‘IN EXCESS’ as published on The Hoopla



After an excruciatingly protracted death rattle, our 25-year-old-high-quality-professionally-monitored-vocationally-orientated-TAFE course has been closed down and all of its casuals and us permanent staff have lost our jobs.

So now it’s official: I am redundant and have accepted a moderate retrenchment package that should last my son and me about nine months if we are more mindful than usual. That’ll be one latte a day, not three. And no more pub dinners, except on Tightarse Tuesdays.

Before the Government pulled $300m from the TAFE system, those with a dream in their heart and a few bucks and a healthcare card in their pocket could do our Professional Writing course; now the fees have gone nuts. Staff morale is at an all time, all round low and there are more cuts than at your local butcher’s and more farewell brunches than you can throw a vol-au-vent at.

Before our TAFEs had the gizzards ripped out of them, a 40-year-old wanting to return to the workforce or to change jobs and who needed to up-skill or brush-up could. Now if this some person has already acquired a qualification higher than a Certificate 4 in anything from floristry to theosophy, she’ll be up for a few grand. Before the cuts, our TAFEs were a uniquely open door option for young people for whom university was neither a financial or educational fit.

People are losing their jobs all over the place. It’s in the news all the time; it’s the talk around the water-cooler and the talk back on your radio. If I hear the words ‘cuts’, ‘losses’, ‘casualised’ ‘bottom’ or ‘line’ in the same sentence once more time…

Compared to some, I’m lucky. Compared to some, I’ve a broad skill base, a strong professional network and a more than passing acquaintance with the vicissitudes of surviving as a freelancer. Compared to some who are also facing the reality of redundancy this year, I have only one child to support and a comparatively modest mortgage since moving to the country four years ago. I am over 50, that’s not so lucky. We are more expensive over 50, apparently. We are less energetic, flexible and switched on apparently.

Yep, it feels bloody awful being told your services are no longer required and it’s at times like this that one’s identity is in danger of taking a battering big time.

So that’ll be my fourth identity crisis and career change in 20-something years then. Career. That word still manages to suggest a planned and cumulative upward trajectory, doesn’t it?

It’s risky tying up too much of your self-worth, your sense of meaning or purpose to a job, or to anything or anyone for that matter. Given my job was part-time I’ve managed to cultivate other professional and personal relationships and identities outside the work place. But I already miss the structure, the colleagues, the students and the regular income. I already feel my former sense of self being discarded like a letter full of bad news.

Getting back out there and looking for a new job is as scary as dating again. No. Nothing is that scary.

The TAFE where I used to work sent me a letter form its PR department this week thanking me for my years of service, suggesting a career transition counselor, asking for my lap top and keys to be returned and mentioning something about good luck for my future.

And I got a nice paragraph in the Institute’s newsletter and a farewell envelope… for all of us redundancies in the Creative Arts Department, yesterday’s gold watch is today’s art gallery gift shop voucher.

*Elly Varrenti is a writer, teacher, broadcaster and theatre critic teacher.
 Her memoir, This is Not my Beautiful Life is published by Penguin.