The Unemployment Diaries: Magic Elixir

In many of the world’s greatest fairy tales and fables there is something that will bring the hapless hero or heroine all their heart desires. For Jack it was magic beans, for Ali Baba it was “Open Sesame”. Arthur needed Excalibur and Snow White slept for a kiss. Is it any surprise then that after 11 months of effort, I’m ready for the elixir that will bring me my heart’s desire: meaningful employment? (Note: that's professional desire. George, you know you're still #1 on my list.)

I can’t be alone here. For anyone who’s been looking and doing as prescribed by state-mandated agencies, career coaches, and professional associations there comes a point when you MUST doubt yourself. Not to do so would be unnatural, right? And would make me want to punch you. Or punch anyone who says, “What about something at CostCo, just for the holidays?”, because there is no place MORE. MEANINGFUL. then CostCo at the holidays. 

You begin to look outside yourself at all those others. Those people who have jobs and even more importantly, careers. What do they have that you don’t? This then is the beginning of magical thinking. They have something, some intangible thing that if you could only hear it, see it, touch it, you would get their magic. In that sense it is me because although, on the surface, I’m doing everything I’m supposed to I’m missing the one thing everyone else has or knows about. The magic potion.

Needless to say, this is not a great state to be in. It means that the already increasing miasma of desperation that cloaks my being is enhanced by neediness that YOU have the answer. That if I listen to you more closely, if I simply ask you the right question, you’ll say the words that will drop the veil from my eyes and I’ll awake to find myself chicly dressed in a comfortable office not too far from my home working part-time, well paid with benefits. Oh wait that would be a fairy tale in today’s world.

Mixed metaphors and fables aside this feeling is real. Not so pervasive as to be paralyzing but it bashes around my brain from time to time. If I were smarter I would know what to do, I could find the magic formula, I would have the magic words. Basically, that the fault lies within me, which would mean I had control over my situation and could fix it.

I’m left with the question: why is it easier to believe that we are stupid or lazy than to accept we have NO control?


  1. If you find the answer then please let me know Catherine (and I shall do the same for you).

    Those well meaning 'how about shelf stacking to tide you over' comments?


    Thank you kind, well meaning people - I am NOT too proud but I do still (just about) have my dreams too ...

  2. I wish there were a magic elixir - you know I'd share. Stupid fairly tales...

    Being on the lucky-and-employed side of the fence right now, I can't see a damned thing I have that you don't. (Other than a job, obviously.) We're both intelligent, hard-working, savvy women who network and do all the right things.

    It's so hard to be unemployed and not know what's going to happen. It really sucks to not feel like you're not enough - smart enough, young enough, whatever-enough. My three bouts of unemployment were tough and that horrible internal message that "I'm not good enough" is hard to ignore.

    BUT it's not you. It's the screwed up economy generally, and our city's lack of decent opportunities specifically. I'm optimistic you'll find something. I always found a better or more enjoyable position, though in my darkest days of single parenthood, no child support, and unemployment I wasn't too sure.

    Costco? Ugh.


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