APRIL 29, 2012 4:40PM

I. Am. Job.

Rate: 5 Flag

I have a job.  J-O-B, job.  It’s been so long since I’ve been able to say that.  One year, two months and eighteen days, to be exact.  I have always had a job.  Always.  I was more excited to get a worker’s permit on my sixteenth birthday than I was to get my drivers license, therefore, one year, two months and eighteen days in an eternity of a gap in my employment history.

 When the realization of not having a job first hit me, I thought I would use the time wisely and do something productive like find myself or write a book or keep the house Martha Stewart clean.  I figured I would keep a schedule for myself just for the sake of schedule keeping.  My imagined schedule went something like this: wake up, see the kids off to school, job hunt online for an hour or two, clean, write, write some more, think deep and wonderful thoughts, bake cookies and welcome the kids back home just in time for me to start cooking in order to have supper ready for my husband when he came home from his job.  Sigh, job…such a coveted thing.

 To me, my schedule sounded wonderfully doable.  I thought by keeping time somehow it would keep me in the loop of life.  So, on my first day of underemployment, I thought I might take it a bit easy.  I got up, saw the kids off to school, revamped my resume, posted it on several, several job boards and took a nap.  I was asleep before I could even catch The Price is Right, a show I associate with daytime relaxation.  Waking up around noon, I mentally kicked myself for wasting time.  In that two or better hours I could have had the kitchen deep cleaned or realized a hidden moment of my childhood that had been knocking me around for the past thirty-something years.  Since I was groggy, I figured a pot of coffee was in order to jump-start me into my schedule.  After three cups, I spent the majority of the remainder of the day in the bathroom.  My first day was wasted.

 The next several days were spent listening to a new voice in my head.  I found a new side of myself on day two and she was a horrid bitch.  She tore me down, chewed me up, spit me back out and left me feeling like what ever is found underneath dog poop when it gets stepped on.  I was an emotional wreck.  So much progress and only day two!  I went from a decently happy, productive person to a greasy bed-dweller in a matter of twenty-four hours.  What the hell?  I have always been able to snap back.  But then again, I’ve always had a job to pay my bills and support my family.  Images of emaciated children swept through my head like storm clouds.  I even wondered if my husband and I could fit comfortably in a refrigerator box while my children would each have their own stove box to call their own just to give them a sense of luxury.

 How could a multi-billion dollar company lay me off just to save themselves a few thousand bucks when so much more was really at stake?  I lost every bit of self-pride I had.  I saw my value as someone who was always able to provide for my family and now I was a serious burden.  My job provided wonderful insurance, a decent paycheck, and a huge chunk of my identity.  I felt bald and naked without it.   I clothed myself with self-loathing and the covers of my bed.  I cringed at the sound of each car passing wondering if it was the electric company coming to turn off the lights since I was now waiting to the very last day to pay the bill rather than paying it almost as soon as it came in the mail just to ensure food on the table.  I made beans for supper almost every night and made my kids tell me, in detail, what they had for lunch at school just so I could imagine something other than the taste of beans.  I was almost jealous of school food.

 After my husband had gone to work and the bus farted my children off to school, I brought my laptop to bed with me.  I was determined to find a job similar to what I was doing but soon realized that not very many companies were hiring for the position at which I was so experienced after having done my job for over eleven years.  Sure, there were jobs out there, but the jobs were either way over my little skill-set head or way beneath me.  Some of the job descriptions were so detailed and demanding of this specific thing or that, that I felt panic attacks coming on since I knew that I was no where near qualified for what these people were asking.  I applied for every job anyway.  I think, at last count, I applied for four hundred, thirty-three jobs, some of which I applied for multiple times.  Out of those jobs, I had three phone interviews, one pre-interview, which was a face-to-face, and one real interview where after seven weeks of deliberation, I actually got the job.

 I started my job last week.  After finding my inner self-degrading bitch, I was shell shocked to be out of the house for more than just grocery shopping.  That’s all I did outside of the house for over a year since I couldn’t afford to do more.  I haven’t been around people other than my family and a few friends every now and then and now I’m the boss of seven people.  I find, now that I’m back in the real world, I have not only lost my sense of self, but I have also lost my sense of humor.  I don’t think anything is funny anymore since I’ve just spent the last bit of too long taking things way too seriously.  When, and if, I laugh, I find the feeling so shockingly foreign that I stop, confused at what my body was doing.

 So, now it is time for me to jump back into the world that I have been hidden from, dust off my personality (the inner bitch had me questioning if I’ve ever really had one to begin with), and grasp at those non-existent bootstraps that everyone likes to talk about.  I can do this.  I can go back out into the world and redevelop my sparkle, or at least fake that I’ve got some shine deep down inside of me.  When you apply your wrinkle cream, think of me since I just might be the one that is making it for you.  I used to make the products you buy better but now I make you prettier.

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Your story illustrates really well the almost crippling depression and loss of confidence that comes with being unemployed.

I am so happy that you have found a job! Congratulations!!
great writing, jess. jeanette (right above me here) said it better than i could. but i'll add my congrats to hers. oh, and your last paragraph is totally fabulous.
Fake it till you make it, if that's what it takes. You would not have gotten the job in this economy if you weren't qualified for it. Use that to shut that bitchy voice up. As women, we think we have to be a 100% match in order to be "qualified" for something, but it's just as appropriate to have a "stretch" position for growth and to show what we're really capable of. Otherwise we'd just stagnate in one position for the rest of our lives. Work it!

I'm feeling prettier already. :-)
Congratulations, Jess! God, I hate beans. Rated.
Thank you everyone! You women rock! (I am sneaking this from work on a lunch break.) thank you for the encouragement!
Oh my god. Thank you so much for writing this. Its exactly how I felt when I was unemployed and the how I felt when I went back to work. And now I'm unemployed again.
Congratulations on the new job! I'm happy you came back to Salon - your writing was missed.