|Enjoying the view from your new office.|
Everyone understands, I hope, that losing one's job is a huge setback. It's not for nothing that losing a job is referred to variously as being 'fired' or 'getting the axe' or, my personal favorite although you have to think about it a little to understand all the ramifications, being 'discharged'.
No matter what you call it, it sucks. It sucks on many levels, but most people understand the impact of losing a job only in economic terms. Certainly the economics of unemployment are deleterious enough, but financial difficulties are not the only problems facing the terminated. Joblessness will gnaw at your innards in insidious ways that would surprise those who have not experienced it first hand. Here are ten of my favorites:
- No matter the reason you lost your job, you can't help but feel that you have somehow failed yourself, your family, and your potential. This may not be fair, but it's natural, and it may be unavoidable. The trick is to use your feeling of inadequacy against itself. I mean, if you are the big loser you think yourself to be, then what you think is naturally suspect and you shouldn't take it seriously. Seriously, this will work, but it's not easy...and it helps of you've already turned to strong drink for solace.
- Feelings of inadequacy and depression make it that much harder to get another job. Say you score an interview, and it is scheduled for a day when you are feeling particularly down on yourself. (In a relatively short period of time, this will be every day.) The interviewer asks you some stupid question, the purpose of which is to see how good a liar you are—something like 'where do you see yourself in five years?' The answer that leaps immediately into your confidence-starved brain is something like 'still sucking up to a snot-nosed diesel douche like you,' and the despair engendered by this thought will take root and flourish so that it will be impossible to come up with the kind of lie that will get you the job you suddenly realize you are not worthy of anyway.
- Your creditors will not be sympathetic. They will immediately begin to take advantage of your inability to pay them by charging you enormous fees and raising your interest rates into the stratosphere. (How convenient for the banks that the financial lobby managed to get most usury laws repealed before they crashed the system and drove so many of us to the brink of ruin.) When you try to cut your expenses by canceling their services, you will be forced to pay burdensome cancellation charges. If you protest, they will talk to you like you are a deadbeat. After a while you will begin to accept this as your due.
- If you elect to take advantage of the COBRA provisions to keep your health insurance in force, you will find that it costs you double what you were paying when you had a job. Unemployment compensation is not enough to cover this. You can't pay your mortgage and your health insurance too. There is no kind of math that makes this work—not even the math that Wall Street used to tell them that securitized sub-prime mortgages were a safe investment. If you get sick, you are screwed. All the depression, anxiety, and self-loathing that have come to roost in the cobwebbed recesses of your psyche make it that much more likely that you will, in fact, get sick.
- Unemployment compensation is not enough to keep your boat afloat, especially since all the providers you are used to doing business with are taking advantage of your unfortunate situation to enrich themselves before you go belly up. Your expenses will go up instead of down. The only expenses you will have any control over are food and cable TV. Ironically these are only the two things that are keeping your depression from lurching across the border into Suicideland. How are you supposed to stay upbeat and positive when you are forced to give up your daily ration of chocolate covered pretzels while you watch the Real Housewives of Swankville bicker about who said what to whom while they are drinking wine and getting a group Brazilian bikini wax at some high-dollar spa?
- You will suddenly become aware of a gaggle of bozos who think that drawing unemployment is the same as being paid not to work. They resent your lazy, shiftless, scheming, system-scamming ass because they think that while they are at work, you are using their hard earned tax dollars to put fuel in your yacht. They are everywhere, posting comments, writing letters to editors, phoning into radio talk shows to shout out kudos and dittos. You will rightly wonder why people that ignorant have jobs while you do not. While you are wondering this, they are making campaign contributions to candidates who are promising to put an end to extended unemployment benefits and anything that looks like a real economic stimulus. They want to run you out of options. They don't really care if you get another job. They certainly aren't going to spend any money to help make another job available. Only by dying will you cease to be a drain on their resources. After a while it will seem as if this is their true aim...to kill you. They are too cheap though to buy bullets and make quick work of it. They want you to go quietly on your own nickel.
- The elected officials that you hope will fix the problems of the larger economy, the problems that are keeping jobs in short supply, are instead busy chasing skirts, tapping their feet under the stall dividers in public restrooms, texting inappropriate messages to their constituents, engaging prostitutes to help them maintain their legislative focus, and e-mailing pictures of their genitalia to further clog the bandwidth of cyberspace. As with the self-proclaimed voices of reason in number 6 above, you will rightly wonder why people this ignorant have jobs while you do not. You will think briefly about running for Congress, but you quickly realize that nobody wants to run a candidate who doesn't have a job. They think something must be wrong with you. Perverts, apparently, are harder to vet.
- Criminal activity begins to look more and more like a viable career path. Not only are there few barriers to entry, no inane job interviews, no credit checks, no hoops to jump through, but the downside to failure is better than the lifestyle you are currently enjoying. If you get caught, convicted, and sentenced to prison, you have free room and board, free medical care, and free cable TV. This beats hell out of the cardboard box under a bridge that seems to be in your future otherwise. In addition, if the powers that be ever get around to prosecuting the Wall Street bankers for their complicity in stripping the wealth and livelihood of the middle class, you may even get a cellmate who can regale you with tales of unimaginable decadence. When the Geezer Bandit begins to look like a sage old life coach, you are well on the way to making sense of your life again. Best keep it to yourself though.
- If you are a husband and your wife is still working, you are going to have to man up and become the woman of the house. This is only fair. In time you will realize that suffering the abuse of a churlish boss or the mind-numbing drudgery of yet another meeting is exactly as mentally depleting as cleaning the bathroom or folding underwear. The problem is not that these tasks are difficult. It's rather that they never end. You are never finished with them, and neither was your wife except that she had to do them after she got home from work. When that little tidbit sinks in, you suddenly realize that you owe your wife a huge debt of gratitude and probably an apology for taking her for granted—the kind of apology that demands to be accompanied by jewelry. The irony is that, to do right by her, you will now have to use the money your wife earns to bring the bling. Better perhaps to just put another load in the washer and try to come up with something tasty for dinner.
- When holidays and birthdays come around, you have to look the people you love most in the world directly in the eye and explain to them how sorry you are that they are pinned to your worthless coattails. Gifts are a luxury you can no longer afford. When they pat you on the back and tell you not to worry, they understand, this will only make it worse for you. This is the moment when, finally, you understand the value of life insurance. It's unfortunate that there's only one way to realize that value. Luckily, your don't have to take matters into your own hands. You can just wait for the angry clowns in number 6 to come hunting for you.