I have read about as much as I can take on “how to get a job/build your brand/deal with lay off/find your passion/survive the economic downturn”. What you are about to read is written from someone who has:
- been out of work for over 6 months
- used all of my retirement funds (for the 2nd time)
- had the pleasure of explaining to his children that even with 18+ years of education & 20 years of experience I cannot seem to find a job
- sent out well over 500 resumes and received 2 phone calls that led to 2 interviews (one of those led to another job teaching as adjunct faculty so I guess I can look at like a 50% success rate)
- had to rely on family to buy my kids’ school supplies and groceries from time to time
- been considering if the next step is selling our house that we built just 5 years ago
- to face the fact that bankruptcy is a potential “next step” in the future
- unexpectedly had to buy new tires for our van only to have the transmission give out the same day I got the van back (I laughed out loud as I showered for the 2nd time in 30 minutes after we had to push the van back to the house in 90+ degree heat as we were headed out for a event with my wife’s family)
- had to comfort my wife as she sat on the front porch and cried after the van incident and all she could say was, “Why does this stuff keep happening to us?”
- broke down and cried more times that I care to admit as I think about the impact all of this will have on my children as they grow up
- sat at his computer every day looking at the bills and the checkbook wondering how to make it through another day and still be able to buy groceries for dinner
- started running again but realized that the real reason is that I am actually to drain myself so completely (physically) that I am too tired to think and can have some peace for a short time
- had to develop some strong coping mechanisms in order to continue to get up each morning and focus on being productive instead being angry, bitter, disillusioned, and/or depressed
Now that I have that off my chest, here is what I have to say about all this.
- Do not, under any circumstances, feel “sorry” for me! This is simply life and bad things happen which we have to deal with. The key here is that this isn’t that bad. I sit in church each week and listen to prayer requests that routinely humble me when I think things are bad. Single mothers with terminal cancer, young children battling debilitating diseases, people you know in medically induced comas while doctors struggle to stabilize their condition, families splitting up, and a host of other truly life altering (in some cases ending) events.
- There is no standard process, approach, steps to success or some other fix-it routine that works for everyone who is out of work. Each person is different and each one will need to figure out what they need to do to make it through. At last count there were 6M+ people out of work and I’ll bet all of us are trying just about anything that we think will work. The last thing we need is people who are employed writing nifty little articles on what people who are unemployed should do. In fact, if everyone would quit making it the focus of every news report, newspaper article, or magazine maybe we would all move on and begin to actually take steps to fix it.
- The world is not linear. There is nothing to be gained by trying to figure out why it happened or how to prevent it from happening again. Our collective focus should be on doing what we can with what we have. John Adams, our 2nd President, was credited with saying, “Duty is ours, the results are God’s.” We are not now, nor have we ever been, in control of our world. We constantly try to impose some order on it that will satisfy our pitiful attempts to pacify the panic when we begin to accept that we cannot predict what happens next. If you think that following steps 1 through 5 will get you “x”, you are in for disappointment. (As Van Zant says in their song Help Somebody, “you wanna hear God laugh, tell Him your plan”)
- Cervantes was right when he said, “The journey is the inn.” Our focus should always be on what we are doing at that moment and not lamenting what we could have done or fantasizing about we can do. The present is all we have and we should treat it accordingly. Always be 100% present in everything you do with whoever you are with…you both deserve it.
Finally, since it is Friday and we want to have a good week-end, here are some cool things that have happened over the past 6 months that I most likely have missed if I had been “working”:
- Had a number of great conversations with my 18 year old son about what he was going to do after graduating high school. These were impromptu conversations we could have because I was home when he got home from school or could drive with him to the Navy recruiter’s office on Monday morning. I am convinced that the only lasting legacy we leave behind is our children and the impact we have on the lives of others. This means you have to be there to listen and engage in meaningful conversations.
- Spent a great deal of time helping my wife with her store. This translates into carrying heavy stuff , going to auctions as the “grunt”, prepping all her Internet orders, running to the post office, and unpacking new merchandise in the dungeon (which she calls the basement). This has allowed her to focus on more productive tasks like merchandising, blogging, creating her newsletters, and selling. Her business is up 30% year over year and going strong and that is a direct result of someone being right where they are supposed to be doing what they were put on this earth to do.
- Was able to be home with the kids when my wife’s help at the store suddenly decided to pursue other options. This meant she would have to work all 4 days each week and we were able to do it easily since I could be at home to manage the kids’ schedules.
- Assisted in summer conditioning for my middle son’s basketball prospects. This entailed being at the gym 3 days/week at 8am for conditioning followed by a couple hours of basketball. This provided two distinct opportunities: spending time with my son + playing basketball (both of which I truly covet).
- Played chauffeur to my little girl (she is 12 and would take issue with that terminology) for most of the summer. I was the designated driver for she and her friends which allowed her to be able to have much more fun and that is a good thing.
- Painted my parent’s house for them which started out as painting the “high spots” but I realized I could do it in half the time. The reason being my dad was going to use a 3″ brush and I use a roller. I have also been able to take care of quite a few things for them and that is good.
- Re-started the Selah Fellowship (which I started about 2 years ago but went on hiatus last fall). This is mens group that gets together every 2 weeks and talks about the challenges of being a husband, father, son, brother, friend, bread winner, etc. and how to be all simultaneously given what God tells us we are here for.
- Accepted the fact that there are 2 things God put me on this earth to do that no other person can do. Be a husband to my wife and father to my children. Any “job” I have in a workplace can (and currently is) be done by someone else. Talk about re-prioritizing!
- Found my groove in my walk with God. I finally realized something that has brought me both peace and anxiety…He does not care about my bills, my house, my checking account, etc. All He cares about is remaking me in His Son’s image and that has absolutely nothing to do with anything “of the world”. In fact, He normally selected those who society looked down upon to accomplish His most amazing feats. Check out what the Apostles did for a living before Jesus selected them. This continues to be disconcerting because while I know He does not care about that, I have to. I guess my job is to ensure that His priorities the ones I use to organize my actions. It is like I am fond of saying, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.”
If you stuck it out for the whole posting, there was certainly a change in tone, wasn’t there? While unintended, it kind of represents me in a way. I think I can sum it up by saying I am trying to find the middle ground between:
“The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.” (Proverbs 20:22)
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” (Dylan Thomas)
But, then again, aren’t we all?