Gainful Unemployment

Deborah Schwartz

Unemployment in New York City is rising. Many of the newly-jobless have had to adjust their attitudes and activities to this new lifestyle. Below are important suggestions to prepare you for these changes.

Upon learning he or she is being laid off, many people experience a period of denial. They feel as if their performance and knowledge were unique. It is important to remember that your position was never protected. You were not the only one who could execute certain tasks. You will not feel your employer’s longing for your good company. You will probably only feel betrayed. It is important to overcome these feelings as early on as possible.

The first weekday morning of unemployment can be hard. Many people turn to alcohol or chemical substances, toasting their new freedoms or wading in a viscous pool of numbed pity. You may wake up that first morning-after feeling as if someone had stuffed a ratty long-haired wig inside your head. Be prepared to spend this entire first day in your nightclothes, forgetting even to bathe or brush your teeth. Don’t worry. This is perfectly normal. If you have a television, you should watch it.

The second day is often easier. You might get up at a decent hour, bathe, dress, even run several errands. Many find it soothing to get a new battery for their watch, buy a neutral-colored turtleneck, maybe clean out the refrigerator.

During the next week, you may feel a weight being lifted. Many have experienced this sensation. Your employer has let you go. He or she has set you free. You can no longer fear your termination. The worst has happened, and it was not so bad. This is a good time to file for unemployment.

Within this next unemployed month, people notice they are staying up later. And getting up later. Your blood-alcohol level may increase. Time spent watching television may increase. Your long distance phone bill may increase. Lesser friends may get annoyed by your frequent calls. Try taking three-hour naps. Go to as many interviews as are offered. You may experience the sensation of throwing your resume into a dark gaping chasm. Try to overcome this feeling.

Several months will go by. You may notice you have hair on the tops of your feet and on your big toes. It is important, at this point, to establish a new regiment of daily activities. The regiment can be simple, such as: get up; drink whisky; make long-distance calls; shower; leave the house. If you can get out of the house at least once a day, you can keep yourself from treading aimlessly in that viscous pool of pity.

Within the next several months, it may happen that your mother wants to know why you are still out of work. She may suspect loudly that you are not trying hard enough. This is perfectly normal. Try not to dwell on these feelings. Consider dyeing your hair an unusual color; buying hair dye will get you out of the house. You may discover that if you are sitting, and lean to one side, the skin on your belly will fold in an unenthusiastic and unflattering way.

Many unemployed people find jokes about unemployment to be cathartic. They enjoy books with unemployed protagonists, and call-in radio shows on which the topic is unemployment. In the end, these can only be so helpful. You will have to stop drinking before two PM, because it makes you cry and feel dull. The naps will have to go if you want to sleep at night. Consider dressing in funny clothing and riding the subways. Consider plucking your eyebrows clean off. Your head may feel a little loose. Don’t worry; this is perfectly normal.

Your mother may begin sending you books on self-esteem, on getting organized. Some friends may love you less. It is a good idea at this point to find a hobby. Consider making craftsy presents for friends and relatives. Don’t panic if you should find a raised freckle on your arm with a hair growing from it. Do not worry if it is malignant. You cannot go to the doctor. You have no health insurance. When the weather is nice, you should go for a jog.

As money is tight, many people learn to make trips to the store without buying anything. This is called “window shopping”. Sometimes, you may have to buy things, because you feel so low. Then, you will most likely feel tight and itchy all day. The amount of television you watch will increase, the phone calls you make will increase. Try to find a call-in radio show with a topic that interests you. Consider calling in. When the line is busy, consider turning off the radio and interviewing yourself. What a card you are.

Try to learn something new about yourself every day. Tell yourself jokes and see if you laugh. Consider dressing in funny clothing and taking pictures. You may discover a great wellspring of love for yourself. You may discover a great depth of hate. They may exist simultaneously.

Eventually, you may get a job offer. It will most likely not be from your former employer. It will most likely not be what you wanted. You may seriously consider not taking the job. This is perfectly normal. But take it. You have grown comfortable in unemployment. It is a good idea to practice change.

©Deborah C Schwartz, 2002