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“Just Start Your Own Business”

Posted in Medium.com March 9, 2014

Is this really the best available advice for unemployed women over age sixty?

How Hard Can It Be?

When I left my job last fall, I felt secure in my years of experience as a writer, editor, and conference manager. Surely it wouldn’t take me too long to find some new position in the Bay Area, home of the burgeoning tech industry, not to mention universities galore and innovative start-ups, pop-ups, and hop-ups on every street corner. Granted, I’d have to make some concessions, perhaps shave a decade or two off my resume. Forget that previous career in what we used to call library science. Remove a few dates from my employment history. Good enough. I shed a few tears as the surgical team went to work on the paper version of me, but it would be for the best.

I went ahead with the painful divorce from the company that had been the pivot point of my life for 25 years, and looked forward to new challenges. Off with the old and humdrum, on with the new and enticing. But nothing happened. A few screening calls, a couple of interviews, and one great conference, but I just couldn’t close. I did wrap up a blog-to-book project, but for the most part, I found myself biding my time in my own creative outlets, more as a way to keep myself supplied with the allure of deadlines rather than as a way to provide income.

Recently, Huff Post published a puff piece titled “60 Things Older Women Want Younger Women To Know” offering a lot of lovely advice about being positive and wearing comfortable shoes because, let’s face it gals, men don’t look at your feet. (Oh, really?) But there was nothing at all there about how to plan for survival in a world where jobs are at a premium, and age discrimination is hella hard to prove, especially from the outside once you have your nose pressed up against the candy-shop window. I followed link upon link, and here’s where they led . . . to the land of “Why don’t you just start your own business?”

Why didn’t I think of that! Yo! Dude!

In the Afternoon

I even have an idea: I am going to run a Kickstarter to fund a new bar, maybe even a franchise, which I will call “In the Afternoon” because I only intend to be open from noon to six. Remember, I’m old, and I need to sleep late. I just need money for the lease, furnishings, supplies, and inventory—and of course to pay for me to go to bartending school. But I’m thinking I can bring in extra income by leasing out the place to private parties at night. I want this to be a place where people can just go and drink and foment revolution, so the alcohol choices will be pretty boring. I’m thinking of buckets of Miller and PBR on tap. We’ll be going for qantity, not quality. Marketing will be word of mouth and guerilla. “Oh, that place. It’s the best, but she’s kind of cranky. You better go with me, and I’ll introduce you, at least the first time.”

And every night at 6:00 p.m. bar time, I’ll get to say, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

Another reason for me not to stay open later than six is that I am currently taking a course in writing for performance, and I’m hoping that will lead into some solid stand-up comedy work. I’ve already had an offer from a brew pub that’s desperate for someone to grab the mic on Friday nights. They tell me that the tips are pretty good, and they are located far from the main part of town, so I won’t run into anyone I know, at least not right away.

Old-Woman Stand-Up

What do you think? Is this the kind of re-training that President Obama has in mind for the ill-skilled unemployed? I’m game. I already have experience as a ranter at Oakland Nights Live!, Oaktown’s answer to the Ted Talks.

I will qualify for Social Security this fall, so I don’t need to make a lot of money, but I’m going to have a four month zero-income gap between unemployment and then, so I really do need to hustle this summer or go hungry. (Did I mention that I got my master’s degree when I was 23? My Alma Mater just called an asked me for a donation. That was a fun chat.)

SF Bay Ferries Artist-in-Residence

My next idea is not terribly lucrative either, but it would keep me off the streets, and out on the water. By now you surely know about Amtrak and writers, and maybe even know that Detroit has a “Write a House” program that may get underway soon, giving houses to a few deserving authors. I am way ahead of them both. Last fall, I started thinking how great it would be to spend a whole day on SF Bay Ferries with my laptop, just writing postcard poems and short stories, and most people said, “Are You Crazy? They Will Throw You Off Hella Fast.”

Well, I suppose I’d be noticed if I only went on the ferry from Alameda, where I live, to San Francisco and back again all day long — on one ticket — but maybe SF Bay Ferries could make me an offer? I have suggested this to them by Twitter, and they have so far pretty much ignored me. Well, to be accurate, completely ignored me. But, I understand that Washington State Ferries are now seriously considering a writers in residency program. Heathrow Airport has a for real writer in residence. And CERN has an artist in residence program that I truly covet! SFBF just isn’t thinking big enough. (Or small enough. I’m not asking for much.)

Start Your Own Business

So, although I’m curious about that “just start your own business” idea, I still think I’d rather have a residency, or better yet a cushy, high-paying job. Maybe one of those fabled $6K a month internships at Twitter. I’ve proven that I’m a loyal and reliable employee. I can’t promise that I’ll stick around for 25 years, but I might hang out for five. Who knows? Maybe six. In the meantime, got a business hook? Throw it my way.