Day 1 – Double Unemployment

This oft-neglected blog now has something it’s never had before–my undivided attention. Congratulations, blog, I’m unemployed. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful. 

Friday – August 29, 2014

CharlieBrownFootballI got laid off today and it was awesome. I don’t mean “awesome” in the overused, exulting sense, but in the “Aw, #$%@!” sense. I guess I sort of saw it coming because I woke up sick to my stomach every morning this week for no discernible reason. I wasn’t ill, I hadn’t eaten anything problematic the nights before. I just felt vomity anxiety. Didn’t think it was leading to getting laid off, but there you go. Basically, I was Charlie Brown. I should have maybe guessed Lucy would take the football away, but I sure didn’t expect her to up and run off with it.

I walked out of the boss’ office feeling numb and panicky and kind of dead. I was the undead, really. I was still animated, but I’d died and passed on to this next life called “unemployment;” a purgatory where I’d now get to sit and stew until moving on to the next next life: either the pit of hell call homelessness or the heavenly gift that would be new employment in a dream job I could not yet imagine. (There was no middle ground in that moment.) My morning nausea returned immediately, and I now cursed the coworker who’d unexpectedly bought me lunch at the cafeteria just a couple hours earlier.

Oh man, he didn’t know did he? Was that my last meal before execution? I’d have asked for lobster.

After gathering my things, I headed downstairs to fill out a bit of paperwork. The HR rep was a jewel and about as distraught as I was. I thanked her for being kind to me, and to Erin the day before.

Oh, yeah.

My wife got fired too, just 24 hours before I did. We worked at the same place and, at the time of her firing, I was of course comforted by the fact that at least I still had my job. She was too.

This is probably why she thought I was joking when she came home from our oldest daughter’s cross country race to find me pacing frantically in the hallway and claiming like a jerk that I’d joined her terrible, terrible club. Sorry, sweetheart, my jokes can trend towards the morbid (“Your dad is cooler than my dad? Oh yeah? Well, my dad is deader than your dad.”), but not this time.

The unemployment rate in the US currently sits at 6.2%. We are the 6.2%.

Facebook was equally shocked. Granted, Facebook is shocked a lot, particularly when the date matches up with the exact day Marty McFly arrived in the future for the hundredth time, but in this case their shock was justified. I wrote in a status update:

“Apparently, I’ve got the wrong last name. Yesterday, Erin got laid off. Today, it was my turn. (Yes, we did work for the same place.)

Feeling oddly peaceful. Little angry, sure, but peaceful. Have NO clue what’s next.

I think I’ll focus on feeling up to eating again for now.”

So I did, and Erin and I took our girls out to dinner to spend money we might need later to keep our lights on. But, crab cakes. And clam chowder. Erin and I split a meal. They say God helps those who help themselves, so I figure splitting a restaurant meal between us instead of buying two whole ones is kind of like meeting God halfway. Right? Probably not, but there are far greater sacrifices ahead, I’m sure. Greater blessings as well.

I find nothing useful about cynicism. It is the disease that kills sincerity by disguising pessimism as truth. I also hate cliches because they siphon intelligence out of expression. And yet, for maybe the first time in my life, as the cliches about closing doors and opening doors came in from Facebook with some heaping side helpings of love and well wishes, I believed every single one of those stupid cliches. They comforted me. They seemed dipped in truth. They reeked of it. Something better has to be coming our way after a hit like this.

Right?

After contemplating those soon-to-be-open doors for a little while, it occurred to me that I could lose my house and be happy. I know that’s an odd leap, but when people tell you about how they know things will be better off in the long run and you believe it, you’re pretty much okay with whatever has to happen to get there. Great blessings require great sacrifice. I have to be okay with that. I have to be okay with whatever needs to be inflicted so the blessings can come. And I say that in recognition of the fact that the affliction and the blessing are often one and the same.

