I have been struggling to write a post in response to a series on unemployment that Gawker ran recently. You can find them here and here, and also here. I think there might also be a fourth installment, but in the effort of staying on target, I am just linking to these.
The reason why I’ve been having such a hard time writing this is that it made me realize how public my blog is. It’s linked to my LinkedIn profile and Facebook – along with Twitter, although I don’t really go on there much anymore. Suddenly I became afraid that what I write might affect my chance at future employment prospects, or worse – my current employment. Maybe this is why the Gawker submissions were all anonymous. After all, who wants to publicly admit that they were behind on bills, sending out application after application, or really struggling to make ends meet? Anonymity helps to save these people some dignity.
For me, I read these submissions and used it as a time to reflect. Compared to some of the stories that Gawker ran, my stint with unemployment was relatively short and was ultimately not that bad. As I approach our wedding date, I am approaching two anniversaries simultaneously: two years with my partner and two years since I lost my job.
I am thankful that unemployment was not a death sentence for me. I had a family that was willing to embrace this period of uncertainty with me, and had just met someone who would become a grounding element in my life. While I panicked over the meager unemployment check, Justin and my support system all stood by me. On days when I had interviews, he helped to get me pumped up and excited, and then comforted me when I got the inevitable call about how I was great, but not what they wanted.
I heard that a lot over those six months. When I got the call from a recruiter or an email from a potential employer letting me know of the rejection, I would cry. Maybe that’s what unemployment was for me – a crying tour of New York City. From the time that I learned I was going to lose my job to the time that I regained employment, I cried everywhere I could. I cried on the subway, in my apartment, in other people’s apartments, at the bar, while changing trains, at a chiropractor’s office, and at restaurants. Sometimes I cried loudly and sometimes it was just a few quiet tears.
Sure, I tried to keep busy. I did a little bit of work under the table and have some great stories to tell from it. The key was to try to keep myself busy and oriented around a project. I spent a lot of time cooking and reading blogs about cooking. I figured that if there was a worst case scenario, I would take out some more loans (because SallieMae does not own enough of my life yet) and go to culinary school. I wasn’t sure how a vegan would survive culinary school, but I figured it couldn’t be out of the question. Or I toyed with the idea of becoming a bike messenger.
Ultimately it was a time where my life was in flux. I came out of it stronger and thankful that it wasn’t any worse than it was. In the end I ended up at a great job (and I am not just saying this because some of my coworkers on LinkedIn might see this), where I’ve been able to learn a lot and feel like I am part of a team. And during those cold winter months without work, when I would run during the middle of the day and experiment with new recipes, I meditated on what it was to work, and how to be a worker among workers.