Been reading the reader submitted stories of unemployment, a weekly series, in Gawker http://gawker.com/unemployment/
Brought back memories of my own experiences with unemployment….Had a few periods of unemployment although the one that had the most effect on me and the longest was in the late 1990’s.
I had been terminated from a job for what I considered unlawful reasons. An administrative law judge agreed with me and awarded me unemployment benefits and the threat of a lawsuit was enough to get my former employer to settle with me out of court (for a very small sum).
At the time I was burned out on working, had been working since I was 16. The jobs I had were soul destroying. I am not a lazy person and always believed in working but that being said I didn’t feel depressed at being out of work for several reasons 1.) I had some resources and always found a way to pick up temporary employment to stave off homelessness and starvation 2.) I felt completely fed up with a society that demanded labor, any kind of labor, for sustenance even if the labor was not something you were interested in or good at.
I couldn’t make a living as a writer. I accepted that but I guess I needed a break.
For me, this break which lasted from early 1997 to mid 1999 (broken up by periods of temporary employment) was ultimately a good thing. It gave me a much needed breather from work, a mental health break so to speak. It also gave me a healthier attitude about working when I did finally get a full time job again. I learned not to get too emotionally invested in a job, not to try too hard in a job where you are neither going to get promotion nor a sense of self-value.
But many cannot afford this luxury. I was fortunate in that I had a spouse who was working and did not have any children. In addition, I’ve always believed in living slightly less than my means. In other words, never buying something I can’t pay for and trying to maintain a surplus at the end of the month when salary is reconciled against debts.
I was poor as a young man and barely eked out a living in my early 20’s but that sort of living is a rite of passage. Too much misery kills character but a smaller amount will build it. I can recall sleeping in my car once or twice in between room rentals, going to Sizzler with a few friends and finding a sympathetic waitress who allowed us to share one all you can eat salad bar between us. If you’ve been hungry, you appreciate food better.
Truth is when you have worked hard and society has encouraged the idea that in and of itself is enough, and you find yourself down and out, unemployed, it only hits you harder like some kind of mean cosmic joke.
I don’t have any great enlightenment to offer on this other than I think dog eat dog quasi- capitalism as practiced in the USA is evil and kills the human spirit. I’m thinking the rest of the US is maybe also in the process of coming to this conclusion spurred on by these tough economic times and the actions of the selfish rich and Wall Street parasites.