Anyone who has ever been unhappily unemployed – even for a short time – can testify to the damaging array of emotions that come with that particular package. So much of who we are is wrapped up in what we do.
After I aged out of TV reporting, I often found myself leery of running into acquaintances: the thought of addressing my lack of a fulltime job enough to make me queasy.
When the Great Recession hit in 2008, a financial meltdown that saw the nation’s unemployment rate rocket to 10%, there were so many unemployed people that support groups were formed. The unemployed could meet and chat and prop one another up amidst their hunt for a paycheck. Being on an extended job search became so common that, I’d like to think, the stigma of unemployment vanished to a certain extent.
When I was without work, there was no one with whom to share my pain. Still married at the time, my now ex was frustrated that I no longer brought home a big paycheck. I spent my days alone while the world went on without me. I was left wallowing in my own self-pity, which, as anyone who has ever lingered in that neighborhood can tell you, can become an awfully lonely outpost.
One afternoon, I returned home from yet another “thanks, but no thanks” interview, this time with a sports bar manager who had not too subtly appraised my buxomness quotient, multiplied it by my age, and deemed me unworthy, despite my skills with a shaker, my ability to pour a perfect shot every time, and in-depth knowledge of sports that would have kept even sober patrons entertained.
Shortly after that, I found a phone message from a temp agency. They’d gotten me a gig working on the assembly line at a Revlon plant in South Phoenix. I was to report early the next morning.
Now, I had always thought I was a tough girl. But I must be honest here. As I pictured myself Lucy-like – product slipping by on a conveyer belt too fast to handle – I cried. And, unlike that famous red head, I wouldn’t be able to eat my way out of the problem.
Full-time employment would evade me for several years, a time during which the only thing that sustained me was a skill that I had always considered just a means to an end. The fact that officiating amateur sports – an avocation I practiced in order to get my foot in the door in the sports-reporting business – would put food on my table was something I had never considered. And yet, it was the one place that felt normal, that I still had some semblance of control. The one place I felt like me.
There was a rhythm to my world on the field that, no matter what was happening outside those lines, remained constant. Perhaps it was the need for punctuality, the ritual of donning the uniform, or the customary procedures in regard to game management. Maybe it was the camaraderie: players, coaches, fans, and fellow officials all involved in an endeavor that mattered to them. Or maybe it was that feeling after the game – whether the contest went smoothly or not – that I had done my best and learned from my mistakes.
Funny, it sounds like a job.
I wish I’d thought so at the time.
Amphorae Publishing Group
Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook
As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.