Unemployment: Not Just a River in Egypt.

Us, December 2008

In January of 2009 I lost my job.

I was 27 years old, and I’d never suffered a single day of financial hardship. Sure…I thought I had.  I mean, I never did get that pony I wanted.  But the reality was, I had no fucking clue what financial hardship actually was in January of 2009.

A few months earlier my Dad – a financial adviser – had pulled my savings out of the stock market citing “short term plans” —  Scott and I were looking to buy a piece of land to build a house, and my Pops insisted that we not leave money tied up in the stock market that we were planning on using in any short term.   Good advising it turned out, because not a month later the market had gone in the shitter and taken the investments of most of my friends and colleagues with it.

I felt lucky.  And as usual, I felt untouched by the horrible shit going on in the world around me.  Not unmoved, mind you…just, untouched.  Real hardship had simply never happened to me.

I can type those words now without feeling like an ignorant ass because I know full well how ignorant and assy it was for me to believe I could go on living that way.   I was already teetering on the edge of unhappiness as I looked ahead to 30 with impending doom, certain that possibility would cease to exist like an iron curtain slamming down on hope come June 2, 2011.  Again…HA.  If only I had a fucking clue.

I had just signed with my second agent as a screenwriter – this time at an Agency that I had long wished would take interest in me, so I had myself believing that I didn’t have to put much stock in my day job in advertising.  I liked it – I had great coworkers, and it was creatively fulfilling in it’s finest moments.  But I just didn’t plan to stick around forever.  Just until I made my first million as a screenwriter…obviously.

Unfortunately my departure came a bit sooner than I thought.

I went into the holidays that year having been assured that my job was safe – in fact, I was told that the company was foregoing christmas bonuses in order to assure no one was laid off.  I bought reasonably generous gifts for loved ones.  That December, Scott and I found a dream site for our home and started to engage an architect.  Luckily the economy had gotten so dire by then that banks were pulling all of their starter-home friendly construction loans off the table and a foundation estimate revealed that we didn’t have the 50% of funds we’d need to qualify for a proper construction loan ~ because if it hadn’t we’d probably still be living in the Vintage Travel Trailer we had fantasized about shacking up in while we built…

It was five days into the New Year when I got the call…the company had to cut back and…I didn’t need them to finish the sentence.  I finished it for them.  

I can’t quite explain the shame, betrayal and anger I felt as the reality of the situation set in.  Like a jilted lover.  And yet still…so arrogant.  I never imagined I’d be searching for employment for the better part of two years.   I never imagined that I’d find out I was pregnant not two weeks later – AFTER I declining COBRA – and that I’d have my pregnancy called a preexisting condition by my new insurance company, threatening to land my unborn child and arrogant self on MediCal.  I never imagined a lot of the events of the past several years would come to be, but they have.  And despite the pain, and tears, and struggles, I wouldn’t trade a day of it back, because I’ve learned so much about myself, those closest to me, and the human experience in the process.  Even on the days I don’t feel that way.

But that’s easy to say now.  That’s easy to say when you have some concept of who you are, and some confidence that you know where you’re headed.  (I said SOME.)  It’s a lot harder when you’re feeling out on your ass in spite of all of your hard work that no matter what the reason for your joining the ranks of the unemployed, it cheapens every moment you spent feeling like a valuable employee.  For some, maybe that overflows into feeling like a valuable spouse, parent, friend, or human being.   For me, without my even realizing, it sucked away all of that.  I was left an empty shell terrified of the life growing in my belly.

But then something amazing happened.  I started to blog.

Actually – this site went public that very same week in which I was laid off and Delilah was conceived (I knowgross.)   But it wasn’t until I shared my news with you guys about 16 weeks later that I really felt liberated to say how I felt here.  And even then, I was still too ashamed to talk about the financial struggles we faced in the wake of my unemployment (Scott owns a luxury business, so while we were grateful every day for the fact that it couldn’t all go away at once, every client he had that was laid off or tightening in the purse strings in a down economy resulted in a pay cut for us).

Slowly but surely, this blog helped me find my voice again.  It helped me regain that tiny bit of confidence that makes me believe that each tomorrow will be a better day.  It opened my eyes to a community of people who were telling the truth about life in a way I had never encountered before.  In a way that electrified me.   And like Forrest Gump ran, I starting WRI-TING…  (I’m sorry — I can’t resist these horribly outdated and cheesy references sometimes…I don’t know what comes over me.)

Anyway – most of you know what happened next.  I wrote my way right off the unemployment line.  I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.  (Embarrassed too, but I swallow that down mostly.)  Which is why when {a woman I think is just crazy awesome} Lisa Stone announced the Blog For Jobs initiative BlogHer is doing with [Starbucks CEO, and maker of mornings] Howard Schultz I knew that I would eventually have to get off my ass and share my unemployment story.   Turns out today’s the day.    I never thought I’d be a statistic, but I am.  I’m also now a small business owner and {I like to fancy myself} an entrepreneur.  My husband and I are in control of our own financial futures, and we’re proud to be amongst the throngs of Americans creating their own jobs.  But I’d still totally love a million dollars or ten. 

Do you have a story to share?  Do you need reassurance that this too shall pass?  (Because it will.  My savings account has shrunk instead of grown and I have more wrinkles than I did in grand ‘ole 2008 (still no grey hairs though) but it passed, and I’m stronger and smarter and better for it.)  Talk to me, if you’re so inclined.  And also, you should visit createjobsforusa.org to see how you can help get America back to work.

Feed Me Seymour