When the economy sputters, and people are in pain, they search for some relief. They eat glazed doughnuts. They stop buying underwear (keeps things exciting). They flock to 3-D movies. They read blogs with punny titles written by other people in pain talking about dealing with pain.
At least that's been the discovery of Dina Gachman, aka The Elf, creator of Bureaucracy for Breakfast. Gachman (pictured above) started her blog (named while glancing at her morning bowl of oatmeal, while on hold with the Employment Development Department in California) in early 2010, after she was laid-off from her job as a film development executive.
Before that point, Gachman seemed on track to dominate the movie biz. Born in Texas, she went to UCLA, and then got an MFA in film production at USC. She wrote and directed a short comedic film that caught the attention of execs at Fox and NBC, and produced a dramatic short film that won a BAFTA and Student Academy Award. Gachman proved that she could do both comedy and drama.
But after only two years in the labor force, she found herself having to take those skills and go rogue on the Internet. And that is where she lives today, blogging to her growing base of fans about the various travails of prolonged unemployment: babysitting, hating rich people, writer's block, hating student loans, hating Sallie Mae, the company that provided her student loans, hating Albert Lord, the CEO of Sallie Mae, and her perhaps inappropriate fascination with "the virtual rags-to-riches democracy" of reality TV.
Gachman's success has grown steadily. Chelsea Handler listed Bureaucracy for Breakfast as a featured blog on her Borderline Amazing Comedy site, Gachman is in the process of turning her scattered musings in a coherent, chaptered book, and her comedic graphic novel is coming soon to a web near you.
Her readership may have begun with laid-off fellow citizens looking for a chuckle, but it's gone beyond that. Gachman has received notes of praise from such diverse human beings as a 50-year-old male teacher in Nevada and a woman in Iceland.
Now she's left that corporate job far behind, and is ever closer to her dream of being a writer who can pay the bills.
She isn't there yet though. Gachman's still on unemployment, and takes freelance jobs wherever she can find them. "That's my hustle," she says, which she supplements with "babysitting, plant-sitting, cat-sitting."
But if Gachman finds herself one day totally financially solvent -- with a multimillion dollar book deal in the works, perhaps -- will the teat of inspiration dry up and shrivel? She doesn't think so.
"I try to stay away from being 'I'm so pissed off about being pissed off,' " she says. "I think there's always other things. It's this rich/poor divide, there's endless material."
And the rich/poor divide has been a recurring theme of Gachman's writing. In her letter to Sallie Mae's CEO Albert Lord, she writes: "It's just a simple scientific fact: People with too much wealth go crazy and lose their minds. They get weird. They lose touch and do things like build wood-burning pizza ovens in their garden and then #humblebrag about it, or buy tiny diamond collars for their Siamese fighting fish."
So why all the beef with Sallie Mae? "I feel lucky that I was able to get a loan and go to school," she explains, "and I'm not asking for a handout. But the CEO is making $5 million a year off people who are barely, if at all, able to pay our loans. It's incredibly frustrating."
"I think most people who talk about the divide, they aren't saying 'We want yachts too,' " she adds. "They're saying 'We want the basics.' "
Despite the insecurity, the babysitting, the monthly loan payments to Sallie Mae, Gachman's layoff may have been a blessing in disguise. If she'd never been let go, she might still be wearing a suit, as opposed to spending days in coffee shops writing things that make people laugh.
"I'd like to think I'd have the guts to go out of my own," she says, "but I might still be there."
And now she gets to spend her days typing out her thoughts, working word-by-word, joke-by-joke, post-by-post, to the new dream: "Will I ever be able to pay my loans, and insurance, and save for retirement? I'd rather not worry about that, and write and do what I love."
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