What is the first question people typically ask when you first meet?
“What do you do for a living?”
For those of us who are not formally employed, running a business or in school that question can evoke some less than comfortable emotions. In our culture we are defined by our occupations almost more than by anything else we do. Even parenting, that vital consuming and essential role is not ‘enough’ in today’s world. I have my own feelings about that but that’s another topic for another day, and besides my children are grown so I can no longer claim Motherhood as my profession anyway.
It has been over two years since I have had a full time job and I’ve begun to adapt to this status. I have also learned some clever ways to respond to the big question, some of them are reasonably graceful. But before I was able to do this I needed to be okay with my status in my own heart and mind. Even now the level of being ok with it can fluctuate depending on other things that are effecting my mood and sense of self.
You would think that with unemployment rates holding steady over the past several years there would be less stigma surrounding unemployment and to a certain extent there is. What clearly is not acceptable to most people is the condition of being at peace with unemployment. The prevailing assumption is that if one is unemployed you must be desperately searching for work and quite possibly willing to accept any opportunity that is presented. The old “McDonalds is always hiring” mentality. As a matter of fact they are not always hiring, and even if I were willing to subject myself to the humiliation of working there they certainly aren’t hiring grown women with Masters Degrees. McDonalds aside, I am frequently given well intentioned suggestions as to where a person with my employment history and qualifications can apply for work. Sometimes, if I feel up to it, I will let the person know that I have applied at each of the places they suggest…and I have. Sometimes these jobs require a State licence, most require a car and insurance (I have neither) and many of them have interviewed me but ultimately chose another candidate. I honestly did put in a good year of applying and interviewing after my last job ended. I even applied for hourly wage service sector jobs, finally omitting my hard earned education from my resume so I wouldn’t be considered overqualified. Still no luck. While age discrimination is illegal, it’s nearly impossible to prove. I read somewhere the other day that Social Security claims have risen by 20% among people between the ages of 50 and 60 since the economy crashed or fell or whatever it did. There are plenty of other statistics that point to the fact that people my age are not getting hired to fill the scarce jobs that are available.
When I finally had applied for every Social Work/Advocacy/Case Management position in town and had nothing but a folder of rejection letters to show for it I decided I might as well take on the grueling yearlong medical treatment for a disease I’ve been carrying around for many years. During that process I was able to qualify for Social Security Disability and Medicare, just in the nick of time as my Unemployment was about to run out. So that kept me pretty busy for a year and since I looked and felt like death not quite warmed over no one bothered to ask if I was looking for work.
Now after all this time I really am not all that fired up to go back to work 40 hours a week. I am, in fact, downright happy to be not working.
So what do I tell people when they ask me what I do? Admittedly I often do recount the years I spent as a Youth Advocate then later as a Domestic Violence Counselor. It was hard work and I deserve the credit. But what do I do now? I’ll tell you.
I still help out people in crisis and frankly it’s much more effective and rewarding without having to document and maintain statistics for every single step of the process.
I read and watch documentaries and I learn something new every day.
I care for my animal companions.
I spend time with my family.
I stop and smell the roses, literally, and the trees and the grass and the earth.
I meditate and dream.
I have gotten to know myself and I realize I actually rather like who I am.
I write stories and draw and practice arts and crafts if I feel like it.
I grow things and make things.
I am learning my family history.
I volunteer in the community and put energy and effort into social causes that I hope will help make the world a better place for future generations.
I thoroughly experience life in all it’s beauty, dullness, excitement and unpredictability.
I appreciate every day I have been given even the crappy ones.
It’s a pretty good job if you ask me and I even like my boss.
© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard