I taught for six years, blissfully unaware of just what happens when you lose the stability of a paycheck. I lost my job due to cutbacks. No one told me that the recession would affect the entire nation, especially my state of Michigan, so profoundly. My school district was in a deep financial hole and when that happens, teachers lose their jobs. And I lost mine.
So I started on my journey of finding a new job. I had no idea or understanding that I would be still unemployed a year and a half later!
Doing everything right
When I first lost my job I took all the most obvious steps that everyone in my situation takes. I signed up for unemployment, put my resume on countless online job-hunting websites and put the word out there to everyone I knew that I was looking for employment. Obviously these tactics have not worked.
I have been receiving unemployment insurance thanks to numerous extensions. I cross my fingers daily that they pass another extension. Even with the unemployment benefits, making ends meet has been rough. My benefits aren't enough to pay my monthly bills. Now I am not a person with huge amounts of credit-card debts or extraneous expenses that need to be paid. We are talking just the basics here: mortgage, car and insurance, phone, water, gas / electric and groceries. That's it. No shopping sprees or trips to the Caribbean, just your plain old average bills.
Sinking from the stress
Since there just wasn't enough money to go around, I had to ask for help. Since my unemployment my dad has been paying my car and insurance payments. I've had to borrow money at different times for unexpected expenses like repairs. The stress of scraping by financially has been more than I can bear at times. I've cried more times than I can count, I'm pretty sure I've gone through some serious bouts of depression and I've turned into a hermit.
I've pulled back from friends and family, because most days there is just too much to deal with. I can't answer one more question about my job search or my money situation. I can't listen to one more corny line that tells me, "Well, something good is bound to happen since you've already hit bottom." In terms of coping with the stress and overwhelming pressure of the situation, I can honestly say I haven't dealt with it well.
When I try to think back over these many months on how many jobs I have searched out, applied for, and waited hopefully to hear back on, I've lost count. I have applied for hundreds of jobs. Out of these submissions I've had two interviews. Two. Most times when I send a resume, I never hear from that company again. Not a "Thanks but no thanks," or a "We've decided to go with someone else" -- nothing.
That would have to be one of the most frustrating aspects of this. You spend the time searching for jobs, going through the extensive online application process, tailoring your cover letter and resume to fit the job and then you send it off into oblivion and never hear about it again. Trying to contact the company to follow up is impossible. No one has time for you. But what choice do I have? I have to find a job and this is how it works. So every day I start the process over again and hope that today will be the day that something changes.
Being a better mom
I can honestly say that this experience has given me an opportunity. It has made me a better mom. When I was working, I would come home exhausted after dealing with kids all day. I had very little left to give to my own son. I am a single parent and it all falls to me. I would scrape together dinner, try and focus to help with homework and then count the minutes until I could get some sleep. All that has changed.
Now I make my son breakfast each morning and talk to him about his day. I get to drive him to school each day, a task I have never been able to do. It was always me rushing to get ready, then dropping him off at his grandparents, so I could make the long drive in to work. Nowadays, I also get to be a part of school field trips, sporting events, volunteer activities. I used to spend my days devoted to other people's kids. For a change I can focus solely on mine. So while these 18 months have been incredibly hard to manage, they've also been a blessing.
Being unemployed has really changed me as a person. On the positive side of things, I am a more attentive parent. But honestly, that is the only positive to come from this. I have become more cynical and pessimistic. I used to be a happy person who didn't let anything get to me. I wish that were true now. Nowadays, I have a tendency to always look for the negative. I assume things will turn out badly and I cry at the drop of a hat.
And the worse part about it is that I'm internalizing all of this. I don't want to burden people any more than I already have. So I deal with the emotional fallout alone and have allowed it to bury me. I am not the same me. That is hard to admit. I feel like I have lost a lot in this. I wish I knew what to do to change all of this, but I am at my wit's end. And unfortunately there is no end in sight.