So, take my house. If that’s what’s needed, then take it. I’ve got my wife and my girls and my cat. (I’d like to keep the cat. The dogs are negotiable.) And cookies. Friends brought us warm cookies this first night.

No one ever brought me warm cookies when I had a job.

* * *

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153 comments

  1. You know … your comments remind me of something I learned years ago. People often stress out over the craziest things. They lost their car, they lost their job, they lost their cat, they lost their wallet …

    Ok, hyperbole over but … people do stress out over things that in the long run Don’t Really Matter. Ok, you got in a car accident and getting to work is going to be a problem, sure. But … tell me, would you rather have the car smashed up or your legs smashed up? How about having your arm ripped off, or being paralyzed from the waist down? What does the loss of a car compare to all the horrors that a bad car accident can inflict on you?

    When you look at the big picture, there are small things and there are big things. The hard part of course is learning what you should truly be concerned about.

    You have your health (mostly from what you’ve said here), a good wife, good children, and most importantly, a good heart. THAT is more important than anything. You Are Still Blessed.

    40 years in the wilderness. Sounds like a terrible curse, right? Look at how much They learned from it. Ok, Biblical Commentary over.

    We also put a heavy emphasis on money, size of our houses, the works.

    I’ve been around the block. Ups and downs, a lot of downs. I live by myself in a 450 square foot studio. One might say “That’s so tiny!” Frankly, my cat owns half of it.

    No, that’s not sarcasm or me joking around. 450 square feet is Too Much for me. Because I’ve learned the value of personal space, I’ve learned the value of a buck, I’ve learned the value of being able to sleep comfortably without worries of my sleep being interrupted in a bad way. I’ve learned that frankly where I live is just too big for my needs. Most folks don’t understand that. They’re hung up on “size” and how it reflects on your “power”.

    I’ve learned a lot over the years. I’ve learned “not to sweat the small stuff” and after awhile … most things are truly small stuff when you think about it. Take my apartment, take my cat (ok, I’d like to keep her, she’s a darling), take my money, there are tons of things you can take. I’ll hurt and I’ll suffer, but you know what? In spite of all that, they cannot take my mind, my heart, my creative juices, they cannot take that strange entity called Me. Only one way that can be taken, I choose to let them take it.

    Until the day you let something or someone else truly take that entity called Me … you are Alive. And as long as you Live, you can recover and move forward.

    Liked by 11 people

    1. Kent, thanks for the perspective check. I completely agree that we can all live with much less than we think. I thinking keeping your life small and free of great collections of material possessions is a much quicker way to happiness than acquiring bunches.

      I know our trial is but a moment right now, but I don’t think that diminishes how tough it really is to be in that moment. We’ll see how it all shakes out together.

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      1. Sometimes that heavy “moment” is the most challenging thing to deal with. I could say a lot more, but brevity is a great thing. Just suffice it to say I understand fully the idea of the challenge of such heavy “moments”. I had one about five years ago. I’m still struggling with it even now.

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  2. Hi, Brock. Reading along and feeling your pain. Hubby lost his job in March and it was our only source of income and had been for nearly 18 years, and we have two kids in college (now in community college). We have lasted this long, each of us doing what we can. I guess what I’m saying is that you find a way because there is no other choice. And yes, the only goal right now is to endure until something decisive happens one way or the other. Then we will endure the next thing. Please hang in there, you four. You are not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so sorry to read what has happen to you and Erin. You two are wonderful people and have such a sweet family. My heart goes out to you guys. Sending hugs and prayers from Montana and wishing you quick employment to return.

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  4. I don’t know about doors opening and closing, or whether it really *will* be alright in the end – but I do know that lives are pretty eventful things, and in the next couple of months there *will* be opportunities up for grabs if you put yourselves in the right place to meet them.

    No-one can get through life without rotten stuff happening, but everyone gets some breaks as well, and if you do meet them halfway – things can change.

    In the meantime, there’ll be a lot of people rooting for you!

