I wanted to post this blog months ago, but events made me postpone it. It seemed like a relatively good time to revisit it this week. I am still wiped out from my New York adventure that I hope to write about for next week’s update so this seemed like a good time to pull out one of my posts that I have been holding on to. I wrote it months ago, so I now have a job, but enjoy this post from when things were just starting to change.
It’s no secret that I have been unemployed throughout most of the last seven months. I started to blog in earnest as something to keep me busy and thinking as I looked for a new job. The blog has given me something to think about other than the job search as well as a way to share my perspective. I decided to focus the blog on things that were happening outside of work with the idea that once I found a job the blog could still continue.
I haven’t talked much about the actual job search for a few reasons. The first is that it has been massively depressing. I had never been unemployed before; even during high school and college I had at least one part time job. While I never wanted to be someone who defined himself through his work, to some extent it is unavoidable. There are 168 hours in a week. You work 40-70 hours a week. You sleep for 56 hours a week. That leaves 40-70 hours a week left for something else. Subtract time spent commuting, eating, washing up, and everything else you have about 20-40 left to be who you are when you aren’t at work. That’s less time than what you spend at work! My field is also something I care deeply about, environmental protection and remediation. That means that some of it is bound to bleed over into the rest of my life. Losing that part out of my life left me wondering what I should be doing, and if I should continue. The longer the job search went on the more I questioned myself. It was a frustrating cycle to be stuck in and I didn’t want to bring that to the blog.
The second reason I help back from blogging about looking for a job was related to the first. After seven months of failure I didn’t want to talk about it. There might have been a story in the search, but until there was a happy ending it was not something that I wanted to put out on the internet. I didn’t want to glorify my failure to find work, or make myself look bad if perspective employers searched for my blog. This was critical because I was also trying to branch out and apply for marketing and social media work where my blog was part of my submitted work. Most importantly, Shakespeare pointed out that the only difference between tragedy and comedy is the ending.
One thing that did strike me as worth talking about was how people struggled to talk to me as the time wore on. I understand the difficulty. How many ways can you ask someone if they have had any luck finding work? It was the elephant in the room and everyone tried to avoid it. No one wanted to upset me and they all knew that it wasn’t going as well as I wanted it to go. Even worse, at family gatherings people would shy away from the subject of work in general to try to make me more comfortable, but then struggle to think of something to say that wasn’t work related. Even asking what I was doing would make people realize that there isn’t much you can do without a job to fund it. I felt their pain, I couldn’t think of any subjects to bring up to help them feel better or deflect their unease. I can been a little socially awkward, and this didn’t help. There is nothing worse than trying to avoid a subject that is so prevalent in everyone’s life. Sooner or later people would wander away and talk to each other in another room as I stayed and watched the kids. It was the easiest solution. People wouldn’t know what to say and not want to upset or offend me so they would talk to everyone else. It didn’t get too bad until everyone was talking to everyone else. I felt like a ghost in a room sometimes. My wife and I would talk about it on the way home from gatherings and the phrase of “I’m unemployed, not dead” was born.
It is never easy to figure out what to say in these situations. I understand how people would feel uncomfortable around me when I was going through this phase. You don’t want to bring up negative things at social gatherings. You don’t want to hurt the person’s feelings by saying the wrong thing, no matter how well intentioned. People would want to be supportive, but they also knew I was working as hard as I could to find a new job. They didn’t want to offer too much advice, especially if they hadn’t had to look for work in a long time. Everyone would try to spare my feelings and I ended up feeling bad for them having to deal with me. It was a strange cycle. I didn’t hold their unease against them but it all made me uneasy so I would start to avoid talking to people as well. It’s the same thing that happens when someone you know loses a loved one or has some other significant life issue. I was just thankful that my problem was so insignificant. It could have been much worse. In the grand scheme of things I lost a job, not a loved one. You just don’t know what to say past “I’m sorry”. Even that falls flat, but what else do you say? Add in my being socially awkward from time to time I think I over think most of this, but it is an issue.
Thankfully I can say that I have returned to work. I am back in my field doing what I love. I will be spending time in the field and at work locations helping out with environmental compliance and remediation projects for a utility company. I am glad that it is over for me, but spare a little thought for anyone you know that is unemployed. Like the Rolling Stone’s say, raise a glass to the hardworking people, but raise one to the people working hard to find a job too.