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.