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    1. It’s amazing how much just knowing people are rooting for you is truly helpful. We have been overwhelmed with the kindnesses thrown our way since this first day. It’s remarkable. I hope to be as generous and kind to others when it’s my turn and good fortune to give.

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  5. What a bummer. I haven’t held a 9-5 job in, well, ever. I’ve been freelancing ever since I left college back in 1985. I literally do not know from week to week, or day to day, where the next project is going to come from. It took two years before it stopped being nerve racking. That, and I developed some very simple survival skills that have served me well. If you want some free advice, let me know.

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    1. Mark, that’s a scary life you describe. Not scary to you, obviously, but I just can’t even imagine. I think my wife would kill me if I tried something like that. While I do seem to have freelance work coming my way, I just couldn’t handle that long term. I admire the heck out of guys like you though.

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      1. Well I really admire your attitude and honesty. Loosing your income is probably one of THE most scary life events after loosing a loved one and being diagnosed with a serious illness.

        Now the worst haa happened and we find out how we DO react.

        its often amazing how we DO react and not how we often thought we would.

        Its ok for people to give advice and
        platitudes, , but till you have walked in your shoes nobody can really share that emotiona
        experience.

        I am rooting for you, all the way from
        England.

        I suspect you will find acway through this and we can all learn from that.

        Good luck.

        love Denise.

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        1. That’s my small hope–that perhaps others can be comforted by this. Of course in doing that I’m betting on a positive outcome, but how could I possibly bet on anything else?

          I’ve always been of the opinion that even if someone has experienced the same thing as me, that doesn’t mean they know how I feel. How I feel about something is particular to me and who I am and how I react to things. So, yes, only I wear my shoes. But I do appreciate people making the attempt at empathy. It helps.

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    1. I’ve actually found the opposite to be true. I’m about a month down the road from Day 1 and one of the consistent themes has been just how willing people have been to assist in so very many different ways. It’s been quite humbling, but also reassuring. We are most definitely not neglected.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I’m five months unemployed, living off the unrepayable generosity of my brother (tears come to my eyes writing that), and having literally just written a depressed blog post about how I realize I’m not the only person out there with these problems. Have faith brother man. Everyday I want up and get my 11 year old ready for school, I remind myself that this too shall pass.

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    1. I feel for you, as you well know. I’m a month into it now and while it has gotten easier, there are still real moments of panic. We have also been supported by the generosity of others and it’s a huge blessing. I don’t know what we’d do without them.

      Keep going. You’re right, this will pass. I hope for you it passes very, very soon.

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    1. Thank you, Mendy! We’re a month into it now (I’ve continued to blog each day, so you can read all the other days so far right now) and we’ve had a number of interviews, but we’re still waiting for that offer. We know it will come though. We have faith.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Really appreciated this post reminded me of our unemployments days when the Man got notified. I am in a perpetual state of unemployment unless you count taking care of the man. hehehe Its truly amazing how we survived and managed to move across country and keep our home. We have been Blessed

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    1. Yeah, I’ve been doing freelance here and there. It is helping on two fronts: keeps me busy and brings in some extra cash. Getting closer and closer to something more permanent…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. My dad says clichés are only clichés because they’re true! Good luck & best wishes to you, I hope everything works out for you. While I’m quoting my nearest & dearest, here’s another one for you: my best friend says life never gives you more than you can cope with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a crock that one door opens after another closes. The problem is the door that closed hurts you. You feel you did something wrong and maybe you did and maybe you did not. Live frugally and look. Look into your eyes hurt and use every connection you got. Do not feel ashamed. You have a wife and kids. Beat the bushes, the trees and maintain focus. Look at your assets, what you are good at. If you can start your own business. Sell the house and hopefully make a small sum to invest in your business. You have two employees. You and your wife. I wish you the best. Been there and done that.

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      1. Appreciate the words from someone with experience. I think whatever shame I might have is slowly being peeled away. We will do what we have to do, whatever that may be.

