A Raw Account of Being Unemployed (I can finally share my story).

Sometimes we all need a miracle.

I just recently (tonight) read an article about what the jobless do in their spare time. When I first started reading the article, I thought it was going to make me mad, but I was wrong, I actually liked it. Coming from being unemployed for over a year and a half, let me give you my take on the subject, because it’s a subject I know all too well. At the end I’ll post a link to the article called, For Jobless, More Sleep and TV, But Also More Unpaid Work, by Zachary Roth (I’ve heard of him before). This is a true and raw account of what it was like for me to be jobless.

In 2008 I quit my semi secure job as a teacher. I had been there for six years and as much as I loved it, it was time to move on. I was beginning a new chapter in my personal life and wanted to start a semi new adventure in my professional life as well. I say semi new because the career path that I decided to follow was the career path that I had right out of college, in Public Relations. Whether or not I’m good at it, has yet to be determined. Quitting my job at the school was the worst decision I could have made. As much as I was tired of being there, was ready to move on, and as much as I love my job now, I should have waited it out, but who would have known the economy was going to the pisser. I assured my loved ones that I would find a new job very quickly, because “who wouldn’t want to hire me?” Let me also mention that I spent six years as a private school teacher and never paid into unemployment (a fact that I didn’t know). Private schools don’t pay into unemployment in order to keep their tax exemption status. I wouldn’t have been able to collect unemployment at that point anyway, because I quit that job.

I got a position with a company in 2009. What company I worked for is irrelevant. It was no fault of theirs that the economy took a downturn into the toilet. On June 28, 2009 (Michael Jackson’s death date) I, along with roughly 30 others, were let go from our jobs.

That first day I cried. I remember going to visit a friend, just to stop myself from crying. I had just spent six months applying to every position under the sun and I didn’t want to do that again. I had family coming out visit that July so I decided to wait until after they left to really start looking. I received a severance package, so I was OK for a while. I didn’t know that a while meant a year and a half.

When I got married in 2008, I started out with enough money in my bank account to buy a house or a condo. Thankfully my husband already owned a condo, so moving at that point was not an option. Due to the reduction in workforce (a fancy way of saying laid off) you would think that I could have collected unemployment, well I tried and learned that I would receive only 15 CENTS every two weeks, the cost of sending me that 15 cents was far more, so I declined. I NEVER COLLECTED UNEMPLOYMENT. The money I saved to put down on a house was what I used to survive.

I remember getting up every morning at 7:00 a.m. and watching the news, I didn’t sleep until 9 or 10 in the morning. My job search started at 10, after the news, after taking my two dogs out to do their business, after feeding the dogs and eating breakfast myself. During those morning hours, I would also do one chore a day, in the house. I never watched TV, except for General Hospital at 2:00 and Oprah at 3:00. I did do some volunteer work, which made me feel good, but I couldn’t drive anywhere because I didn’t have money for gas.

I went on one job interview after another, some were wonderful and I would think “Hey I got this one, I can feel it!” (I even went on a few interviews with strep throat, you see my determination to work?) Some were so bad that I excused myself from the interview all together (MLM schemes and the horrible lady from City of Commerce). I started doing temp jobs and freelancing work on the side. By the way, freelance is just fancy term for, I can’t get a job.

Unless someone is in your shoes (this is the same with many things) no one can understand what it feels like to be unemployed. It hurts the ego, it causes strain with loved ones, it makes you feel unworthy, always thinking, “what did I do so wrong in my life to deserve this?” I started going to a meet up group called the Irvine Job Club. I met many great people who I could relate to, because they were going through the same thing as me. Thursday’s I would feel better (the group met on Thursday), I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Then Monday would come along and I would spend eight hours a day looking for a job, going out on interviews or going to many job fairs (some useless and some very worth while).

I started drinking at night, first one glass, just to relax, then two, sometimes even three or four, because I needed it to get me through the night. Don’t judge, I never had a day where I couldn’t get out of bed because I had two much. I still like an occasional glass of wine some evenings, but I don’t ever feel like I HAVE TO HAVE ONE, like I did when I was jobless.

I never wanted to go anywhere, because that would take time away from my job search. I stayed home and ended up gaining weight, but going to the gym was out of the question, because that was two hours of my day I could have spent looking for a job.

There were times when I became severely depressed and yes there were days that I couldn’t even get out of bed. Being unemployed affected my new marriage. What should have been our “honeymoon” period, wasn’t. I was frustrated with my husband, I was frustrated with myself, all I wanted was get my old life back, the life I had before I lost my job. Our marriage was fractured but not broken, to this very day we work at it.

Being unemployed hardened me. I look at people who spend money stupidly (some in my own family) and know that I’ll never be like that. I will not take money or things for granted. I had to borrow money from my parents and that is the worst feeling ever, being 31/32 and having to rely on my family to take care of me. The very last thing that I wanted was for my husband to think I wasn’t self sufficient. I didn’t marry him so he could take care of me, I married him so we could take care of each other. At one point, towards the end, I couldn’t contribute to the household anymore (I had previously paid the household bills, my personal bills and bought all the food in the house).
There were some days where I couldn’t even function. Getting your hopes up after an interview and then being told, “you were one of our top three candidates, but we decided to choose someone else”, does not make for a happy holiday season. It was after this that I stayed in bed for two weeks and cried every single day.
There’s more to my story I know, I can’t describe to you the feelings that I felt during this time. All I can say is that my family, all of my family, did what they could to help me and their generosity will never be forgotten.
I have a job now, even though that doesn’t change the time I was without a job, it does give me hope that the future can be brighter. I’m slowly building up my savings again. I appreciate the fact that I’m working and will never take my job for granted, because you just never know.
To quote American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher, Elbert Hubbard, We work to become, not to acquire.