Why am I doing this and why should you care?

The news is full of nonsense. Employment is improving, and only a few days later, we learn that there were errors in calculation and things aren't as rosy as they indicated.

Unemployment has been a reality in our family for well over two years. My husband was out for several months due to illness, and returned to work after the government mandated medical leave. Unfortunately, the letter of the law and the spirit of the law are two different things. The spirit being to protect the worker in the event of unforeseen and life threatening illness from compounding the stress of the situation by losing their livelihood as well. Needless to say, my husband returned to work and after suitable time had elapsed, suddenly was let go on the vague "not meeting quota". And so began over a full year of job searching.

During this time, we became acutely aware of how many other experienced and hard working people were struggling through the same minefield. Some of them were out of work more than two years. Others had already lost their homes, and were in danger of losing their cars. And the most amazing part of this experience was the reaction of those who are still fortunate enough to have jobs and income with which to pay bills.

The unemployed person is suddenly viewed as being lazy, lacking in motivation, without skills, unwilling to earn a living, contented to sit around watching "People's Court" and "Jerry Springer". And these judgements are often handed down by folks who have been friends and neighbors for years, folks who should know better. In most cases, the actual reason for not being hired is veiled in fear of employers being sued for some variant of discrimination.

The candidates are left not knowing what they lacked or did wrong, no feedback to learn from. If an employer does actually send a rejection, it is so generic as to be useless for the job seeker. Agencies that are designed to assist in the job search are of limited value. Frustration and desperation become the order of the day as the length of unemployment stretches onward.

Hallelujah! My husband got a job. We aren't arguing about the 30 mile commute, one way, even at $4.00+ per gallon. We aren't even arguing, at this point, about the commission nature of the job. After over a year, my husband has a job. And just two weeks later, I lose my job to company merger. The past year has pretty well stripped the family resources, and we don't have much by way of reserve, but I also have no reason to expect that my journey through unemployment should be any easier than what other people are experiencing. To that end, I thought that I would chronicle the passage through the world of unemployment.

I am hoping that other folks out there will feel that their experiences are not unique; their frustrations, not imagined; their fears not unrealistic. Hopefully, along the way, I can help find ways to ridicule the ridiculous, investigate the inappropriate, offer a new and useful perspective. Some things work. Obviously, some things do not work at all. Perhaps we can save some skinned knees and disappointment, and enjoy the best medicine along the way, laughter.

It is sobering to realize how much our identity is tied to our occupation, what we do, what we earn. While it may be a shallow measure, it is the reality of our society. For example, it is not sufficient to be "Mom". In our culture, we have to be divided into the categories of "Stay At Home" versus "Working" Moms. Notice how the employment thing even infiltrates every aspect of who we are?

I am not claiming any sort of authority other than being a reasonably intelligent, hard working, and honest person. My actions are guided by logic and common sense. What I have learned is that the equal and opposite reactions are governed by the rules of chaos and serendipity. My experiences may, or may not, mirror those of others. But I think that itemizing the process is a great starting place for conversation and discussion.

Everyone can bring their unique personality and coping tactics to the table, and maybe, together, we can conquer this whole unemployment thing. Buck up, keep positive, put that perma-pressed grin on our face, and go out there and "Wow" the HR departments. Probably a good idea that we don't take ourselves too seriously though, because life is going to laugh at us anyway. We may as well be prepared to laugh along.

Besides, for all of you who hate exercise, remember that it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown. None of us unemployed folks can afford Botox or facelifts anyway, and wrinkles are a disadvantage in the youth culture. So, we all need to commit to grinning like the village idiot. Smile.....it makes everyone wonder what you are up to!

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