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          1. California. We’re on Day 32 of this journey at this point (I’ve continued to blog on each succeeding day–Day 1 is an old post) and have signed up for several services to help us fill in this gap. And we’ve been looking for work every day. Even had a few interviews at this point.

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            1. There are some routes you can look at. I did insurance and found that if you are sharp and it sounds like you are, that they will pay the freight and help you get licenses to sell health and life insurance. It is a short journey for you can not be out of work for a long time. It is an avenue if you can do sales. I also looked into real estate which can be lucrative if you know a lot of people. Give a call to your insurance agent and ask him if he or she feels this would be a good fit for you. Call up a local broker. Like Century Twenty One. Ask them what do you need to do to get into the field. This can be a field for the both of you. Depends on the ages of your children. Just some thoughts for a guy who went down this road. My son is a mortgage broker in Tampa. He does well. And he got into the business easily. It did not require a lot of prep work. But he is a natural sales person. Maybe you are too. Again anything I can do, just ask and I will float ideas to you and back and forth.

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              1. I appreciate the advice, I really do. I tried the insurance route once upon a time. Tried the financial route as well. What I discovered is that what I’m best at and what I’m happiest doing are things that require creativity. So, for now, I’m looking at either another Art Directorship or something else that would call upon my creative skills. Or, something that requires managerial skills. I have found through painful circumstance that I’m not very well suited for much else.

                Liked by 1 person

    2. As a religious person, I think protections like that are contingent on our obedience and willingness to obey, but the idea that we won’t get more than we can handle is something that I think mostly holds true.

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  9. Brock — your post reminded me of what I’ve gone through many times. I used to work in NYC as a temp. (word processor) and those jobs began winding down after the dot.com crash and then 9-11. Since I was a temp. I’d been “let go” many times. Sometimes from 1-week jobs, sometimes (after 9-11) from a 3-1/2 year gig. It’s always tough. After the 9-11 lay off I was unemployed for 2 years. My boyfriend (now husband) went to Canada for a job, since he is not a U.S. citizen and couldn’t find a job here. I was alone and unemployed. After the 2 years was up (no more unemployment) I found a “permanent” job in NJ. Paid MUCH less, buy hey, I was employed — or 2-12 years. Then, laid off. Again. Unemployed AGAIN for 2 more years. At the end of THAT unemployment I found another “permanent” job. I’ve come to understand over my many years as a temp. and “permanent” employee that every job is temporary. Every one. Yes, new doors open. Are they better? Not always. However, when you need a job and income, the next new job is pretty thrilling, at least for a little while.

    Here’s what I learned when unemployed: First — really, really cut back hard in every way you can, financially. You won’t have as much money as it feels like in the first month of unemployment, and if you cut back NOW, it’s easier to get in the habit of being frugal. I tried to make it a game; how can I save another penny? Second, give yourself a month off to relax and let go of all expectations, to clear your mind. You and your wife could try being very good at making the best bean casseroles ever, which is (a) frugal, and (b) perhaps a fun family activity! Third: network like a madman. Get on Linked-in. While you still have connections at your old job, make sure you add EVERY ONE you know there into your Linked-in account, because they know people you don’t know. Join every group that is connected to what you do (on Linked-in) because they also post jobs from time to time, even if it says “discussion group”.

    Brush up that resume NOW, while everything you ever did at your last job is completely fresh in your mind. Make sure it looks GOOD. Have someone else, preferably a professional (in your field, or a headhunter) look it over and give you some suggestions. Don’t be proud. Take their advice!

    All the above advice applies to your wife, too, of course! It’s free!!!

    Remember, you still have all the really important stuff. Your wife, your kids, your cat. You could downsize, if possible, if your house is sellable (depends on the market in your area, of course). But I’d wait a little while on that. Just toss the idea around with your wife.

