Unemployment, One Year Later


Now, joblessness isn’t just for philosophy majors.

 ~Kent Brockmann, “The Simpsons”

Maybe the Terminator and Robocop are in the same boat?

I never re-read my journals for two reasons. One, I hardly want to remind myself of my own pissing and moaning and random dream reflections after the fact. And two, I certainly don’t need to be reminded of how miserable I prospectively was on June 28, 2004. Last night was a rare exception, as I found a journal with a few usable pages and decided to use them, being thrifty and green-conscious. This particular journal happened to be from this same time period last year. I decided to break my own rule and look at a snapshot of my life at this time last year.

As it turns out, that was a stormy period. The so-called “Summer of Recovery” had just about passed me by. I was scraping by on a weird combination of partial unemployment checks, various part-time and odd jobs, and my own ingenuity selling other people’s throwaways on ebay and Craigslist. It wasn’t fun and games. Not that my life ever really was fun and games, but these were the kinds of times that might have inspired Gorey and Baudelaire. At times, I didn’t know where my next meal might be coming from. I skipped and made do and begged, borrowed and (not quite) stole. Anything I could do to earn extra bucks: selling scavenged scrap metal, volunteering for medical studies, passing out flyers for local businesses, I did. It beat taking handouts or, worse, having to move back in with Mom and Dad after 12 years on my own. Since I’ve developed such a dual sense of pride and self-sufficiency, that was a last option. A fail-safe. Thankfully, I never had to take it. The right job, just like the cavalry at the end of some old western, arrived just in time.

I never thought this would be me

Fast forward to same time, next year. I have a full-time job with benefits. I’m not becoming the next Bill Gates or Warren Buffett doing it. It pays the bills and sometimes leaves me a little extra. I’m no longer forced to do weird stuff for money, or worse, sell weird stuff for money. So what’s the problem?

If I had to guess, I’d think it’s complacency. “Conflict,” one of my heroes once said, “is the source of the greatest things we do in life.” Because I’m not forced to struggle and fight and claw, maybe I’m getting a wee bit soft. There’s only so much conflict I can work out in my novel or on an elliptical trainer at the Y. I’m hard-wired, it would seem, for conflict. I never did follow in my father’s footsteps and join the law enforcement community. It seems, in retrospect, like it would have been a good fit. I need some healthy conflict in my life to be happy. That sounds strange, but it’s the truth.

At the same time, I look out at many of my neighbors and see the devastation of a Great Recession. People who’ve been looking for work for so long they’ve all but given up. People who may spend the rest of their lives taking government help. Would I have ever been one of them? It’s hard to say. Because I haven’t ever been in their shoes, I can’t judge them either.

He never got his Clone Wars pension, I guess

The one thing I did learn through my brief affair with unemployment is that I am a survivor, and able to take care of myself in times of need. Aside from a token gesture by my parents, I never accepted any outside help when I was struggling (and there were times when I wanted to…I’m not Ms. Invincible.) I was willing to do the jobs no one else would, and I learned to think clearly outside the box. Most importantly, I embraced my pragmatic side and did whatever I had to do.

I’m not saying the millions of unemployed people out there aren’t capable of doing the same. I think most of them are; most are hardworking, honest men and women who want to make a living and fulfill their dreams. One ray of hope I see through the stormclouds of the Great Recession? Americans will work hard and think of new solutions to old problems. Only the people, not the government, can end it all.

So, in the meantime, I continue to try and improve myself, whether it’s learning new things or trying to network more. As for those who are still looking, hang in there and be strong. Investigate all possibilities. Trust, but verify. Use your strengths and know your weaknesses. When in doubt, ask.

Most of all, have faith. I did. If I hadn’t, I might have never wound up with the job I have now. A little of it goes a long way.

Enjoyed this post? be sure to click “Like” and subscribe to P&Q! Got comments or ideas for a future post? wikusandmurdock@yahoo.com is the place!

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on August 24, 2011.

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