“There’s a great place to look for jobs, Mom,” said my 12-year-old son in his snarkiest voice.
“It’s called THE NEWSPAPER.”
Okay, so he has a point (and I’m thrilled he knows what a newspaper is), but still.
Having lost my job after the magazine where I’d worked as an editor for nearly nine years abruptly folded, I’ve spent the last few weeks flailing around and trying to figure out what’s next.
It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been eye-opening.
For one, I’m not as panicked as I probably should be.
“You’re quite the optimist, aren’t you?” said my friend Shannon, also unemployed after the magazine’s sudden demise.
Yeah, I suppose. But I’d like to think “optimist” and “rube” aren’t synonymous.
True, the economy’s been better. And, yes, my husband’s job—and, with it, our health insurance—could always go poof, too.
But the thoughts that keep me afloat right now? Simple:
- My problems are First World problems. Regardless of how dire things get, my struggles will never approach Bangladeshi levels. Starvation and malaria are not in my family’s future. And nothing horrible is about to happen to me in Tahrir Square or Aleppo.
- I’m willing to work anywhere. I’ve been a babysitter, a cubicle plebe, a glorified secretary, and a cell-phone salesperson. I have an advanced degree from a prestigious university, but I also possess mad waitressing skills, and I’m not too proud to use them. There’s honor in work—any work—done well.
- Nobody’s coming to repossess my kids. They can take my home and my life savings—all 50 cents of it—but no one’s taking my husband and four kids from me. Although I may be willing to let the seventh-grader go (see “in his snarkiest voice,” above).
- I ignore the Joneses. We’re not snobs. We live in a modest house where projects are DIY by default. Most of our clothes are from Goodwill or Walmart. I make my own laundry detergent. I don’t buy perfume, jewelry, or makeup. We drive ancient cars that should’ve been euthanized 20,000 miles ago. We don’t vacation. And I reuse tin foil as much out of necessity as sanctimony.
- I have a safety net. Nope, there’s no trust fund, no inheritance from my divorced, deceased parents, no fat 401(k) waiting in the wings, and no nest egg to speak of, but I do have relatives we can bunk with if the situation gets truly dire. (But let’s keep that on the down-low for now; I don’t want them changing their locks.)
- We’re all still here. Five years ago, we didn’t know if our youngest daughter would survive the first of many surgeries to fix her malformed heart and lungs. She did. Even if we lose everything else, we haven’t lost her. Not yet. And that’s enough.
So there it is. My outlook.
Is it misguided? Maybe. Naïve? Perhaps. But it’s also what keeps me going these days, when the next paycheck’s arrival is a mystery, and wine remains in the budget purely for medicinal reasons.
I have no crystal ball to reveal the future (and would pawn it if I did); no way to recapture the past; and the rapidly vanishing means to finance the present.
And yet here I am.
Alive. Aware of how lucky I am compared to the obscene number of my fellow humans who know what true poverty is. And willing to do everything in my power to get my career back on track, no matter how demoralizing or frustrating it is.
I guess I really am an optimist.
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