Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Unemployment Diaries- To Everything There is a Season


In my post Identity Theft I dealt with the topic of losing a job and its impact on the sense of self in middle aged women without children. An interesting subject (to which I’ll return in another post) and one that engendered a lot of response from readers. I tried to end on an upbeat note by saying that there are any number of women out there who took a leap of faith and created amazing lives after 40 and that I would attempt to take the same approach.

Here’s the problem with that. I’ve worked since I finished college. I’ve done everything you’re supposed to do- started at the bottom (sales associate in a dept store for $3.75 an hour), did the jobs no-one wanted at the office, volunteered for extra assignments, got promoted, got a master’s degree, started all over in a new field, worked from the bottom up again, kept advancing my skills and knowledge to keep abreast of technology, took on additional responsibilities in my job to stay valuable, and… got laid off. At 49. I don’t want to plant anymore. That season is past and I’m supposed to be reaping. This is the time in life when you’re established in a career, earning good money, comfortable in life and looking forward to retirement. That’s not going to happen. Or, should I say, I may be in retirement now because the odds of my finding another job in field in Portland are slim to none, but it’s not happy retirement. It’s ‘am I going to end up as a greeter at Walmart?’ retirement.

I’m a damn hard worker but I am not the same employee that I was at 25, 30, or even 35. I HATE the word entitled but, in this case, I own it. I have paid my dues. I have dealt with violent harassing bosses, insane hours, low pay, office politics, and questionable ethics to get ahead. I understood that was the game. But now? Now I don’t want to work for an hourly wage and no benefits. I’m not looking to replace the boss, knife someone in the back to get ahead, dine out on a corporate credit card, or earn big bucks. I want to do work I love, be reasonably compensated, and not have to worry about health insurance. Is that so unreasonable?

Apparently, in America and the U.K. (the only areas I have any knowledge about), in 2011, it is. I know I’m not alone in this bitchfest and I sincerely wish someone in a similar situation would read this and comment because I KNOW you’re out there. I read the business news and there are hundreds of thousands of us. We’ve worked hard our whole lives in a corporate world with no ‘cradle to grave’ security (pension? please, not a concept I recognize) but there was still some expectation that we would be employed, in our field, at this age. Now even that is a sick joke.

When I look forward there are no golden years. No golf, tennis, vacation home, and jokingly complaining about ‘having the husband around all the time’.  I look behind me and see the hordes of young hungry twenty-somethings who have just graduated and are desperate to start real life, who don’t have mortgages, health issues, and can relocate on a whim. They have the seeds and the energy. They are ready to plant.

I want only to reap.

8 comments:

Abby said...

And...exhale. I think I held my breath this whole post, and I'll be careful not to write a novel here. You know how I get.

I'm only 30, but I feel exactly the same way, minus the entitlement because I haven't put in your time. However, I look ahead and it scares the shit out of me. Yes, I'm lucky to have a job, but like you said, "I’m not looking to replace the boss, knife someone in the back to get ahead, dine out on a corporate credit card, or earn big bucks. I want to do work I love, be reasonably compensated, and not have to worry about health insurance." I don't play the game, but yet it seems you have to just to survive, as there are a million other people who will. It's not fair.

It's not fair that educated, hard-working, passionate people are often relegated to a lower class because their ethics and morals (or age or finances) prevent them from climbing over others to attempt to get to the top. I want to be comfortable, not lavish. I want to be passionate about my work, not obsessive. I want to be secure and content, not looking over my shoulder or unhappy with what I have. Where can I find this?

Again, I realize I'm younger and have no right to bitch, but I'm going down the same path. It feels my fate is in the hands of a corporate entity that can change my life in an instant, that can take away my security, my insurance and my sense of self with the click of a mouse.

I'm smart. I work really damn hard. I don't want it all. I just want enough and for everyone else to leave me the heck alone. In other words, we need to team up and start a revolution, planting both metaphorical and physical seeds, reaping the benefits and living the life we deserve. Yes, I said deserve. Maybe I'm off base and too young to understand, but I thought I would share my two cents. You rock.

Catherine said...

Abby- thanks for the thoughful reply and your 2 cents are always welcome here! 30 may be easier because you have more time but it doesn't make feeling trapped any better. The system is broken and the fools in DC posturing over the budget but making no real change need a swift kick in the ass.

Do we have to start a revolution? That sounds tiring. I'd be happy w/ a small compound, some nice cats, and a good library.

Kathy G said...

Yes, things are broke. Somewhere along the line the rules changed, and they didn't tell us the new rules. Too many people don't have ANY job, let alone meaningful employment. Politicians think only of the short term (what will keep the voters in their area happy so they'll be re-elected in the next election) and are afraid to take a stand.

I thank my lucky stars every day that Hubby has a job with benefits (we've been dangerously close to not having health insurance) and that I've found a job that I truly enjoy (even if it's only part time). I firmly believe that things will work out in the long run. I don't want to think about the alternative.

Catherine said...

@Kathy G- you're absolutely right, I feel like there are new rules but nobody told us about them! I would love to work part-time but need the healthcare. Still, it may come to that!

Lissa said...

Hi Catherine~ I stopped by from the Tea Party Social & enjoyed your site very much. I will be stopping back regularly to check your progress & root for you!

Kris Mulkey said...

Visiting from TRDC.

I feel your pain. I was laid off on 1/31/11. I'm in my mid-40's and have not been able to find a new job. I've had several interviews - all of which I've been told I'm over qualified.

It's really depressing, frustrating and scary. My family counts on my income.

It's not good. I'm trying to stay positive and focused. I have two interviews next week. My fingers are crossed.

Hang in there.

Kathy said...

Catherine - I get it. I'm there too! 51 this year. Worked 21 years building a small business with my husband. Housing crash reduced our business by 80%. We are not home builders only a trade contractor.

Now we have barely enough to pay half of our bills and keep the company open. Hubby is to old to do more than supervise with Florida heat. This has been going on for almost four years.

Now it seems those 21 years of learning and working count for nothing!!!

I have had several interviews this month-

...You are a dedicated employee by the information of your resume... How do you handle multitasking and stress, as in being interrupted... As if I'm a bit senile!!

... You've been out of the job market for quite some time... Meanwhile I could do the interviewers job with my eyes closed!

On the flip side, I am seeing a few of our former clients returning to the old standards, hiring those that worked hard and are honest. Almost like they are doing a 180. On such builder, who in part gave us our start, has hired most of the contractors that worked with him back in the early 90s. Bottom line showed the "new ways" weren't working out so good for him.
Ranting is good. Patience is better. Faith is best of all and a means of survival and happiness amid this ugly financial mess!

Best of luck to you.

Catherine said...

Lissa, Kris- thanks for stopping by and do come back, I'm not always so cranky! And Kris- good luck w/ the interview. Keep me posted!

Kathy- I'm not happy to hear you're struggling too but it does help to hear from others who are living it. It makes my 50th birthday feel like a sick joke. This is NOT where I thought I'd be.

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