EDITORIAL: The Secret Side of Unemployment and Underemployment

By Frances Chavessecrets

Every one of the millions of unemployed and underemployed people in this country has secrets about coping with the daily grind of never quite having enough resources, yet continuing to show up for life, family and the job search, as if each day is THE day that perfect opportunity will show up.

Here are some survival secrets friends have shared with me. Share yours by posting a comment to this blog.

1)      Humor

Hang on to your sense of humor; it is your life preserver. One friend describes his early morning part-time job loading trucks as a great opportunity to build his upper body strength while getting paid.

Do-it-yourself hair coloring: it comes out a different color every time which I describe as fashion creativity.

A friend wrote about her job search: “I am afraid I might be facing ageism; as a head transplant is not affordable so I dream of an internet business.”

2)      Humility

Defined as the lack of false pride, humility is a tough lesson of transition. I know someone with a degree from MIT who gracefully accepts the reality of working at a big box hardware store to get his family health insurance.

Your first visit to a Food Bank is something you never forget.

Humility is not feeling humiliated when applying for a minimum-wage job.

3)      Resourcefulness

The ability to act effectively or imaginatively, especially in difficult situations, is a quality we all share. Many of us have resorted to selling gold jewelry and coin collections; I haven’t yet met anyone who has sold their gold fillings. Yard sales, flea markets, EBay, Craigslist: what can we sell today?

Shopping at thrift stores (Red White and Blue Thrift Shop: they carry brand new business suits, still with the labels. If I didn’t tell you, you’d never guess, right?!).

Calling Senator Menendez and his Director of Constituent Affairs when the electricity and gas companies threaten to shut off both and then try to add on a “security deposit fee” of a few hundred dollars.

 4) Gratitude

Ouch; this one is really hard. But another friend reminds me that if I have my health and my family, then my other problems are only “luxury problems.” So many of the things I find difficult today are other people’s life-long realities.

So I’ve learned to love my public library. We gave up cable TV and borrow DVDs instead. Thank you BBC. My favorite series is “Waking the Dead:” that’s how I feel most mornings.

Eating out, even at Wendy’s, becomes a BIG treat.

Share your secrets: it feels good not to shoulder the burden alone.

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