This diary definitely isn't for everyone: it's part personal rant, part fearful outburst, and part puncturing of many, many myths out there about the long-term unemployed. Most of all, perhaps, it's a cry in the darkness of just one man amidst millions, a single candle flame flickering just prior to the hurricane that snuffs it out. There aren't a lot of links, stats, charts, and graphs here: just one weary old bird's story.
Follow me below the graf, if I haven't scared you away yet.
As those who've read my previous "Test Tube Phoenix" diaries know, I'm a Ph.D. in molecular virology: pretty much the peak of training, skills, and education. Short of being an M.D./Ph.D., there's pretty much no higher rung I could occupy on the educational ladder. And yet, I find myself among the long-term unemployed.
So there goes one myth. That "more education!" is the answer. In my case, it's not done a thing except deepen my plight, since I'm "overqualified" for so much - and can't just erase 15 years of training from my resume without raising even more red flags, but that's a separate issue.
So, what about "You didn't build that?" The fact that I managed to assist a senior professor in keeping up their research program, and almost single-handedly sustaining a basic research program in another lab, seems to count for little. I built it all right - for other people. It got me some good references but not a single job interview. There's lots of articles on how horrible the science job market is, especially in the biosciences. An oft-quoted statistic here is that there are four applicants for every job opening. In bioscience? The average job listing gets over a thousand applications. I'd have more chance to win the weekly lottery then get a job in my field.
I also tried reinventing myself by doing volunteer work at a museum, only to find that all the ladders to Ph.D. level work in the museum field (mostly exhibit development) had been destroyed in the recession.
Then I invented an educational game, Dr. Arch's Mutations, which went on the Kos Katalogue - while I've demoed the game to rave reviews and sold a couple of copies, I've never had the resources (read: money) even to get a basic website up, make a demo video, or start a Kickstarter. (That my primary game staff is either deceased or incapacitated hasn't helped, but that too is a separate story). So it's languished too.
So, if you'll excuse me for tooting my own horn a little, I'm nothing like the stereotype of "the poors" or "the lazy unemployed" that the Republicans love to carp about. But I'm in exactly the same boat - sinking.
Federal EUC is about to end. Since Michigan, my state of residence, cut UI from 26 weeks to 20 (thanks, Republicans!) my state UI is due to end just prior to the expiration of EUC (December 24th) so the state isn't even bothering to send my application up to the feds. And from the most recent news, Reid has all but given up getting an EUC extension this year. Next year, maybe - but next year is too late for me.
What now? I truly don't know. The moment I run out of available funds, the horrors begin. There are an endless series of diaries about what happens then, though one particular article I'd recommend is Alternet's 5 pieces of advice for new paupers.
Though personally, the scariest thing is that I've multiple (if hidden) disabilities: a J-pouch and Asperger's Syndrome. The combination makes the bottom-level "McJobs" entirely inaccessible to me, and means I wouldn't survive long at all on the street. I may be skilled and intelligent, but my body will never be adapted to true homelessness, and yet, I am very lucky compared to so many: I do have friends and family that, in the short term, will provide a roof over my head. How long that will last, I have no idea, but at least for now I have shelter. So I won't fall all the way to the bottom quite yet, even utterly destitute.
And I don't have kids to drag down with me. Thank heavens for that. I've a fiancee living several states away (and in similar straits) but I don't have innocents that will become even more collateral damage.
I'll leave you with this, those kind enough to have read all the way through this missive: I know I am hardly alone in the abstract. There are millions upon millions, including many on this site, that have the same plight as I, or even worse. I'm just one person amidst many millions. But in this, my darkest hour, I feel more alone then I ever have been in my life.
(Edit: Whoa, the recommended list? For those recommenders that put it there, thank you from the bottom of my heart).
Thank you for listening.
4:20 PM PT: (Update: Whoa, recommended list? To those recommenders that put it there, thank you from the bottom of my heart)