The Realities of the American Dream

So you may have noticed that things have been quiet on the blog front lately. That's not because life here has slowed down at all, but because I decided what has been going on was best left out of the public forum. It's not anything with the kids. They are fine, on-track, adjusting, etc... it's me. 3 months ago I was RIF'ed at work, and that my last day would be Dec. 31st. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, RIF stands for 'Reduction in Force' and it's a polite way of saying, "It's not you, or the work you are doing, it's the position."

Ugh. Talk about one of the rites of passage that you want to avoid... All the frustration and fear. All the humiliation and feelings of worthlessness. The rollercoaster of hope and despair that follows. There are lots of stories that won't be told because I don't want to relive them, but I can tell you that I have a whole new respect and sympathy for the unemployed. Roughly 700,000 people in Illinois are unemployed, and in my area, it hit 16% this last month. That means more than 3 people out of every 20 who want a job don't have one (and that doesn't even count people who have completely given up, I found out.)

Suffice it to say, the odds are stacked against you. So what do you do?

Well, I figured out a couple things early on:
1) Lashing out at my former employer wasn't going to have any kind of positive net result, especially since I was still on the payroll for the next 2 months. (No severance package per se, but I got a 2 month warning...)
2) I needed to be deliberate about diet, excersize, and keeping in touch with friends if I wanted to avoid depression and look and feel my best at interviews.
3) Make lists and do them. Boredom => depression.

So that was the plan. Keep my mouth shut, healthy routine, keep busy, and pray something worked out quickly.

Turns out, keeping busy wasn't a problem. I picked up some short term contract work almost immediately so we were able to pay the mortgage and break even in December and January. It took 21 days for the state to process (and deny) my first unemployment claim. Granted I was denied because I was working, but the point is, if we were really depending on that money, it is a long time to wait.

Every unemployment story I've heard is different. Mine had a happy ending and what makes my story unique in this era is that I found a job 5 weeks after losing my previous one (although it was really 3 months of job hunting.) We are extremely fortunate that a lot of factors 'just happened to work out' in our favor the past couple months.

There are people out there who believe that everything they have, they earned. The implication is that you could have the same if you worked as hard as they did. It also implies that the guy that works three jobs to make ends meet doesn't work 'as hard' as they do. I'm of the 'everything I have is a gift' mentality. My new job is a mile from my house, the work will be nice and challenging, and I somehow retain my previous retirement plan.

I have a hard time believing I did much of anything to earn that.


Christine said...

You are so right AND so wrong. :o) I am one of the 'what I have I earned' crowd but what that means to me is that the choices I have made in the past (type of schooling, work ethic and reputation as an employee, diversity of skills) has EARNED me a second look from all the other applicants out there. There is definitely some 'gift' level to it all as well especially given how close this job is to your home. But I guess I believe you must have earned that somehow as well. Good Kharma perhaps? Good luck and best wishes and thanks for the bloggy update! Chris M (friend of Apryl and Seth)

jur said...

If you view what you have as a gift, whether earned or not, you handle it differently. You don't cling to it as tightly as something "I earned". You accept that God has given you so much... and Lee, God has given you soooo much.
I'm glad for the new job God gave you and the way it is all working out for you.

Paul and Holly West said...

Thank you for sharing. It seems like our lives have followed a very similar path the last several months. Paul was jobless the beginning of November. It was one of the most difficult and scary places to be in because we had no idea where we were going or what we were doing. As a pastor leaving a church, we knew we would have to pick up and move from Oregon. Long story short, almost exactly 1 month later the Lord opened an incredible door of ministry for us and now we live in Nebraska! :-) Paul was never without pay and we spent some wonderful time as a family during the transition to help Nathaniel adjust. All of it was a God thing and nothing we could have done or earned on our own. God Bless you guys and praying you have a wonderful time at your new job!

McEvil One said...

All that matters is that you aren't part of the 16% that is unemployed...

Sarah said...

Yay! I've been praying for a job. So glad for you all. :-)