I’m turning the final corner into the second calendar lap of years of looking for a job. Two years ago I eagerly awaited the good news that would send my investments higher and cross me over to having “enough” and the retirement of a need to work. Well, that didn’t go the way I expected. Since then I’ve lost over 90% – 98% of my net worth (depending on the estimated value of my house and a few other things), I haven’t found a full-time job or even had an interview, haven’t paid my mortgage in months, and yet am working seven days a week. Numerous times within a day I’ll swing through pessimism, optimism, and confusion. Maybe that’s the motto for the long term unemployed.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way. Official job applications haven’t resulted in interviews; therefore, they haven’t resulted in a job. The other bad news, There Are Still 3 Times More Unemployed Workers Than Job Openings. I haven’t delved into those numbers but I know the sad fact that the official numbers used for counting the unemployed miss millions of people who’ve given up looking for work. Add in the upper estimate of eight million disaffected unemployed and the ratio is 5 people for every job.
The not-so-bad news is that unofficial job applications have been a more productive use of my time. They also haven’t resulted in interviews; but, they are more encouraging and actually provide feedback about why I didn’t get the job. Every rejection has included personal assurances that someone else will undoubtedly be equally impressed with my skills – and will hire me.
The better news is that my business is keeping me busy seven days a week, with most days longer than eight hours, frequently as much as ten hours, with occasional twelve hours days. The workload is good and bad news, but the trend is good. Spending that much time last year was almost all unpaid speculation on my part: writing a book, taking photographs, advertising classes, and planning collaborations. This year the billable hours are filling the time, the rate is increasing, and some of my clients have hired me for ongoing assignments. The sad fact that keeps this from being the best news is that the sum of all that good news is still less than what I need to pay all of my bills, even without paying the mortgage.
The best news so far is that this month, if the checks come through in time, my business will finally have made enough to pay all of those non-tax, non-mortgage, non-homeowners-association bills. This is progress. The other best news is that I’ve actually been able to decrease the number of twelve hour days without cutting back on revenue too much. Balancing time and money is a struggle when basic needs aren’t being met, but one basic need can’t be bought: health. At this level of effort, and under these conditions, “mental health days” are not euphemisms. Without time to recuperate physically, mentally, and emotionally, my body begins to deteriorate, my mind has a tougher time concentrating, and I can be a lot less pleasant to be around. At least now, I am making time almost every day to sit on the deck with a nightcap and just sit. Besides, eventually it is too dark to do yardwork or call anyone.
The best news probably hasn’t arrived yet. Two week ago I posted Good News Sooner Please where I listed many of my reasons for optimism. Since then there’s been reason for more optimism, not less. Seattle’s housing market continues to impress. My investments are with companies that are making progress, and some have actually had hints of good news. If my business continues its trend and switches to more consulting, and as sales increase, I may be able to pay all of my bills, even the mortgage. At the same time, I’ve been assured that my name is being included for various job possibilities. Thank you. Spread the good word.
The swings from pessimism through optimism and confusion happen with each bit of mail, phone call, and bit of news. The most useful recent revelation was that the things I can control most: filling out job applications, filling out paperwork for foreclosure forbearance, etc. are also the things that may be the least effective use of my time. Properly filled out forms don’t pay bills. The other part of the revelation was that the things that can resolve my situation: whether that is money through investments, the lottery, my business, sales, or a job; are out of my control. Control lives with my clients, customers, the market, and luck. Without enough money, the forms don’t matter. With enough money, the forms don’t matter. Filling out the forms can find me a job, though the resume bots guard that gate. Filling out forms can hold off foreclosure, maybe, but eventually I have to find the money or lose my home. The confusion steps in when I realize the most important aspects of my financial situation are out of my control, in which case pessimism and optimism are arbitrary.
If pessimism and optimism are arbitrary, then I might as well pick the one that’s more fun.
Many will say that pessimism and optimism are the attitudes that manifest the lives we live. That may be true. I’ve seen no way to prove it. There are sufficient examples of people dreaming of and achieving success, and of people with self-destructive habits that create self-fulfilling prophecies. There are also dismal people who are surprised at their success, and upbeat people who became homeless and hungry. I know that until two summers ago, I spent a lot of time manifesting (daydreaming) a relaxing, enjoyable, productive life that had far more security and comfort than I’ve experienced lately. Maybe I’ll manifest that positive future, and that I have to go through this turmoil to get there. Stay tuned.
Next month’s report will be My Jobs Report Month 24, and will be the last jobs report – unless there is something awesome to report. “What? You want me to run an incubator for triple bottom line innovators, it’s only a part-time job, and yet it pays more than I need to survive and thrive where I want to live? Thank you. Yes!” But I will give up the monthly reports. Our world is changing, and the search for traditional jobs may have changed to the point that a middle-aged guy reporting on a job search may be anachronistic.
So, now it is time to get back to work at this job and that job then that job and celebrate completing the other job and get ready for the next job – and check the web and the email and the phone and my friends for that bit of great news that we can all celebrate.