In 2014, Rebecca and her partner John left her lifelong home of Oakland, California in search of a better life. Their journey will take them to the Catskills in New York State, and eventually onto a converted school bus in which they will travel America.

Friday, May 8, 2015


I waited for six weeks for a check from California's unemployment office. After paperwork, a phone interview, multiple mailings and a lot of waiting, I received a letter saying that I would get a certain amount per week starting ten days after I mailed their form back. I did so. Yesterday, knowing I was broke and nervous and had waited too long, my partner's mom handed me a fat envelope from Unemployment with a smile.

It was a refusal letter.

I went over it three times, stunned, disbelieving, reading words that by Unemployment's own rules made no sense. I was refused because I voluntarily left my job. The fact that I moved out of state was completely ignored. The fact that I was joining my partner, completely ignored. They were getting legal evidence that I had moved every time I sent correspondence, but none of that mattered.

In short, they had played mind games with me, making me jump through hoops and then claiming I would get the support I needed while looking for work, and then refused me against their own rules.

I have severe anxiety disorder. This situation had already caused multiple attacks as the last of my money from work slowly went away, I was cheated by a freelance client, and interviews led nowhere. The award letter was the first hint of stability and hope I had gotten. It let me relax. Just in time for them to drop me without reason.

It was like hitting a wall at a hundred miles an hour. Everything stopped. My dreams, my plans, all of it was suddenly imperiled by this nonsensical decision. I forced myself, with the last of my composure, to put in an appeal. Then I went upstairs and broke for a while.

I spent the day sorting myself out and trying to determine my next moves. I got a sunburn photographing amber necklaces to put up for sale online. I started exploring more freelance opportunities. I did chores. I did the best I could.

But what weighed on me most was the fact that my retirement money, which was supposed to go to the bus and our dream, was now at risk for being frittered away slowly by daily expenses. My partner and his family did a lot to reassure me. But a worst case scenario is never easy.

I am trying to keep optimistic and focused, and look for more income streams while waiting on the appeal. But some moments I break down a little. Like when I see a school bus drive by.

Then I get back up and start trying again.