We all have a life plan. Of the eight or so decades of existence on this earth, each is designated for a purpose. The twenties are a search for a stable job, a career and a lasting relationship. The thirties construct the foundation that the forties continue to build on the structure, the fifties and beyond. We add to our life’s structure with expectations on a future which we feel is sound, based on the accomplishments which construct the walls of our own self-esteem.
Then, it all comes crashing down, with one word: unemployed.
Losing a job is much more than a simple matter of a paycheck. There are multiple social services and government agencies who provide the basics of food and shelter, but there are few who can provide sustenance for the soul. The darkness in the soul manifests itself in a variety of ways we never expect.
The first few days after losing a job is a bit of a vacation. We don’t have to set the alarm clock because we no longer have a reason to wake up early. We don’t have to get dressed, because we don’t have anywhere to go. We don’t have to shower, or shave, and now we have free time to watch all the movies we missed and read all those books we’ve wanted to read, and just relax. For awhile.
Until we’ve read all those books, and watched all those movies…twice and we still don’t have a reason to set our alarm clock so we don’t have a reason to get out of bed, or shower, or shave and we wonder how it happened that once we were a “somebody” who had a reason to set our alarm clock and get out of bed and take a shower and shave, and now we’re a “nobody” and the only thing we have to look forward to another day of the same.
When we meet new people, the first thing they’ll ask is “What do you do?” We are identified by what we do, as if, somehow, our job validates our existence. If the answer is “nothing”, then, in a sense, we are nothing. We’re not looking for a job, we’re looking, searching, desperately for who we are, not what job we do.
We sit down and construct our resume. One page or several brief “advertisements” of what we are selling; ourself, in the hopes that someone, anyone, will buy our talent, our experience…us.
We realize there are many identical products, so what makes us so special? What do we have that someone needs and is willing to pay for when they know that the supply for our product is so much greater than the demand, and that those buyers are shopping around for the best deal, not necessarily the best product.
We’re not cheap, but we start to feel cheap. We start to feel as low as any prostitute standing on a street corner with hundreds of other prostitutes, some with a lot more experience than ours, some with a lot less because they’re younger, and we want to step out of the crowd and scream at the top of our lungs; “HIRE ME!” and no one hears.
Our social life has become us and our computer. We can no longer afford the membership dues of all the charitable organizations and associations we used to belong, and so we do not leave our homes to attend the meetings. Nor do we want to socialize with those who will now look at us the way we do; as failures.
We wonder why, after spending so many years helping those less fortunate, that now that we are one of those less fortunate, no one is there to help us. Our still employed friends are too busy working to meet for lunch, which is now only a cup of tea because we can’t afford anything more. They almost feel as if our state of unemployed non-existence is somehow contagious.
After all, if this could happen to someone as successful as we were, then it certainly can happen to them, and we can always see the sympathy in their eyes when they leave to “go back to the office”, when they know we have no office to go back to. And we can’t help that growing anger in our gut, that inner voice which keeps saying how unfair it is, how we don’t deserve what has happened to us. And we can’t help but think that we wished more than anything that we were our friend going back to the office while he was left behind.
Going to the grocery store is devastating now that we’re using a government issued card, formally known as food stamps. We envy the mentally challenged kid bagging our groceries, because he has a job.
Back at home, our walls display our college diplomas and perhaps an advanced degree, now worth less than the frames their in because they tell everyone we’re overqualified to even bag groceries. We look at the service awards we’ve received and want to throw them into a bonfire, which we might have to do if we can’t pay the heating bill.
We hate everyone. The “talking heads” who report on the huge lines at job fairs, who all have jobs and are secretly relieved that they’re not on that line. The actors selling products we can no longer afford, especially during the holidays. We hate every “happy” holiday greeting because we can’t even afford to purchase a card, let alone a present and we have to chose to eat the hard-boiled eggs and not decorate it.
We go on interviews in front of kids less than half our age who doesn’t have a family to support and even though we’ve forgotten more than this kid will ever know, he still has our future in his hands.
We mentally rewind all those years when we gave so much to so many and feel that it was all worthless because now, at this moment, we have no value because we’re unemployed. We don’t want sympathy. We don’t want support. We just want a job.