I'm not going to lie to you: poverty sucks. There are many things that are awful about being unemployed, not the least of which is the lack of income for basic necessities. There is also the shame associated with not having a job or career. Americans (and possibly other countries as well) define themselves by their jobs. Most Americans will introduce themselves by stating their name and then their job or the company where they work. When you are unemployed, you lose that crucial piece of your identity.
I've been without a steady paying position for two years. I made a choice to move down to Orlando based on a job that turned out to be something completely different from what I signed up for. My leaving was a mutual dissolving of the work relationship. I have not had any position besides the odd temp job, the longest of which lasted a mere 3 months, since that time. I do my best to deflect the question when people ask me what I do. My resume is admittedly padded with the volunteer catechetical teaching I've been doing for my parish so that the huge gaping hole of time in which I have not drawn a paycheck looks a little more diminished than it actually is. I do my best to hide my unemployment from my daughter's school for fear that they will kick her out if they thought they wouldn't get their tuition money. They claim that they have tuition assistance, but I know that is not for someone living in poverty. It's reserved for families who suffer a sudden loss, not those who had nothing to begin with.
So, what makes unemployment a full-time job and where is the silver lining? Until recently, when I started to spend more time concentrating on doing things for my parish and with my daughter, I would spend more than half my time each day combing through emails and job postings. I would send off and fill out as many applications as I felt I vaguely qualified for. My resume, in all its revised editions, has been received over a thousand times, and that's not an exaggeration. I'm at the point in this sisyphean game in which I'm too tired to apply to jobs with the same gusto I had two years ago, or even one year ago. I get phone calls from 2-5 recruiters every other week and I send them the information, fill out the forms, give them the requested resumes, for which they ask, with no results. I really do spend at least 15 hours a week now applying for almost any kind of work, 45 hours a week up until December when I grew despondent, filling out the same forms with the same employment information over and over again. Anyone who is desperately unemployed has probably spent more time looking for a job than they would have spent being paid to work somewhere. That's not counting the time on the phone talking to recruiters or on phone interviews. That's also not counting the time spent driving to and from actual face-to-face interviews that leave you feeling confident for about 10 minutes and then either depressed or jilted afterward because you know they're not going to call you back. I actually relish the rejection letters I get because that lets me stop anticipating any possible positive outcome (I don't have "hope" anymore; see my hope blog post).
Okay, where's that positive spin that encapsulates the primary point of this blog? I will say that the time I don't spend hunting for a job, especially now when I'm losing a lot of steam, can be spent on other things. I have more time for my daughter. Being able to drop her off and pick her up from school at the regular times, instead of from after-care, gives us more time to talk and gives her more time to get homework finished. We are able to actually eat dinner together almost every day, the exceptions being when we are involved in something at the church in the evening. I am able to spend some of my non-job hunting time during the day to work on my crafting and sewing projects. I am able to take naps, which helps a lot when you consider how messed up my sleeping schedule is at the moment (insomnia + sleep apnea + bouts of depression do not allow for standard sleep cycles). When I am not worrying about how I am going to put gas in my car, or saying copious prayers that nothing happens to break down my car or computer or anything else major, I am actually a bit less stressed than when I was working. My days sort of flow now instead of fit together in blocks of time-crunch anxiety.
Don't get me wrong, unemployment and poverty suck. It's when I feel the crunch the most that I am in need of finding the positive in the situation and making better use of my involuntary free time. Luckily, I've always been pretty good at keeping myself occupied.