Unemployment Benefits, Part V

Fifth in a six-part series, portions of this installment are reprinted with permission from an article I published in the Society for Technical Communication Lone Star Community newsletter, Technically Write, April 2002.

Back to Business

Sometime after 9/11, gradually, I resumed my carefree attitude about being unemployed. I joked about being a lady of leisure. As to the job search, I discovered that even Uncle Sam wouldn’t take me. He’s only interested in younger women.

I started taking Con Ed Web Design courses at The University of Texas at Arlington. Figured I had resisted learning that for as long as I could. Though not interested in web design as a career pursuit, an understanding of HTML is probably a good thing to have, I reasoned. And who knows? As my history showed, just because I’m not interested doesn’t mean I might not have to do it! I wanted to be open to whatever/wherever Spirit led me.

Faith is walking to the edge of all of the light you have and taking one more step.

I kept various friends informed of my job status as well as my mood. If nothing else, e-mail is a great way to communicate with myself. When I read over the many messages between friends and me, I realized that I had been journaling throughout this experience without intending to—another unexpected benefit.

Year-end Benefits

As I began to feel the holiday crush in November, I found many advantages in this time off. I succumbed to a cold and then had to have an emergency tooth extraction, which slowed me down. I wrote to my sister:

Good thing I don’t have anything to do! Except get ready for an Arlington Choral Society concert next weekend, get ready to go to Italy on the choir tour, get ready for and attend a JavaScript course over the next two weeks, and produce the November concert program for the Texas Wind Symphony. What would I do if I had to work, too?!

And in my spare time, I have to pretend that I’m looking for that nonexistent job. I am so not concerned about that right now. I figure I’m in this for the long haul… Not much point in stressing, at least until January. BUT I’m really hoping Company D will come through for me. I have approached them every way I know how; so now I can only wait.

I really didn’t know how I would have handled all my commitments, which would have required just as much time, had I been working. I was grateful I had the time that my working friends did not have—that I would normally not have—to prepare and experience this holiday season with minimum stress. I was also determined to find a way to complete the presentation of my Habitat for Humanity Global Village build in Alaska last summer, make CDs, and send them to the team members before Christmas.

Emotional Benefits

I spent more and more time in self-evaluation, which paralleled “Dr. Phil’s Get Real Challenge” on Oprah. But discovering The Thing that holds me back from realizing my purpose in life still eluded me. Am I pursuing the right path—to look into the past? I wondered.

My inner discoveries began to overwhelm with their quantity, their import, and their healing. I dealt with issues of forgiveness, doing vs. being, integration of (outer) ego and (inner) soul… all of which I felt would ultimately include, as one of their many outward manifestations, a sense of purpose and knowledge of how to proceed career-wise.

I found myself thanking God for laying me off to allow me the time to spend on this. Ah, here then was the Source of my lack of concern over my jobless state. Neat stuff was happening with my personal growth during this hiatus from professional life. And I was actually grateful for my situation.

Holiday Blessings

Despite the 9/11-induced bankruptcy of the European air carrier booked for our “Italian Thanksgiving” tour, the choir was able to secure other arrangements just in time. Perhaps we were crazy to even attempt overseas travel so soon after 9/11. Becoming the only American choir ever allowed to perform in the Upper Basilica of Assisi was like an international blessing of peace that we could not have bestowed or received without taking the risk.

I also looked forward to Christmas for a change, to seeing all of my blended family. All five of us step-kids and their families would make an appearance at the folks’—something that had never happened since our parents had married. I was glad I’d have the time to stay until everybody passed through, with no reason to rush back home this year.

Like most people, I was so busy during December, I felt sorry for those who had to work as well. A disadvantage of my last layoff was losing access to software and equipment that I was allowed to use extracurricularly, but with the help of former coworkers from both Companies B and C, I managed to get the Alaska CDs done and in the mail before Christmas.

As 2001 neared its end, many were hopeful that the job market would turn around in January.

I tried to be prepared for the possibility that it wouldn’t…

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