogging contest where I stand a real chance at winning! The prize is a JOB for six months WRITING!!! It will pay me enough to live on and provide me with a badly-needed new NOTEBOOK COMPUTER! So, if you read this blog, do me a favor...vote for me to win!

Vote by clicking below!

Thanks ;)

 

 

Vote for Me
Good Mood Gig from SAM-e 

 

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Comments

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I hope things start looking up soon, Kat, but way to go on how you are handling life!
Wow. Your life seems to be a huge roller coaster, but you are handling it quite well. My best friend is on the unemployment bandwagon, and she finds it hard to stay above the water. Part of this involves buying things that she truly doesn't need. It takes courage to keep things going in this horrible economy. Your blog writing it beautiful. I know that there is a company on Monster.com that is looking for those select few that are willing to blog about certain subjects in their area. It might not be a full-time job, but it will bring more dough to the table. Keep your head high and I know things will get better.

-Sarah
Ah, thanks for the kind words. Sometimes it feel so lonely to experience things. I have so many good friends, a loving family and now a wonderful boyfriend, so it has helped.

Still, I am fiercely independent and hate to ask for things. I am learning to ask for things from people who can help and I find ways to return that help. I feel so connected to the world these days because everyone I know has tried to lift me up. The world is a good place.
This is an incredible life story. Write a memoir, maybe? Make a million bucks and that will be some pretty sweet revenge. Civilization is hard. r
I know what you're going through on some level as I have been unemployed about a month in a half but the stress can be staggering. 2/3 of my income was commission. What that translates to is that I get less than 1/3 of my income in unemployment. I haven't paid April's mortgage yet, I've applied for everything I can think of. I feel for you. But it's times like these that force us to grow and find out what we're made of-- Yes?
At first I was ready for a Poor Me article, but you surprised me. I hope you get a book deal out of this. Crazy Parents, Gay Husband, Rags to Rags, it sounds like a good read. Make is funny, I like funny book. Good luck.

As a far as being unemployed, I am 10 months in and know the pain. But people in this country have to start realizing that this economy was destroyed on purpose and it is time to start getting angry about the destruction of the middle class and the rise of the elite. We have to get Greek on business and political leaders.

Don't be fooled by yesterdays April Jobs report. It was one big lie. There were nowhere near 290k jobs created. That was a statistical boondoggle.
Aimlow Joe
http://www.aimlow.com
I can't offer advice about actually getting a job, since I have a terrible record of unemployment that I blog about. But as far as surviving without a job, you might want to try moving in with a friend or a family member. Then put on your game face for the job interview: act confident, cheerful, humorous, optimistic and like you really care about the people in the organization. At least you are not old like me, that's in your favor!
I hope a door opens soon. Good writing here.
Nicely done, well written and interesting. I feel your pain. Try to remember that today is just as good as the best day of your life, because it is. Be here now.
Compelling. I have to admire your tenacity. That, and your commonsense approach and the ability to pay close attention to the bigger picture. I remember well, literally having to count coins for bus fare, and having to choose between that and having a steamed dumpling as my one meal of my day. Courage!. You will get through this!. ~R
You have a very responsible and optimistic attitude about this. Good on you! I hope the roller-coaster ride becomes more peaceful soon. One thing I have learned in the past few years, what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger! Rooting for you. R.
Nice writing and from the heart. I know what you're going through. It's tough. We used to make six figures and are now down to living on the good graces of others. Good luck!
Ah! Thanks, everyone!

I just got back from a film screening at the Maryland Film Festival. A gracious friend gave me free tickets (thanks, Jack!). Another friend paid me $20 to help her write her wedding invite envelopes because my handwriting is neater. She lost her job last year and soon will be opening a cafe with her fellow employees who also lost their jobs. I've been trying to hook her up with stuff by using my connections. She's a doll.

If you can't tell from this post, I'm not just a survivor, I'm a fighter. I won't let this situation defeat me. Of course, waking up to find you're Editor's Choice gives one a big smile and lots of hope. Thanks for the encouragement...all of you!
Kat,

I too have been "fired," forced out, or hours cut to zero, many times. Only I didn't handle it quite as well as you. Self-esteem suffered and depression set in.

Too, being independent and a perfectionist like yourself, most jobs I lost I gladly accepted due to knowing I was not in a good fit or having anal micro-managers. I picked up valuable experiences and skills through a variety of positions, making me a better rounded and diverse person.

Last period of unemployment lasted 17 months, but I'm happily employed once again.

