I'm unemployed. (It's still hard to say that.) I have been unemployed now for four weeks and one day. Peanuts, compared to many of you. Indeed, that's the scariest part of it. Whenever I mention this I usually get a reply from someone that they're in the same boat. The only difference being they've been there for a year, two years, six months.
Gulp, followed by a shudder.
This is not supposed to be happening to me, to any of us. We're not lazy, we're not stupid, we're not illiterate or unskilled.
But we're unemployed, and this is the new normal.
Another gulp, followed by another shudder.
And then, a yawn.
Because we've all either heard or told this story before. On that note, I have nothing new to add. Perhaps that is the worst part of it. I can tell you my story now and it will get lost in the shuffle of all the other stories you've heard or told since our economy crashed. I'm just another statistic. Someone who filed for unemployment for the first time in that first week of January. Someone who had a great job with great benefits, then went to work one day and had the rug pulled out from underneath.
On some level I feel like I deserved this. I had been aware of how shitty this economy was but it was an intellectual exercise for me. I certainly sympathized with the legions of newly-unemployed workers and I certainly thought that jobs should be our number one priority. But I felt this with a level of smug certainty that I would not be one of Them.
And now I am.
Honestly, it's not the fact that I don't have a job, per se. It's that I have nowhere to go on a day to day basis. Nothing to do. That part is the hardest to wrap my brain around.
I still wake up early, browse the news while I drink coffee. But I don't have anything to do after that first cup of coffee. Where I used to jump in the shower, I instead start looking for a job, watching the clock, waiting impatiently for nine o'clock to roll around because then, certainly, I should get a call or an email about a job I applied to.
Then noon rolls around, I'm still in my pajamas, I've heard nothing back from anyone, and I've resigned myself that, for at least another day, I have nowhere to go.
Sometimes I lie in bed and think, this inertia is going to kill me. No, it may not kill me physically, but in the recesses of my brain or soul, it's starting to show. This is not who I am. I am NOT the type to just sit on my ass all day long.
Not literally, of course. I've found ways to pass the time. I have talents and hobbies to keep me occupied. There are books to read, there are movies to watch, there are artists I've never heard, words I've never written.
I mean, do you know how many ways there are to clean carpets? I've known this for years but I've had the pleasure of trying each one in each room and comparing results.
Also, it's fun to go for your walk with your partner while one of you wears a pedometer. When you get home, the one sans pedometer can guess how many miles you walked, and what your average pace was. It's especially fun to bring your dogs and see if they slowed you down or sped you up. For that matter, it's fun to take them somewhere and have one of you walk away, out of their sight. Then come back and see how happy they are. Then reverse roles.
This is a great way to gauge who the favorite Mom is. (Or, to be fair to heteros, who the favorite parent is.)
Did you know that even if you're only mildly tech savvy you can bring a computer that used to run slow as molasses and crash every five minutes back from the dead? All it takes is time and patience.
I've got nothing but time, but I'm running out patience. I'm bored. It's not that I'm going to be financially screwed if I don't find something soon, it's that I'm going to be completely burned out on the things I love the most.
I have reserves of money. I'll be okay for several more months as far as that goes.
It's that I am getting tired of the things I used to love the most. Reading, writing, playing guitar; all the things I used to never have enough time for, I now have too much time for.
They are hobbies. They're not what I do.
I have always been proud of the fact that I pulled myself from poverty and ended up mildly successful. Not rich, but able to take care of myself and afford a few luxuries on top of that. I've always been proud that if anyone I loved ever needed anything, I was the first person they would call.
Maybe that's shallow. But I've always seen myself as a hard worker first and foremost. Not because that's all I have to offer the world, but because it's what I wanted to give to myself. I wanted nothing more than a stable home, a good job, and awesome weekends.
I wanted to prove to myself and to others that it can be done; you can work your way to a better future. You can work your way out poverty. You can work your way into the life that we, as Americans, are supposedly supposed to have.
And I DID.
But it's gone now. And I guess the thing that bothers me most is that I worked all this time to get to this version of the American dream, only to find out that the dream is gone. I may one day get back to where I was a month ago. I may someday soon have A Place To Go Monday thru Friday. But it won't be the same. Wages have fallen so dramatically that I'll be forced to take a reduction in pay and benefits.
And I'll go back to work knowing that we are so far from the American Dream that we were promised that it simply doesn't exist. Perhaps I was slow to accept this, and I'm young enough to believe that I could be that naive.
Gulp, shudder, yawn.