Saturday, January 22, 2011

My unemployment story…

I haven’t talked about this in a while, mostly because I don’t want to get maudlin. I know you probably read about it; it’s out there. I’m unemployed. The longer I’m unemployed things in my life evolve and I realized I hadn’t really been talking about them. Then, I read a review of the new film, The Company Men.

It inspired me to write an update on my situation when I read the line, “If two highly skilled and qualified people are making more money than two underperforming but lesser paid employees, guess which two get the axe.” That’s essentially what happened to me. In my case, there were two people in the department and one needed to be laid off. I was paid more but had much more experience and know-how. My co-worker was paid less. I was chosen for extermination. I still speak to my ex-co-worker and hear her complain about how they make her work and how she can’t fart around. Meanwhile, I’m unemployed – that’s what I call empathy.

In the past two years, I’ve gone through every high and low. I’ve applied for hundreds of jobs for a handful of interviews. In those interviews, I’ve been made to feel like shit, as though my situation must be my fault. I’ve been given plenty of false hope, practically having jobs promised to me. I’ve grown so desensitized that I think if I did get employed I wouldn’t believe it.

Meanwhile, there’s my lovely wife, Vicky. She’s doing great and I am very proud of her. Fortunately, I outgrew that dumb instinct that says the man has to make more than the woman a long time ago. I know she’s got her head on straight in the business world and this is her time. More than that, I realize she’s using her fortune to my advantage.

Vicky has encouraged me to use my time off to work on my writing career and that just makes me so happy. In my life, I’ve never really had someone go to bat for me before. Granted, I still work on finding a job, just in case. I work temp jobs. I take any opportunity that comes my way, which has helped extend my unemployment benefits.

In the last two years, I haven’t gone two weeks without working on a new project. I’ve written several books and more plays. More than that, though, Vicky has taken an active role in helping me get the word out to agents, publishers, and theater folk. The results have been measurable. My first book is being published this year. If that was the only result it would be amazing, but there’s more. I recently took a look at the responses my work is getting and word is getting out. I now have over a dozen agents and publishers who have asked to see my books. For my plays, that number increases four-fold! That means people are seeking me out. My friend, Eric, calls it “momentum”. I call it “luck” and I hope it’ll hold.

Unemployment has been rough, no lie. We are living on a razor’s edge financially and things are not easy. When my unemployment runs out, I may be working at Target or the first minimum wage job that takes me. But to know my wife loves me enough to encourage me now when times are hard tells me she’ll be there in the future, too. I’ll take the first job that comes my way but the progress I’m seeing with my writing may may mean I won’t need to.

Either way, I know others have it far worse and I’m a pretty lucky guy, all things considered.

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