a brief guide to unemployment

  • Don't panic.

If you find yourself jobless on an unexpected Monday afternoon, it's a good idea not to worry about a thing.

The wound is so fresh and startling that you probably don't even need this advice. You'll feel confident that a job will be had by early next week. If it isn't, don't panic then, either.

Remember: there is no way that you can stay unemployed forever, as long as you're looking. A few weeks, months, or even a year are not forever—no matter how they may feel like it.

  • Do what needs doing.

You might want to say things. No. Your wife may want to say certain things: to your former employer, to (dangerously) the internet. If you married someone with common sense (or an anxiety complex about self-disclosure), she will hold her tongue in the face of frustration... Although she may write some strongly worded letters she will never send.

It's okay—wise, even—to step back, to let some things slide. You don't need to feel guilty for neglecting the blog. You don't need to tell everyone every sad setback. Choose where and when you tell those stories.

But never stop talking to each other.

If you take care of your little girl during the day so your wife's part-time hours can cover some of the bills, "Daddy" will soon be the first word out of that girl's mouth every morning when she wakes up. She may also ask for bubbles. Or doggie. Which means you are very important indeed.

  • Ok, panic. But take turns.

The down days will come. The credit card bills will arrive. It will be at least 3 months before your old boss tells you he made a mistake and wishes he hadn't let you go—if he tells you at all. Some days, you'll feel bummed, frustrated, rejected.

How nice if there are two of you. You'll ride different waves at different times. When you're up, say kind words that are true. When you're down, listen to the words that come your way.

You will end up living what you already trusted about each other—that you're in this together, come what may.

If the job search goes on longer than you thought possible, figure out a way to make potatoes taste delicious. They're cheap.

  • Trust that things will show up.

Stop trying to wrap your mind around the way everything will work out. There are too many variables to juggle, and you're not in control of nearly as many as you think.

Your neighbors will invite you to dinner (thanks, Kenworthys). You might letter-press for an afternoon (thanks, Leland). Your wife might become an audition pianist for a day, a job she was grateful for, but in hindsight, also terribly underqualified for (thanks Tara and Bethany). Someone may order handmade crafts (thanks, Adrienne). The arrival of those checks will be more timely than their senders know.

And then some nameless do-gooder will leave a box of food at your doorstep just when you're wondering if potatoes and rice could possibly go together for dinner. It's okay that you don't know who should get a thank-you note. Things will show up for them, too.

Don't try to figure out how you made it this long. Just be grateful for everything that got you through.

And then take a deep breath, even more grateful for what comes next.

Today is Monday, and you're on your way to work at a new job.


Deja said...

This is beautiful. Sounds like there was learning. I'm glad things are looking up.

Bryson and Tara said...

You have such a way of putting things. I liked Deja's comment, "sounds like there was learning". I'm sure you felt you had more "learning" than was necessary, but I guess that's what life is all about. Congrats, Christopher.

David/Dad/Doc said...

Awesome advice Kathy. I am also glad that the search is over and there is a new job now.