After seeing the payroll and unemployment numbers this last week, I couldn't help feel a little bit more dejected that the economists were very right - it's going to be a hell of a long rebound. Americans, by nature, are optimistic and assume it will all be good, soon. Or maybe it's that we're just a bunch of naive, immediate gratification junkies unable to commit to one path, ideology or leader for very long. Even on this, our nation's birthday, I'm going with the latter cynical view of our electorate. As far as I can see it, either way, we're screwed.
The headlines - and the small type - have been pretty terrible as of late. But it's all numbing news after a while. It's only when reading the human interest stories that I feel the real weight of it - because I've been there. If you don't know or love anyone who has had to go off to war, Afghanistan and Iraq is very far away. And if you've never been unemployed - or more to the point, been unemployed during this tragically deep recession - those human interest stories may induce some sympathy, but if you haven't really experienced or had someone close to you go through it, probably not much there in the way of empathy.
I took the government's money - and am thrilled not to be anymore. And more thrilled that my benefits didn't run out before I found a job I really wanted. Others aren't as lucky. And it is scary as shit to be so uncertain about your future. But being unemployed, like almost anything in life, has it's upsides and down. The obvious up - not working everyday. Sure, looking for a job takes time, but not 50 hours a week. So for a while, free time is good.
The downside, however, is more complex. And can take a large toll - especially if the time draws out. Even for people connected and still socially in a work-mix, without the job & the paycheck, doubt rears its ugly head. Questioning yourself, your path & direction, self-worth and ability. It's a fun time. And as with most any other difficult period you go through, it's always interesting to see who shows up - and who doesn't. Some people surprise, most not. But it doesn't change the hurt when those you want to be there, aren't. Or the gratefulness you feel for those who went a greater distance than ever expected, just because they could - and wanted to.
I am lucky to have had a handful of people I could really count on. But two stand out. David, a childhood friend who only recently became part of my general everyday, truly went out of his way to help, give me advice, be a sounding board. And Christina, one of my very best friends, who I happen to have worked with before, was there to remind me what I liked, what I was good at & with ideas about what I should do now. And as luck would have it, introduced me to her company, where I am now working. Having them around to bounce ideas off of, provide suggestions and help make me see things I'd lost in my own fog - invaluable. A kindness I won't soon forget.
There's no way around it, being out of work sucks. It's an emotional mind fuck. Having a job, financial & emotional security, along with a million other reasons - it's clearly better to be employed. Knowing it will take a very long time to get this country back to the employment levels of just a few years ago, is quite distressing. But when reading those human interest stories, I can't help but feel quite thankful they're not writing about me. Being a working stiff doesn't always produce a happy day - but remembering how good I really have it, how lucky I am not to be making the headlines anymore, makes it a hell of a lot easier to live with.