Between Jobs

There’s only one thing worse than waking to a blaring alarm clock five days a week, flailing away at traffic, flailing away at co-workers, flailing away at management, peeling Saran Wrap away from warmish tuna salad in the middle of the day, and trundling home as night falls to start all over again: Not doing it.

I know a few people who are between projects right now, and for the most part there is pluckish perseverance and pseudo-bragging about arising at the hour of The Price Is Right . But I’ve been there, and I know the sinking stomach, the shrinking checking account, the 3 a.m. conversations with the ceiling tile: Aren’t I good enough? Why did they let me go? Did I really do the right thing when I quit? I’m a good person�a competent person…how is it fair seventeen-year-olds are collecting a weekly salary equal to the GNP of Cambodia for stuffing an orange ball in a basket, and in this same world no one will hire me to design computer programs or conduct archeological digs or write ad copy? What if I never fit in?

And, from somewhere small, dark, and scary: What if nobody ever wants me?

It’s like being dumped. It’s worse than being dumped. Unemployment is an olive green bridesmaid dress in a world of blissfully married couples continually assuring you that somebody special is just around the corner. The entire senior class has a date to the prom with the single exception of you, and the titanic battle between your sense of self-esteem and the rising tide of desperation rages between the lines of the want ads.

On the day of my college graduation, the bulk of the commencement address consisted of an extolment of the terrific state of the economy and our place within it. Now, all of three years later, the mailed requests for donations from the alumnae office grow gently but ever more insistent. Some of my classmates are employed, some are less so, some are putting the art career on hold to sling Grand Slam breakfasts. Most are simply grateful for the income. When you undertake an education at a liberal arts college, you take your chances.

It’s okay to mourn. It’s not okay to flail about in search of something for the sole purpose of reboosting your ego. If you’re suddenly on the street side of the revolving doors, stop and assess. Were you happy in your work? Take advantage of the unexpected vacation to reassess your skills and your needs. Unpack dreams dating from age five. This could be a vocation do-over.

Just as soon as The Price Is Right is done.