One Year

by Anchor-Of-My-Eye

Last year, on December 15th, I went in to work and before lunch I was out of a job.  I spent the holidays being a gigantic downer at parties and a living cautionary tale of the economic conditions.  Everyone assured me that I'd find a job right away, nothing to worry about, as they downed the last swig of Pinot in the glass and left to talk to someone else.

And then I did find a job, or it found me.  I went on a pre-planned vacation mulling over the offer and when I got back, I accepted.  I was so grateful to have something lined up and I liked the company.  I'd known the owners for years and they were good people.  They seemed glad, and they told me they'd call with a start date.  I said that was fine, no rush.  A couple months later, when the terror of joblessness really settled in and every alarmist news story seemed hand-picked for me...I called them.  And emailed them.  And called them.  Finally I got a response: they'd changed their mind.  They had no need for additional staff.  They'd let me know if something changed.  They were sorry.

I freelanced for a few digital media companies until I found my current job.  I still have no idea how the staffing agency got my resume.  They said, "someone sent it to us."  I owe that someone a drink.  Because last week I was officially offered a full-time position.  They started talking to me about coming on full time in July, but there's so much red tape at corporations and budget committees and whatnot, that it took almost 6 months.  Monday is my start day as a FT employee with benefits, just in time to get paid for the upcoming holidays.

When I talk about feeling like I won the lottery in getting hired this year, I think people who haven't been out of work in this economy feel like it's hyperbole.  But the facts are that the U.S. "added a total of just 39,000 jobs last month, down from an upwardly revised gain of 172,000 in October".  So in November, less than 40 thousand new jobs were given to the over 15 million people out of work.  One's odds were at about 1 in 400, roughly.  It's like going in for a job interview and seeing about 400 other qualified people waiting by the front desk, straightening their ties, going over their papers, putting on their game faces.  Maybe it's not as tough as winning the lottery (although it feels like it), but it's certainly as difficult as winning the grand prize at a big church raffle.  Except there's no delicious potluck waiting for you as consolation if your number doesn't come up.

This year could have been far worse, and the things I had to give up are nothing compared to what others have given up.  The nights I spent worrying whether or not I'd ever find a job, the rollercoaster days of hope and no hope, juggling bills, putting off doctor visits because I had no insurance---again, pale in comparison to what others have experienced.  People with kids.  People with aging parents that need their care.  People who are ill and have to pay out of pocket for crucial prescriptions and medical care.  I'm not someone who lives far from gratitude, it's always close at hand to me.  But this year, I understand how easy it was to feel grateful when I lacked for nothing, and how much harder it was to feel grateful when I did.

My first paycheck for my first week of work will be deposited at the very end of the month, on the 31st.  I'm going to divide it between a few local food banks that are struggling to stay open and stocked this year.  It's the least I can do, and it feels right to close this year out by giving to others trying to get back on their feet.  My great-grandmother used to always say, "There but for the grace of God go I."  This year, I went there, a little.  I won't forget it.