As I see many folks still unemployed and getting laid off, I want to share my story. I was unemployed for 2 years between 2008 and 2010. I wrote my story, “Up the Down Escalator”, in May of 2009 with updates. I am reposting it here to be able to help others going through tough times…
Have you ever tried to go up the down escalator?
If you’re going at the same pace, you don’t get anywhere.
If you slow down or stop, it takes you down with it.
If you’re faster, stronger, persistent, focused on going up, you persevere and then you’ll get to the top.
First scenario – You’re in a rut. You try, but you don’t get anywhere. You take 3 steps forward and fall 4 steps back.
Second scenario – You’re tired, worn-out, burned-out, the weight of the world is on your shoulders, one thing after another knocks you down, you give up and you go down.
Third scenario – You focus on the goal, find strength and energy to make it to the top.
My first thought when I woke up the Monday before Thanksgiving 2008 was, “I wish I could sleep through this whole week.” Why?
- I had been unemployed for over two months.
- I ran out of money a month ago and unemployment insurance hadn’t kicked in yet. At that point, I didn’t even know if I qualified.
- I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis. (In case you don’t know, OA is an incurable disease and I have to live with the pain for the rest of my life. It’s in my hands, knees, ankles, feet and probably my shoulders. I can no longer play guitar, stand for any length of time and I cringe if I have to walk up or down stairs. The only medication is Naproxen or extra strength Tylenol.)
- I had been force-feeding a sick cat for over a week and he didn’t seem to be getting better. (I put him down the day after Thanksgiving. I sold my guitar to pay for the euthanasia.)
- My so-called boyfriend hadn’t called me in over a month – not even to check up on me after he found out I lost my job.
- I didn’t have a confirmed invitation for Thanksgiving.
- I hadn’t heard from any of the hundreds of potential employers to whom I had applied.
- If I didn’t get a job in three months, I would lose my house.
- The creditors were calling daily.
Depressed? I didn’t want to end my life, I just wanted to sleep through it and wake up with everything back to “normal” (employed, dating, managing to pay my bills). I also found out that the three medications that I took daily tend to cause depression. Wow. I had all the cards stacked against me. In “normal” times, my usually upbeat self was able to overcome the depression that the medications caused. But lump on top of that, the nine issues listed above and I felt like I was going up the down escalator. I lost my job, I ran out of money. Ok, I looked for a job daily and tried my best. I was going at the same speed as the escalator and not getting anywhere, then items 3-9 landed on my shoulders and I couldn’t keep up and the escalator took me down with it. My doctor put me on Prozac, but it made me sick.
In all my 53 years of living as a single person, I have never been through a trial as bad as this one. I graduated from college in the middle of a recession, but I lived with my parents – no worries. I was in Miami, Florida for Hurricane Andrew and spent two weeks with out electricity, it was miserable, but I had a job to go back to. I relocated to Phoenix, Arizona without having a job, but with my computer skills, I was able to get temporary jobs until I got a permanent position. I could always count on temp jobs to get me through those “between jobs” weeks. Not this time. I can’t even get temp assignments. There was just too much competition out there (unemployed folks) and not enough jobs.
Only ONE good thing happened during this time. A few days after I lost my job, I obtained a literary agent for my novel – something I had been working towards for seven years. That day, I said that I could see the rainbow starting to form. My agent then asked me to make the novel longer. I came up with an extension, but I found it difficult, with everything else that was going on, to focus — to find my creative juices — all I wanted to do was sleep.
I cried at the littlest thing. I’d be driving and an overwhelming wave of fear would sweep over me and I would start crying. If someone hugged me, I would cry. When I heard that yet another company was laying off thousands of people, I would cry. My absolute worse-comes-to-worse scenario was moving back with my mother in Puerto Rico. (She doesn’t have the means to help me financially, but I am part owner of the house she lives in.) That would mean selling everything, giving up my house in Phoenix and car and starting literally from scratch. Besides that, I really disliked living in Puerto Rico. That made me cry.
All I wanted to do is curl up and go to sleep and wake up somewhere over the rainbow. But this is not about how not to be a failure. I was not a failure. I knew I was depressed and I hated it. It’s not like I didn’t know what was causing it! Food and chocolate were the only things that made me feel good. Hence, I gained weight — the 10 pounds I had lost plus 10 more! I didn’t care — eating felt good. I gave up beer and wine because I couldn’t afford it. I qualified for food stamps ($176/month and you can’t buy liquor) and Medicaid so I had food and my meds and doctors visits were free! Here I was a talented, skilled, educated person — previously in a middle management position — who stood in line for food stamps and Medicaid. Anyone looking at my picture would call me a failure.