    And be OPEN to whatever comes along. Maybe your life will change a lot. Maybe not. But it’s a great time to entertain the possibilities. Let yourself daydream and think about what you’d really love to do. Remember your childhood dreams. Try to think positive. You and your wife will get through this. It’s scary at first, but I’m hoping you will feel like a burden has been lifted off your shoulders. Most of the times I’ve been let go, I’ve felt lighter. It’s a great feeling.

    If you start feeling down, bad, negative, etc., play this game: Look for the worst thing to happen to someone on the web/in the news/or that you can imagine, and say, “See, THAT hasn’t happened to me. I’m just unemployed.”

    Good luck.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the free advice! A month down the road on all this, I’m proud to say we’ve taken most of it. We’ve been networking like crazy, refined resumes, etc.

      You’re right about feeling lighter. Boy, do I. We both do.

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      1. Glad to hear it. I realize everyone’s road is different in some ways, but I still think what you’ve done is the best way to approach (double) unemployment. And I’m very happy to know you’re both feeling lighter! While the unknown can be scary, one of the biggest benefits of being fired is that “lightness” feeling. Hope you will update us as you and your wife continue your journeys.

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  10. Everything ALWAYS works out. I’m now on the unemployment boat along with you, by choice though! Just as anxiety ridden but I know what’s best for me. Hang in there and don’t be afraid to stop by for reads!

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    1. I admire your bravery. I think I’ve come to place where I realize leaving that job was the best thing for me, but I can’t imagine having made the decision to leave on my own. Hope you find something soon.

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    1. That’s the dream isn’t it? If I could write all day about the things I’m passionate about… man, that would be my ideal existence.

      Thanks for reblogging!

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  11. I hope you get through this and I wish you the best of luck finding something new. To me it’s weird reading a story like this. In belgium we have this complete social security system, so wehen you get laid of you are entiteld to an unemployment fee. I hope you get something simular to help you get through this.

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    1. We have what we call “Unemployment Insurance” which is a help, but is real pain to get. I’m still waiting for approval, so it’s not quite an automatic thing. I know social services are better, generally, in Europe. And I’m jealous.

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  12. Firstly, congrats on a great post! There is this proverb in my mother tongue Kannada ” Shankhu inda bandrene tirtha”. It means there are certain things which have to follow a specific path or should come from a specific source only. If not, they don’t create an effective effect. This post seems to be a perfect example for this. Amazing post and best of luck !

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  13. Reblogged this on Blue Crane Glam and commented:
    This happened to me at the begin of the year. After six months of semi anxiety about my/our future I got a new job and I am still counting my blessings. Because for the first time I can honestly say that I am looking forward to go to work in the morning. It’s the best job ever with great opportunities for development and I love it.
    In the end it will all turn out well. What’s meant for you won’t pass you by.

    Like

  14. This happened to me at the begin of the year. After six months of semi anxiety about my/our future I got a new job and I am still counting my blessings. Because for the first time I can honestly say that I am looking forward to go to work in the morning. It’s the best job ever with great opportunities for development and I love it.
    In the end it will all turn out well. What’s meant for you won’t pass you by.

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  15. Great post (and I mean that in the nicest way – your writing is great, not the unemployment bit).

    Life as you know/knew it can change in the snap of two fingers, but once you get over the shock the only thing holding you back is Fear. Seriously. Are you not the same person in the same skin that you were a few months ago? You (and you wife) haven’t changed one single bit, it is only the circumstances surrounding you and your family that have changed.

    All I can say is make the most of your daily freedom and start living the very best you can (on the least amount of money). Look on it as a challenge. Look on it as a learning process.

    Letting go of all preconceived ideas of the unemployed and how the 6.2% might live their lives is always a good starting point.

    And good luck with the job hunting.

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    1. You are too right. Letting go of our preconceptions of what it is to be numbered among the unemployed is a bit part of this journey, and I think you see me coming back to that again and again in these blogs. Thanks for your kind words!