Maureenow's suggestion of a "memoir" is a superb idea. I say "go for it!"
"By the time I'd reached my thirties, I had been fired from seven jobs"...Huh? Not Downsized or Laidoff but FIRED. FIRED? SEVEN Jobs? Something is missing here in the story about why you were Fired from SEVEN Jobs. This is NOT normal, in my opinion.
Best of luck to you. I really identified with the wrong fits and jumping the tracks...but in the end, the experience made me realize how resilient I am. Also not to take the "traditional career path" too seriously. I see now that opportunities abound for creative thinkers-which you seem to be.
Kat, your pluck is amazing and you write well. A few things in your story worry me:
a) your story is a story experienced by thousands, perhaps millions of Americans like you (though most are less articulate). Sometimes the story describes the full slide from joblessness to homelessness. Often the story describes the way the banking and ownership classes make money each step of the way as an individual's life falls apart.
b) People like you who make every effort to comply with the rules often blame themselves if things go wrong. This is a very sad situation, nationally, when there are so many folks who are kicking themselves personally for a MORAL FAILING just because a bank added a $35 overdraft charge, which in turn triggered additional bank charges, which in turn affected the credit rating, which affected the ability to rent a desirable apartment, which meant the person's child got ill because of a dirty, damp environment, which meant the person lost his/her job because she missed work taking her sick child to ER (because he/she has no health insurance) etc. Some individuals just give up under these circumstances, make adjustments downward in their moral standards, fall in with a crowd of friends with bad habits, and get into drugs and alcohol to forget the mess they are in.
I do not know what the future holds for this nation. The "system" as such no longer works.
Kat, your story is very moving and touching for this 71-year old. Happy birthday next week!
I think the demise of newspaper popularity has dealt a real blow to writers all over the country. Worsening the situation is the diminution of advertising dollars as a result of the economy affecting not only newspapers but many magazines. The third real hammer falling is that those who offer jobs can pay less, offer part time to avoid benefits and they can be as lousy as they want, especially as to loyalty.

I believe Kat was not really brilliant having such a flighty resume, but do admire her resolve not to bend her beliefs. I hope the stubbornness does not translate to a downhill spiral.

I don't believe the labeling of one ex husband as being gay is appropriate. He could have been bisexual going in and Kat's own lack of due diligence did not expose this fact. I also think that if he were, indeed, gay, he would not have married her. So if he were bisexual, then does Kat not feel somewhat responsible for him pursuing this in lieu of her? Oh, yes, that could hurt, but also letting the world know he's gay is not only a wrong definition but can also be an effort to emasculate. I have been married before, but I do not utter any labels or disparaging words.

Read Harv: http://theHARVview.blogspot.com
Great writing! I have been one that took whatever job I could to survive. mostly "not Me" positions. I have felt so depressed an used "retail therapy" to dull the pain.
These stories are needed to allow better understanding of what the emotional toll unemployment takes on people.
For those of you who understand, I have always been more of a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. I think this is why corporate jobs and most jobs just haven't been a great fit. I felt like a failure much of life because I was always trying to force myself into fitting rather than find something that fit from the start.

I am an artist/writer and this may be why I'm ill-equipped to do anything that doesn't use my creativity. I am writing a book right now and hope to find an agent and publisher. It's a memoir about my post-divorce life.
Read about the alienation of labor, and the commoditization of labor. Much to be learned about current economic crisis by these works. I, too, was unemployed for 3 months, in Baltimore (Pikesville and later, Ellicott City), due to downsizing. I wish you luck.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodity_(Marxism)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodification

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marx%27s_theory_of_alienation
Kat, thanks for alerting me to this fine post. You write very well.
But if getting the rent paid is your immediate concern, I you might wnat to look for a job you can get paid for- now- even if it's not "artistic" or "literary." I say this because-- as you know-- writing/editing a book and submitting it to agents will take so long, you will be evicted long before you get your first rejection letter from a publisher (assuming you get an agent in the first place, which is no piece of cake these days either.)
Book publishing is dead for the moment, so it's harder than ever. So DO keep writing (because you are very good at that) but maybe you can also find something to do full time that will bring in some real $$ -- however removed from publishing/broadcasting that job may be and then go on from there to pursue your dream.
Just a thought.
I do wish you well in whatever you choose to do because you are obviously made of great stuff.
Don't ask me why I read this post but I loved it. I guess I was attracted to it because I am an unemployed writer too. You are a great writer with a great voice. I know what it is like to be on budget with unemployment. I accidentally failed to apply online correctly and lost a weeks pay. That has screwed me royally (I am trying to get it back). Anyway, I can't survive off unemployment. I had to move in with my mom. Anyway, congrats on being Editor's Choice.
"For those of you who understand, I have always been more of a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. I think this is why corporate jobs and most jobs just haven't been a great fit. " From Kat to another, I feel you. Normality is boring.
You've got a novel in you, I think. Here's advice from a well-meaning stranger: Find part-time work where you can make as much money as possible. That means a non-writing job. Save the bulk of your time to write the novel. Don't put pressure on yourself to be a paid writer. (I took my own advice in the 1980s. I worked as a computer typesetter and wrote a novel published by a major publishing house. It won't change your life, but you'll feel a great sense of accomplishment.)
You should use your knowledge of the evils of capitalism, from the bottom, in a book that both entertains and informs, like Upton Sinclair's great book, "The Jungle."
Kat: Great post - I admire the end especially - having been in similar straights but by a different path (not fired, but in Real Estate when the market dried up, single mom, X backed out of child support, etc.) so I know how hard it is to scramble AND having done Property Management, I have heard reasons for late rent quite often. Its a tough spot to be in, because the bank wants paid when the rent is not, all the same.
What I admire about the end? You face up to it - the firings, the failed marriage, the way you tried way to long to be what you thought you should be, your admission of vulnerable needs.
But, I think that the many posters who hoped you got a book out of this are off track. This realization and the writing as well should be a great journey that is worth something to you and to others, whether it becomes paid work or not...you are giving yourself a chance and you are giving to the readers here. That might be your gift. But not your rent payment. Maybe your writing will be the sort that doesn't pay the rent, but literary history is full of those successful authors who did something else.
Could be your failed jobs were because your wish to write was being coupled with your wish to earn. Let them both flow as they will and post more.