Today I spoke to a former long-term unemployed person. Let’s call her Malana. I chose that name because it means “quick minded, versatile, and very expressive.” That describes this individual who has lived in numerous countries in Europe and Asia. Versatility describes her thinking as well as her living. She is brilliant, sensitive to others, and innovative.
Malana, somewhere between 45 and 55 years old, owned her own small import business. She trained people in third-world countries to produce high quality items that could be marketed. Her business gave these people a real livelihood, dignity, purpose and pride in their work. It opened up a whole new way of life for them. But the recession hit and purse strings closed. The business closed in 2010.
Her family, including two daughters, one in her teens and the other in her early twenties, was on the brink of falling apart. She was the primary breadwinner and she thought they might lose the house. To stay afloat and keep her family together, she did every small job she could find. She landed a part-time job working from home for a collections agency.
Finally she landed a full-time job, using her background in global commerce. She works with teams from around the world on contracts and logistics, etc. Today I spoke with her and heard more of the story.
In her own words:
“Marcia, I read your blog and wanted to talk to you. I don’t think I should post what I have to say.
I want you to know I will never forget my long-term unemployment. My current job is contract work and the contract runs out at the end of the year. They are thrilled to have me, but I’m not sure it will continue. My recruiter says she’ll find work for me.
“Actually, I’m working two full-time jobs. The work-at-home job for the collections agency is full-time now. I’m afraid to give it up. No job is permanent. I have no benefits and I work 80 hours a week. Would I call it a life? …No. I don’t want to be ungrateful. I’m lucky. …but really, how sustainable is this?
The fear didn’t stop with employment:
“The fear I feel; how long will it last? I no longer have the anxiety attacks—I think I had a breakdown. I was on medication when I started back to work and I was afraid to quit. I was afraid of the anxiety attacks and I didn’t want them put my job at risk.
“I used to go to my job and think, ‘I could do much better; I’m underemployed.’ …I don’t think that any more. My job used to be a part of me. I used to be forward thinking. Not any more. I leave one job and go to another and that’s good. It doesn’t define me anymore.
“It took huge growth to come to that point. My daughter says, ‘Why would you want it any other way. I’m at my company to learn what I can and when I’m not learning anymore, I’ll leave.’ She’s constantly looking for opportunities.
“Most of my career, I’ve been unhappy in my job and now I just want to not be fearful. Being predictive of the future was an illusion. We never had control of it and that was another illusion. I wanted to control the outcome of my diligent work and I thought I could.
“If a bomb dropped tomorrow, every security will mean nothing. The first thing will be how to feed my family and myself. Most people don’t know their food chain from their elbow. When I was unemployed I worked outside doing hard labor in the heat. But I was able to keep my house.
“There’s a saying,“If you are depressed, you are living in the past; if you are anxious, you are living in the future; if you are at peace, you are living in the present.” BuddhaIt’s hard to live it.”
I’m certain that Malana will find the peace she seeks because of who I know she is. I believe in her and trust her. Malana’s story issues a reality check. Whether we are employed or not is not the question: the consequences of long-term unemployment are dire for everyone in this nation.
Consider the following long-term consequences:
- “Indeed, outside of death and divorce, losing a job can be one of the most difficult things a person will deal with,” say experts. Forbes
- The unemployment crisis may be here to stay because companies will not consider résumés of the long-term unemployed. WonkBlog
- The trauma of long-term unemployment: deep mental and emotional scars: DailyFinance (scroll down to article)
- The link between long-term unemployed and suicide: mLive:
- The effect on college grads: The Terrifying reality of Long-Term Unemployment TheAtlantic
- The scars of the long-term unemployed: Rich’s Management Blog
Learning to heal:
As a nation, we must work within ourselves to heal, to have the faith and the determination to take back freedoms that have been so hard won. Our government has the power it wields because we have allowed it to happen. It was ours to give and ours to take back. Our trust of those we elect to serve through government was misplaced.
We must commit ourselves to become and to raise up quality leaders.
In a response to the same blog, Michael Lynch wrote: “Marcia, the word of the day will continue to be leadership. Not only does the country have a massive leadership problem (thus the need for great leaders), individuals need to be inspired to lead themselves out of their challenging situation. You can lead by reaching out to others to build relationships and commit to solving problems…and develop the consistent mindset of helping others. Lead from within.”
We must not become complacent. Michael made the point. It starts with us. We can do this because we can choose to control ourselves: our actions, our attitudes, our ability to make it better and help others.
Call to action:
- Balance our personal and household budgets.
- Do everything possible NOT to default on our personal loans. Bankruptcy should not be an option or a convenient way out.
- Contribute to a culture of honorable financial responsibility.
- Every person including jobseekers, business owners, employees at every level – everyone, can create a culture of responsible risk-taking by finding ways to take carefully calculated risks.
- Think “out of the box” to find financial solutions on a personal level.
- Let’s start thinking differently about “Washington”. We are Washington.
- We aren’t helpless and if we all become involved, we can make a difference and turn this economy around.
If we don’t choose not to buy what we can’t afford, we will never raise up leaders who don’t spend what we don’t have.