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  16. I hope very much that a new (and better) employment situation comes your way soon. I’ve only just found you and have been reading to try and catch up, but I have to say you have quite an attitude in the face of adversity. Much admiration from this quarter to yours. I look forward to your future posts and updates on your situation!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words. I think we’re defined by how we handle adversity, and the truth is that my wife and I have faced much worse. If we didn’t handle this unemployment situation at least somewhat well then we’d be losers. I don’t want to be a loser.

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  17. Hang in there and remember this time will pass. You will come out stronger in the end. Keep plugging and keep doing what you can. Sometimes GOD does close a door and something much better opens up. This might be some very special times that you and your family can spend together that you may never get an opportunity to do in the future. Glad I stumbled upon your post..

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    1. Tony, that’s exactly how it’s been. The past month with my family has been so valuable. Also valuable: all this time to write. I wasn’t kidding when I wrote that this blog was oft-neglected. I love writing every day.

      Good to know you!

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  18. What I took from this post … you are a hopeful and sensible guy, with good values. This is going to help you and your family get through this period. And you are right, so long as you have your family, pets and cookies, you will get through this. I wish I could wave a magic wand and fix this for you, but all I can offer is my support.

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  19. You will be okay. I know it sounds shallow, but it is not meant to be shallow. Just never give up and don’t give up on your family. This is what keeps you going until you reach the open door. You and your family. And KentDA: well said!

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  20. I know what you are going through. I was laid off in March and tried hard to find a job while on unemployment for six months. Miracle of miracles, i had about given up hope when I got an offer for a temporary position. Unemployment is not easy. You have to let go of pride. But it will teach you a greater compassion, humility, and motivation for work. It may not seem like it at all but it can be a blessing in disguise. Best of luck to you and your family. I hope you find jobs very quickly. Do not be too proud to try the employment agencies. It was a nice lady at an employment agency that secured me this opportunity. And do not be surprised if you get offered lower paying jobs. Take what you can and work hard. This economy is tough.

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  21. Really sorry to hear this. 😦 For all kinds of silly reasons, I’ve had two bouts of unemployment in the past 2 years. (Not trying to one-up anybody; I only have myself to look out for so it was okay.)

    Just be careful if it turns into a long haul. THAT’S when it becomes vital to have a routine that incorporates logistical stuff—bills, house administrivia, that whole job thing—but also relaxation and family. Gotta balance it out so as to preserve sanity.

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    1. Two times in as many years is rough. Sorry to hear that. I think we’re getting better at it as it goes along, but this certainly isn’t the easiest trial we’ve experienced. Not the hardest either, so there’s that.

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  22. Nice post. The wife and i were in the same boat 2 months ago. She finally found a job 3 weeks ago and things are slowly looking up. Chances are really hard to come by on my end so I’m hoping to catch a break. I wish the same for you and your family. Stay strong and may good karma go round your way soon.

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  23. Coming from an HR prospective I have to say it is scary to see 6.2 unemployment, but there shouldn’t be a panic. Things are getting competitive but does that mean it’s the end of the world absolutely. …Not! What does 6.2% mean really break down that number and look at it locally. Then look at the industry where there is less work. 6.2% is just a number a statistic you can overcome that and move over that number and be one of many people finding new and creative ways to move on in thier lives and careers.

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  24. My sympathies for this setback! Life is a b#tc#! I want to say more but no time right now. However, let me say this; from my perspective, you are an excellent writer and storyteller. I see a new career path.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I just stumbled upon your blog.

    Seriously, I could write a small novel about the past 3 plus years. I went from a person who was very comfortable and living an almost fairy tale life to where I am now…employed but struggling.

    In a poor twist of fate, I was unemployed in the height of the economic downturn so finding employment was a soul wrenching experience. But I did learn a lot along the way. I downsized a lot. I faced some terrible times. But in the end…I am here and not defeated.

    Thankfully, and I do not know how at times; my fiance has stuck it through with me. Having someone there really has helped.

    I need to read more of your blog to see how you are doing. It is Christmas so I hope well.

    Merry Christmas!

    Like

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