The Exhaustion of Barely Getting By


Ezra Klein's powerfully pointed Washington Post column this morning has stayed with me all day. The piece digs into a portion of Romney's video-taped statement which immediately bothered me most, but has gotten less mainstream press than other bits.

“The worst of Romney’s now-infamous comments about “the 47 percent” came in this couplet: “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

I've read plenty of other great responses to Romney's 47% remarks but this bit resonated with me something fierce:

“The poor use up an enormous amount of their mental energy just getting by. They’re not dumber or lazier or more interested in being dependent on the government. They’re just cognitively exhausted.”

Today was one of those Big Picture days where I unintentionally got a glimpse of my family's future, and felt sick with dread. Enduring insecurity is paralyzing and I do my damnedest not to focus on it but after three and a half years, the toll it has taken on us is indescribable. On days like this one, I am quite honestly mystified as to how we've even made it this far without giving up altogether.

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Big shock, it feels like working. The good news is that it feels like the RIGHT kind of working. The good kind of working. I now find myself juggling a variety of plates but even at its most hectic, I manage to remind myself that these are tastier plates than I have ever juggled before. (Ok, so there was that period of time when ONE of the plates I juggled had some super-yummy stuff on it, but it was seriously watered down by the bland paper-pushing bullshit that filled the accompanying plates.) Right now though, I'm chock-full of challenging, creative, sweat-of-the-brain-and-brow kind of work. I could not be more delighted.  


On Friday morning, I officially gave up on the job market which long ago, gave up on me. Having done so feels both freeing and slightly terrifying. At this point though, the only thing I regret, is not having given up sooner. Before you you write me off as a quitter or a complete failure, please allow me to explain.

I picked up a booklet of recipes last week at one of the local discount markets. Unlike the usual glossy, advertisement-filled versions you find at the supermarkets, this one was simple, four sheets of stock paper stapled down the center and with a crudely colored drawing just below its title; “Feed your family for $3 (per person) a day!”. THIS is indicative of the economic environment, of how and where we are living. With the unemployment rate locally hovering around 17% for nearly three years now, the job market is glutted with desperate job seekers and precious few positions to fill. As businesses lay off employees in response to lowered demand, it becomes a vicious circle, with more and more people having less and less to spend. They say that the recession is over. The stock market has recovered. The money makers are making money again. Meanwhile, out here in the real world, we continue to struggle, trying to come to terms with the fact that many of our jobs have disappeared and are not coming back.

For nearly three years now, I have been without a job. I am what they refer to as a 99er or “the long-term unemployed”. According to June’s U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 6.3 million of us nationwide and we now account for 44% of the total unemployed. While that is a staggering statistic, numbers alone cannot convey the mental, emotional and financial devastation we have endured. After filling out hundreds of applications, mailing off thousands of resumes and sitting through dozens of interviews with nothing to show for it, I realize now that I wasted so much energy and time, and moreover, surrendered my power and future to a job market that simply isn’t there any more. As so many people have figured out, some before me, and others, perhaps alongside me, I can no longer wait for a job to save me. I am going to have to invent one for myself. Read the rest of this entry »