I read an article recently where the writer basically tore anyone who had been unemployed for a year a new one. Like, really ripped into them. There was accusations about not trying hard enough to find a job, using the “time off” as an opportunity to travel, shop and all around slack off while people who really needed the unemployment insurance weren’t able to receive it.
This writer was not unemployed.
The article made me angry. I mean, here I am, almost 11 months unemployed. Eleven months of job searching, sending out resumes, reaching out to people and all I have to show for it is two interviews and a pile of rejection letters saying thanks, but no thanks, and countless job inquiries left unanswered by HR teams that are buried in resumes from people just like me.
I have a degree, work experience, people skills. I am marketable.
But I am unemployed.
Let me be clear; in the year I have been without a job I have traveled home to visit my family. I have shopped. I have even laid on my couch for hours at a time watching Gilmore Girls marathons.
But I’ve also worked my tail off trying to find a job.
I am lucky, my husband has a job that basically supports our lifestyle. And an extravagant lifestyle it is not. But we’re comfortable and fortunate to own a home and be able to afford our necessities while also being able to have a little fun once in a while.
The small (very small) amount of money I receive each weeks goes directly towards bills, or groceries, or if we’re lucky that week, savings. It’s not going to the mall.
Why haven’t I “sucked it up” and gotten a part-time retail job? Why aren’t I waiting tables or folding sweaters?
Because I didn’t have to. Not yet. Because the whole point of unemployment benefits is to sustain you while you try and find a job that will support you. And taking a part-time job that pays less per week than I’m receiving on unemployment makes no sense whatsoever.
Unless a new proposed bill passes in the next few weeks, come mid-November my “income” stops. And when that happens, I will do what I need to do to contribute to our family. My nose isn’t in the air. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else. And if the bill passes, allowing the unemployed of Rhode Island — the state with the third highest unemployment rate in the country — 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits, you bet I’ll be taking it.
Because that’s 13 more weeks to find a full-time job.
A year ago, I might have felt the same way as that writer, because unless you’re in these (old, because you really shouldn’t be buying new ones) shoes, you really don’t know the pain, frustration and self-doubt that surrounds you each time you have to answer “no” when the automated unemployment system asks you if you have returned to full-time work this week.
You just don’t know.