Well, I did manage to get myself out of bed that Monday morning. I got online and sent out more resumes. Then I got an email confirming the Thanksgiving invitation — cool. That afternoon, a potential employer, with whom I had a phone interview about four weeks before called me to ask if I was still interested in the position. Heck, yes! He said he had to talk to his partner and he’d get back to me in two days. Three days went by and I still hadn’t heard from him, but my unemployment insurance finally kicked in. Over $1400 appeared in my account the day before Thanksgiving. Gee — I now had something to be actually thankful for! It was gone by that afternoon as I paid overdue bills and tried to keep my car.
The Friday after thanksgiving, when stores were hoping people would go spend the money they didn’t have, I was driving around with an extremely sick cat trying to find a vet who’d put him down and not charge me too much. I ended up selling my guitar to be able to pay the vet. I was a basket case.
As a single person — all my life — I’ve been pretty self-sufficient. I didn’t want to burden anyone with my problems. I had no shoulder to cry on. I was wrong. The shoulder was there all the time, but I was too scared, too prideful, too distrusting.
There was no one else to turn to but God. I fell to my knees.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:1-3
That employer did hire me, but only for a 3-month contract – better than nothing. So as of this date, I am unemployed again and waiting for unemployment insurance to kick in again. But I’m in a better place. I trust that God will lead me in the right direction. I discovered an inexpensive class at a nearby Univ. to update my skills to give me a better chance to get job. In the meantime, I’m learning as much as I can on my own and the creative juices are flowing so I’m working on something productive. I’m finally making it to the top of that down escalator!
And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:30-34
If you don’t have a relationship with God and Jesus, pray this prayer wholeheartedly right now:
Dear Jesus, I am a sinner and need you in my life. Please forgive me of my sins. I believe that You died on the cross and rose from the grave. Please come into my heart and life. Thank you for helping me turn from my sins and follow you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
If you received Jesus into your heart, welcome to the family of God! The following will help you deepen your relationship with Christ:
- Pray. Just talk to God no matter where you are. He doesn’t care what the words are, just that they are sincere.
- Read the Bible everyday to learn about Jesus and how to live that pleases God. Start with 1 John, then the Gospel of John, the Philippians.
- An important part of helping your relationship with Christ grow is to tell others about Him. Demonstrate God’s love and be active in telling others about Jesus.
- Find a bible-based church and become active getting to know other Christians. Find one with a singles ministry or groups for people your age. Many have groups for different interests. Shop around, but commit yourself to finding one and joining a church family. (Read the Benefits of a Church Family).
12/4/2009 Update: I’m still unemployed. I lost my house and moved in with a friend from church. The majority of my stuff is in a storage unit. A glitch in the Unemployment system withheld over $2000 but I finally got that this week. I’m on the stimulus extensions for the unemployed. As long as they keep extending UI, my worst scenario won’t happen. But it’s still there. My faith is stronger, but it feels like the escalator is never ending.
10/30/2010 Update: I’m still unemployed, but God has provided! 2 web jobs fell into my lap without my going out and seeking them and they have become good references. I’ve gone back to school with the help of a grant from the City of Phoenix Workforce Connection and I will be a certified web designer and e-commerce specialist next week. Then I start working with PWC to get a job with their help. Family has helped with money and I moved into my own space. 10/10 was my 2-year anniversary of being let go from from my permanent job and only God knows when I’ll be employed again. But I keep praying, seeking, knocking, networking, searching, learning, asking, writing and persevering. I don’t worry anymore. I trust God.
11/24/2010 Update: God led me to the perfect job! I start Monday, 11/29 as Marketing Manager for Cambridge Wealth Management doing what I do best! I got the job through networking – it really works! With patience from the Holy Spirit, support from my friends and trust in God. Read here how I landed my job through networking.
8/2011 Update: I’ve been blessed beyond anything I could imagine! Besides still being employed, my novel which I started writing 9 years ago, won the Women of Faith Writing Contest and has been published. It’s available through Amazon & B&N. Soli Deo Gloria!
Consider it pure joy, my [friends], whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ~ James 1:2-4 AMEN!
Soli Deo Gloria!
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