Friday, April 23, 2010

The post that took almost a year to be able to write

I got a job. A real job. Not a temp job - although I've been doing that for about a month now and it's going well, and not as an enumerator for the U.S. Census, although I was contacted by them recently for work, but an honest-to-goodness nine to five with benefits. I start May 1st for training. In actual calendar time, I've been unemployed since June 1, 2009, although I was notified on May 12 and only came back into the office a couple times after that. Any way you slice it, its been about a year since I've been gainfully employed. I've probably written this list up before, but I'm willing to repeat myself - since May 12th 2009, here's what I've done:

  • Participated in a mini-triathlon;
  • Worked odd jobs as a babysitter, housecleaner, marketing study participant (I got paid $100 to talk about lotion for 90 minutes), and French language test-taker;
  • Served in a volunteer capacity as: a librarian for the Alliance Fran├žaise de Chicago; info desk staffer for Chicago's Green City Market; concert usher for the Old Town School of Folk Music; tutor for 826 Chicago; and construction worker for Habitat for Humanity;
  • Traveled to France, Spain, Portugal and Senegal;
  • Traveled to Boston four times, three times to Michigan, twice to New York City, once to Vermont, and once to Cape Cod;
  • Became a staff writer at Gapers Block; and
  • Interviewed for 11 jobs, 1 internship, and 1 informational interview.

Being unemployed has been so central to my identity over the past year that I almost don't know what to do with myself now that it's coming to an end. Although I'll be taking a pay cut from my last position, my new job is walking distance from my house, something I've always dreamed of, the people seem really nice, and the benefits are great. Since I'd already secured my dates for traveling to the U.P. next month, my boss is letting me take the time off, as well as a short trip to Austin in June that M and I recently planned.

Here comes the mushy part where I thank my wonderful husband for all the support he's given me over the past year - unemployment is generally considered one of the biggest stressors that can happen to a marriage, but over the past 11 months my husband has done nothing but encourage me to pursue all the crazy dreams that I suddenly had the time to follow. While he stayed home and worked, I spent most of my severance pay traveling to distant corners of the world, developed my writing technique, and connected with my community in meaningful ways through volunteering. Aside from one or two poorly timed cracks about not pulling my weight financially, he never made me feel bad about my employment status, or complained about having to cut back in areas like home improvement (which we desperately need) or postponing major purchases like a new car (which we need just as badly as a renovation of our basement). He's really pretty great, that husband of mine. I hope he never loses his job, but if he does I'll think back to my year of unemployment and all the experiences I gained from being able to take advantage of the time off, and I'll remember that none of it would have been possible without his support.

Thanks also to my network of unemployed friends: TS, who introduced me to $1 bowling Mondays at Diversey Rock 'n Bowl, and despite himself gave some of the sagest advice on the subject of unemployment; AP, who came as my plus one to numerous events; GV, whose acerbic sense of humor could pierce through anything; AB, who told me it would be the best thing to happen to me; and CF, who connected me with countless babysitting jobs that helped fill my pockets.

Of course, my employed friends were there for me this past year too: MamaVee, who convinced me to participate in a mini-triathlon; AM, who went to some of the best and some of the worst theater I've ever seen with me, and helped me to think of ways to write about it; HD, who kept in touch the whole time, and never treated me like I should feel sorry for myself; NM, who mailed me a birthday gift she'd bought in Bangladesh which was waiting to be opened when I came home from two weeks in New York and Boston right after I lost my job; DW, who always made time for lunch; and my upstairs neighbors, who included me in countless family dinners when I could easily have eaten alone in front of the TV while M worked.

At the risk of making this sound like a tiresome Oscar speech where the award winner has gone on too long so the music swells, causing the award winner to start talking really fast, thanks also to all of you who've read my blog and followed my adventures over the past year. Its great knowing you're out there, and I hope to keep telling stories that you want to read.


MamaVee said...


you've done so much this year it's amazing. A lot of people would be too scared to dream and do and you made the most of it in really awesome ways. Yay you and yay M for supporting you.


Phigmint said...

Congratulations on your employment, Jess! It's awesome that Michael has been your biggest fan through this last year. High-five's for you both.

Shelley said...

You are awesome and the time to develop your writing style is well spent - an investment in a great talent. How about joining me for nanowrimo next year??? November. You could probably manage to attend write-ins with fellow nanowrimos and parties and all the good stuff I can't do because of bambinos! xo

Kate said...

I should say way to go, but I am not-so-secretly mourning the loss of your freedom and the back to the grind lifestyle. But you have only gained in a huge way this last year while spending your time like a rockstar and I just wish I would have begged you to visit me while you were still unemployed.
Yay for husbands who are amazing and know when a girl needs to live.
Good luck with your new job and I hope you keep writing and running and traveling chica!

Midtagessen said...

Holy cow...good going. I'm so pleased for you!! Yippppeee!

JP said...

Thanks everybody!

j.cro said...


How exciting for you.

Please, please, PLEASE keep the stories coming. I, for one, most certainly love them and look forward to your updates.

Anonymous said...

Zowie! Go JP!