Much of the last eighteen months have been an excruciating mindfuck for me. From the announcement of my impending job loss to the agonizing uncertainty of when, precisely, I would be joining the ranks of the unemployed, to adjustment to a life collecting unemployment insurance (or "Jennifer Granholm Party Ca$h" as I liked to call it) to fruitless months searching for employment to - finally, in the past month - finding a job and starting over. I'm not saying I've been miserable every moment of the last year and a half; indeed, I have had many wonderful days with family and friends. It's just that there was always, nagging in the background, the constant worry about what would happen if I was unable to find a job before the unemployment benefits ran out. Like a leaky faucet, it would always be there. Sometimes other sounds would drown it out for a bit, but when things quieted down there it would be: drip... drip... drip... Will we have to move? drip... drip... drip... How will we afford healthcare? drip... drip... drip... What if our house or one of our cars has a major problem? drip... drip... drip Will we be able to properly provide for our children? drip... drip... drip...
Sure, the dripping would get annoying, but I also knew that - given enough time - dripping water can erode even the hardest granite. I could put on a brave face in the short term, but sooner or later one of two things would inevitably happen: either I would find a new job or my unemployment benefits would run out. The future course of my life would hinge on which of these was to happen.
And that's why I was thrilled to finally be offered a job in early August. True, the pay was half my old salary, but from my perspective I wasn't in any position to complain. It would be like miraculously finding a life raft as you were about to drown but then complaining that the raft wasn't as nice as the boat that sank in the first place. At that point, you're just happy you won't drown. And that's the key to this entire situation. How do you spin it in your mind? One can choose to dwell on the fact that your salary is much lower and you'll lose the benefits for which you had worked over 20 years hoping to secure. Or one can be grateful that you will avoid such calamities as foreclosure, raiding the retirement account just to pay bills or having to move your kids out of the school district they've grown to love. Me? I've been unemployed and searching for a job for so long that my old job now seems like something from a previous life. There's a recession and Genesee County is more "recessed" than nearly anywhere else in the nation. I was lucky to find anything.
Even so, however, there was the reality that I now had to start over. I was going from a position in which I had worked over two decades and had some degree of seniority to a position where I was definitely the" low guy on the totem pole" who had to learn a new job from scratch.
It wasn't fun.
Although I had lots of experience in television, when it got down to this position I was a rank beginner. The software and procedures were entirely new. The workload seemed overwhelming and there were seemingly zillions of details I had to learn. The first couple weeks were a stress-filled nightmare. It was one thing having lots of work to do. It was quite another to have lots of work to do but not being entirely sure how to DO it! The person training me, however, was not only highly competent, but was also patient. I slowly gained confidence in my ability to master the job. While I certainly know I will make some mistakes in the coming weeks, I'm now in a position where I'm learning enough about my responsibilities that I will be able to learn from them and keep improving.
I also am re-adjusting to a "work mode" schedule. Despite my best efforts to prevent it, I have to admit that six months of down-time, while good for my blood pressure, caused a bit of mental atrophy. At first, it was difficult to get used to having someone else's schedule imposed on you for much of the week. But, as with anything else, one learns to accommodate oneself to the realities of a new job.
So now my big question is: how do I handle this "new normal"? Do I curse the fact I must start over again at age 48 through no fault of my own for much lower wages or should I feel relief that I managed to find ANY sort of a job in the middle of a recession in one of the most economically depressed areas of the nation (let alone a job in a field I must grudging admit I enjoy)? In other words, is my glass half empty or half full?
After some careful consideration, on the optimism/pessimism scale, I choose to cop-out and merely state my life now is a glass in which liquid occupies 50% of the available volume. And, for now, I'm okay with that. Cursing the loss of "what might have been" will do me no good. Did I get screwed over and lied to by my former employer? Yes. Will it do me any good now to dwell on it? No. Spending time looking in the rearview mirror only makes sense if you're going backward. I choose to move forward.
Besides, if my glass was entirely full, it would mean there was no room for more. And isn't anticipation of future happiness one of the things that makes life interesting? True, my life is far from perfect, but for now I have adequate food, shelter, a happy marriage and two wonderful, smart, healthy children. And most importantly, I have gained some hope for the future. And for now, that is more than enough.