A little while ago, a term circulated on Twitter, favourited and retweeted by an abundant amount of millennials. The thing we all had in common? That we were “Laptop-Poor”. This is a specific kind of being broke, where we have a place to live, and access to all the benefits a middle-class upbringing affords us, such as having a laptop. Many of us even had university degrees. But we don’t have much else. And you can’t exactly use your laptop to pay for groceries each week, unless we’re heading in the direction of a weird bartering dystopian society, which could well be possible. 

I am aware that I am in a position of privilege. I’m not homeless. I can afford rent. But I can’t afford much else. 

I currently live with my boyfriend and our soon to be 20-year-old cat. But even with my boyfriend working six-day weeks across three jobs (none of which earn enough money on their own), things are tight. It’s tough when after rent, groceries, electricity bills, and medicine for your cat, you literally have zero dollars leftover in the fortnight. How are you supposed to get out of the loop?

We’re a pretty frugal couple. We don’t buy designer things, go on drunken nights out, or eat excessive amounts of takeaway. The one luxury we afford ourselves is going to the movies once a fortnight, and when this happens, we always take advantage of the discounted “movie of the week” rates, and absolutely no drinks or snacks are purchased. We’re not at all living above our means. I don’t get haircuts anymore, or go clothes shopping. I haven’t bought myself a new perfume in years. My boyfriend is wearing his same pair of boots he bought five years ago, with the sole worn down and holes in the toes. And listing these things isn’t to garner sympathy, it’s to outline the small, subtle ways that lower middle-class people aren’t afforded the same level of humanity. I often read about these instances of philanthropy where homeless people are given a shower, a new set of clothes, and a haircut, and it shouldn’t feel so monumental to us, but it does. It makes us feel human. 

The issue (I think) is the lack of jobs out there for people like us. Retail jobs generally cater to people much younger than us (why would they pay a 26-year-old when they can pay a 16-year-old?), and to be honest, we haven’t got that much experience. Despite my first ever proper job being in retail, and a brief stint in a chicken and chips shop in high school, most of my working experience isn’t in retail. 

Which brings us to administration. I was very lucky to get a job straight out of high school working full time at a university. Due to brief stints working in student support in school holidays, and knowing someone on the inside, I was able to pretty much walk into an excellent admin job. The problem now, is that all of those administration jobs are full-time. 

I haven’t really been that open about my mental health here (to be honest, I still cringe a little writing the words “mental health”), but to cut a long story short, I can’t work full time at the moment. It is not something my brain can currently handle, and to be honest, I don’t know if it will ever be able to. Of course medications and therapy help with progress, but there are some things about an illness that you can’t change. People of an older generation may see the inability to work full time as a luxury they weren’t able to be afforded, but let me tell you, mental health problems are not a luxury. 

In addition to this, I’m also trying to complete my degree (yes, still trying after about six years – again, the mental health thing), which doesn’t leave a lot of time for work. The degree might also be part of the problem. My boyfriend and I are both studying (he’s finished his degree) in creative areas. Go on, make your McDonald’s “Would you like fries with that?” jokes now. The thing is, universities aren’t job factories. And they shouldn’t be. The point of university is to grow and expand your thinking, to learn more about areas you are passionate about. The problem with this, is a) there isn’t a straight career progression for the kinds of careers we want to have, and b) there aren’t a lot of jobs in the areas we are studying. For a law student, they have a very straightforward career path, of completing high school studying law, completing a Bachelor of Law at any number of universities, before applying for an internship at a law firm that you will eventually work in for the next thirty years. And this isn’t meant to come across as bashing lawyers – I think what they do is amazing, and I wish I had this kind of job security in an area I was passionate about, but I don’t. 

So this leaves me in a weird middle-ground, where I’m too old for retail, can’t work full time for administration, and my studies don’t necessarily lead straight to employment. So what do I do? I’ve volunteered to do odd jobs around my parents’ place for money, and even considered doing a letterbox drop for dog walking, but neither of these seem like long-term solutions. Because of my boyfriend’s three jobs, we’re also earning just (and I mean juuuuuust) over the Centrelink cut-off, and to be honest, I have never been so grateful to never have to deal with them again. 

It’s also hard not to get strung up with the lack of work whilst simultaneously trying to study. It’s very easy to wallow in the fact that we have no money, and it requires a super-human amount of compartmentalisation to not worry about this every second of every day. Indeed, writing this blog post probably isn’t the best use of my time, but the fact that I’ve applied to five jobs today and finished my week of Uni work doesn’t stop me from feeling like I should be doing more. 

Until then, I will send out my resumes and cover letters into the abyss of an internet, never hearing a reply from the companies who I’m sure are overwhelmed by the amount of applicants. I’ll try to keep my chin up, and hopefully something will come along soon. 

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