For the second time in as many years VBG has fallen on challenging times. And rather than this time being familiar ground, I feel I am in uncharted and far more treacherous waters. And anyone who knows me, knows too, that one of my least proud personal factoids is that this Voluptuous Brown Gurl never learned to swim.
Six weeks ago I spent my last day at the "new" job* I'd so gleefully chirped about in a post in January 2012. My departure was unexpected in timing (I thought I had about 2 months before the clock ran out) but more than slightly welcomed. I'd known fairly soon after starting that it just wasn't the place for me but it was bearable. As I was just coming off half a year of unemployment, I thought my resume might look less conspicuous if I stayed put a little while - like a year or so.
When I started the job*, I worked a 4 day/32 hr week which was all kinds of awesome but I'd been assured that my position would grow to a normal 5 day/40 hr week in a few short months due to proposed business acquisitions. In reality, my position was decreased by a day per week at my half year anniversary. For most of the last 5 months I have desperately been seeking a new gig without success. Anyway, in an attempt to continue meet to my myriad financial obligations (and maintain the comfortable lifestyle to which we are accustomed) and having depleted my savings during that stint of under-employment, I accepted a seasonal part-time Cashier position at famous "blue hued home improvement" store. I worked there one full weekend, Easter weekend as matter of fact, and it was okay but not really my cup of tea. So I decided not to return and to look instead with renewed and refreshed zeal for a new home for my talents. At the end of that very week, I found out that due to declining economics in the yellow pages industry (big shock!) I was being laid off from the position that had paid the bills. I looked at it from the perspective of closing one door and allowing another to open and that at 46 years, 7 months, and 20 days I had "no more time for 5 year detours or for staying in situations that were not authentically me" to paraphrase that fountain of wisdom that is Marianne Williamson (in the Age of Miracles). I'd just aced a phone interview with a company that sounded very promising and was scheduled for a face to face interview with them as well as another organization early the next week. Surely something would work out. Nevertheless I filed for unemployment insurance benefits just in case. Well the interview position was interesting but because it required a government security clearance, I'd have to drive 45 miles to work in an office alone everyday while everyone else worked at sometimes very cool off-site client locations. Ah, no thanks - work environment does matter. After 3 weeks of searching and waiting, I was dumbfounded when I received a letter from Dept of Labor, Licensing and Regulations with a decision to deny benefits because "blue hued home improvement company" indicated I "quit without good cause or valid circumstances for leaving job” even though my last day at Lowes was prior to being released from the YP agency. Needless to say, I'm asking them to review and repeal that decision.
In the meantime, I've had 5 interviews in the last 6 weeks and have days when I easily send out a dozen resumes with cover letters or fill out numerous requisite and ridiculously lengthy online applications on prospective employer websites to not even get the automated staid "thank you for your interest but we've decided to pursue other candidates whose experience... yada yada" response. The next time you hear the unemployment numbers, TRUST they are probably grossly under-flated as there have to be many millions who are uncounted because have gotten discouraged, stopped searching or taken any line of work just to survive and frankly they don't want to talk about it to you, me or anyone else. As someone who has been delving in and and out of the job market for a good part of the last 2 years, I can honestly tell you the private sector of the job market in this new millennium is a far different animal than when I got my first "real" job more than 2 decades ago.
Absent a job, unemployment benes or a rich benefator I've also had the humbling and spirit-breaking experience of having to apply and interview face-to-face for public assistance with a caseworker so jaded that she neither saw the value or validity of recognizing my humanity by introducing herself, simply smiling much less explaining how the process works. That is definitely a post for another day.
In addition, I find myself having to accompany my Mom once again as she helps a dearly beloved family member navigate their transition. This time it's much slower and more painful to witness than that of my Dad which had the unrecognized blessing of happening suddenly. It has definitely made me more compassionate but it also makes me think about the hows and with whoms of one's final days/weeks. They do genuinely matter. I also wonder what I'm doing here, what I should be doing here - what I want my journey to ultimately be about. The first thing that came to my wanderlusting mind was I so want to see Argentina and Brasil!! You had better believe that it's occupying a prominent place in VBG's frontal cortex right now.
When I told my BFF Bobbi that I was laid off her first response was "Great, now you can do devote yourself to your true calling - WRITING". I have thought about writing many times over the last several weeks but had yet to put fingers to keyboard till now. Full disclosure, I spent a good part of today crying, the kind of wailing I don't recall doing since my divorce nearly a decade ago. It was way overdue but most importantly, it got me here again. My very own therapy, blogging truly is.
You might say why is she being so public with such private matters and it's because we bloggers ain't so good at keeping our mouths shut :) But more importantly, I know there is someone out there going through exactly what I am. The situation may be more or less dire but I want them to know you are not alone. Be kind to yourself now- this is not the time to beat up on yourself, to feel ashamed, or act out of fear as the Wunderkind so wisely reminded me in my Mother's Day card. Know that in this Voluptuous Brown Gurl, you have a kindred spirit, who in her zeal to make sure her family is well provided for took a nasty turn down a not-so-well lit alley only to realize that it was much darker, colder and a dead end with barely space to turnaround. So, besides being kind to oneself what else do you do when you find yourself in a situation like mine where you can clearly see that you just took the most WRONG turn of your professional life and every new door you even think of approaching closes before you can even cross the room? Here's what I suggest:
- surrender your situation to Jesus, Allah, Buddha, the Universe - whom/whatever you believe in.
- ask for wisdom/courage to allow and follow the guidance that will be given even if it makes no sense to you now - "faith is taking the first step even when you cannot see the whole staircase" (MLK)
- ask for help from whomever you must to keep some semblance of normalcy for you and your wunderkinds - RESOLVE TO STAY PUT for as long as you can
- then chill your favorite bottle of wine ( for suggestions click here or or eat a pint or two of your favorite decadent ice ream) put on some music with strong lyrics by a strong woman like Sarah Maclachlan or India Arie (this is not a Beyonce moment, no offense intended) and CRY like you haven't in a long, long, long time - cry about stuff that happened 2 years ago that still stings, just let it all go ...now.
- Tomorrow morning - thank your higher being for the blessing of a peaceful night's rest (all that crying will make you real tired and sleepy) but for the love of all that is good and holy DO NOT turn on the damn depressing news, skip it today, I beg you. Get the kids off to school, then make yourself a fruit smoothie and go for a nice long walk outdoors - allow your senses to be assaulted in the best ways: listen to the birds, smell the flowers, hear the babbling brook - enjoy the marvels of the season. On your way home you WILL realize that the answers will come, that you are right where you're supposed to be even if today and possibly a few more tomorrows than you'd like, it hurts like brand new shoes.
*A word about verbiage, I sometimes slink back into the old habit of saying job when what I truly mean is a new position or path. The very wise Iyanla Vansant says job stands for Just Over Broke and we are aiming far beyond that
Peace and Blessings