Saturday, December 18, 2010

Unemployment … and the downward spiral.

When I decided to be done with life, the job was the first thing to go.  Buh-freakin-bye.  And let me tell you, there’s a moment of pure, blissful emancipation inherent in the simplicity of the decision to not – ever – return to the place or the people that have led to your demise.  In my case, I think it was my first real act of rebellion in life.  A resounding “NOPE!” to life’s ceaseless demands and ‘musts’ and obligations. 

At the end of the day, you always have options.  Yes or no [or in Shakespearian terms: “To be, or not to be,” as Hamlet stated with slightly more eloquence than me].  If you spend enough of your life as a doormat, it’s possible to forget that, in fact, no one can *make* you do anything.  You have to decide for yourself if your life is going to be what YOU want it to be, because this isn’t a dress rehearsal.  And that’s the Sartre in me speaking…..

You actually don't have to white-knuckle it until you hate your life so much that you want to kill yourself to *finally* start saying ‘no’ to the psychic vampires who would be content to suck the very soul out of you.  There’ll be other victims around the corner for them to beat down to a pulp.  So decide it’s not gonna be you. 

Between a bullying boss, a degrading attack on my being, and a sudden personal abandonment, it was as if a switch had been flipped: I was just -done- with it all.  Tired of doing things I didn’t want to do.  If there was never going to be anything more to life than jumping through somebody else’s hoops, and going through the motions of an existence I can’t even stand, I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore.  Why stick around so other people can tear me down and rip me apart; how long are you supposed to bend over backwards doing for others, only to get crapped on in return? 

And so, on what was to be the last night of my life, I composed a bye-bye letter of resignation to my bitch of a boss.  You know, the sort of thing everybody secretly wishes they could do, but which you shouldn’t even *think* about doing if there’s even a smidgen of a chance you’re going to have to live with the consequences (HELL-O, take it from me).  The mature part of me is, of course, ashamed of such childish self-indulgence.  And then there’s the smug part of me that bubbles over in self-satisfied hysterics just thinking about that slore checking her inbox that next morning.  There are times in life when people get exactly what they deserve.  It just happened to be her time to be humiliated in front of HER colleagues in the same manner she liked to dish out.  Karma’s a bitch (and yes, I’ve certainly gotten *my* come-uppins, so don’t worry about that). 

So in my case, you could really say I brought on this whole “unemployment” situation mySELF, so boo-hoo WTF are you crying about, you moron?!?!  Yeah, yeah, I get it: there are bazillions of laid-off workers who – through no fault of their own – have found themselves unable to support their families.  Believe me, I have immense compassion for everyone in that situation.  I don’t want anyone’s pity, nor do I expect anyone to feel bad for this mess I have gotten myself into.  I screwed myself, and I know it.  It wasn’t the smart thing to do – but then, do you honestly think a suicidal person is in a rational frame of mind? 

But regardless of the circumstances that lead to unemployment, I’d wager the emotions are pretty much the same once you’re swimming (err, drowning?) in it. 

It’s humiliating.  You feel like the scum of the earth and start to believe that everyone is thinking what a lazy, worthless drain on society you’ve become, and how easy it is to just go out and get a job if you’re willing to work hard.  You’re desperate to prove your worthiness to civilization by jumping back into the swing of things … if only you COULD.  If only someone would give you the chance.  “If only _____ would happen, I could get it all back on track,” you think to yourself.  You feel ashamed of yourself (even if it’s not your fault in the slightest) because, after all, if you really wanted a job bad enough you would be working, right?  That’s the message from society.  

Well, if you’ve never been unemployed, you need to keep your damn mouth shut, because you have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.  You don’t have a clue what it’s like to suddenly feel powerless over your own life and feel sick with uncertainty in the pit of your stomach.  You couldn’t possibly know how disconcerting it is to find yourself at the mercy of factors beyond your control, blowing around in the wind with your future up in the air. And you sure as f*** don’t know the existential dread of waking up wondering, “Where in the HELL am I going in this life, and WTF am I going to do to survive?”   

Next, your disparaged soul sets about to the task of job-hunting, a process my (former) friend Singlutionary at Unabashedly Unemployed once described as: demoralizing and dehumanizing and just shitty in general. It would wear down even the strongest person into a blubbering pulp.”  She always did have a way with words. 

Alas, that friendship was another casualty of my erratic, suicidal behavior.  It really bites to glance in the rear-view mirror and catch a glimpse of all your ugliest self has left in its wake.  Especially when your destructive fight-or-flight antics cost you those precious few in life who ‘get’ the floundering groundlessness of life for the simultaneously unattached and unemployed.  Add it all to the list of things that can’t be undone…  

Back to my point: There is a peculiar desperation unique to long-term unemployment that can easily culminate in surrender.  Truly, you reach a point where it literally becomes absurd to fill out the three thousand and fourth employment application, and you are absolutely convinced that you will never be a productive member of society again … so why bother to keep trying??  Then you awaken wide-eyed for the next 3 weeks and frantically search the job boards until your eyeballs blur over and roll into the back of your head.  Until you ditch the pointless effort, crash, and take refuge in your bed for a week … only to revive the panic cycle once again in a few days.  I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, yet I know there are millions in the same boat as me.     

Never in a million years would my younger self have believed that I would end up 27 years old (then 28, then 29, then 30….) and unable to get back into the workforce.  That a lifetime of striving and hard work and straight A’s would amount to nothing.  That 7 years of college and scholarships and 4.0’s and summa cum laude would bring me to: a dead end.  In one fell swoop, I rendered my entire life’s work null and void.  No one cares about the decade of solid employment with a strong work ethic; all that matters now are these “gaps in employment” I’ve got to account for.  Try conjuring up the confidence to make it through an interview after you’ve flushed your career down the toilet … good times.  References?  Don’t make me laugh. 

Thing is, I didn’t intend to be here dealing with all of this.

I’ve spent plenty of days wishing I would’ve just gotten it over with, because it feels like a trillion miles on this journey just to get back to the place where I was barely hanging on to begin with.  And that absolutely terrifies me. 

So, yeah.  Being a disgrace unto yourself certainly feeds into all the pre-existing suicidal impulses.  Unemployment is a fitting companion to the severely depressed, because your feelings of worthlessness can be reinforced on a daily basis!  

A few months ago, I purged the utter despair of my unemployment into a little ditty: 


  1. ...don't give up. try volunteering a few hours a week to add something to your resume and to begin filling in the gaps. invent a wonderful story to explain the gaps in employment, or just be optimistically are one of the strongest, don't forget that.

  2. I would like for someone else to "invent a wonderful story" for me, lol. Though I have a job now, I worry for the next interview down the line.