Monday, April 30, 2012

New levels of discouragement

Throughout this ordeal of prolonged underemployment, I have tried to remain pragmatic but positive, knowing full well that the job market is tight, that it is trending more heavily toward freelance work, which I neither trust as stable, nor want to continue for any significant length of time. Never in my adult life have I desired to be self-employed.

Never. Not once.

I was thrust into it by necessity and through no fault of my own: I did not choose to quit a good job, nor did I choose to do something to get me fired. I was laid off.

I have neither the desire nor the skill to run my own business, nor do I want to do so. I take not even the slightest joy in doing so, and, in fact, I am not certain I can find a word the even comes close to describing the depth of my loathing and hatred for having to do so. I am not a pitchman for the product I sell because, quite frankly, there does not seem to be a lot of demand for my skills and knowledge. Yet at the moment, it is my lot in life to make a living in this way, and I am failing miserably.

I am not expressing self-pity. This is an honest self-assessment from a husband and father who knows what he earns is not paying the bills, and from a journalist, a writer, an editor who loves his craft. That love, which includes a passion for community journalism, as well as my appreciation for Mike Bailey and the gang at BocaJump, and the northwest suburban crew, are some of the keys that have been helping me hold it together.

Perhaps it is a good thing, at the moment, that I am not a very good pitchman. For the past several weeks, I have been chasing leads that have not panned out or, alternatively, I have been dealing with canceled appointments and waiting for phone calls or emails that are not returned for stories I know are there.

I also have been taking classes since January with the goal of obtaining certification in a software suite that is important for website design and development. As I approach my final month of training, I feel apprehensive, knowing I have five tests ahead of me and that I have had little time to practice.

The U.S. Postal Service is not helping my cause at all, either: The student version of the Adobe software I ordered should have been in my hands within the first few days of April. But the Postal Service lost it, and the company I ordered from won’t ship me a new set until the package is returned. Nearly a full month has slipped by while the software package sat in a bin or on a shelf somewhere in Chicago. Two redelivery requests went unheeded, probably, I was told, because they could not find the package. But on Friday, the tracking number for it finally showed movement, as the software presumably moved from Chicago to Des Moines, Iowa, before bouncing to Franklin Park and then back to Des Moines. I’m not quite sure what to make of that except that it seems ominous — the company I ordered it from, and the place where the package originated, is in Texas. I suppose it could end up anywhere at this point. Perhaps it will end up near my niece in Alaska.

During this period of new software training, I have slowed down in my job search — something I actually was encouraged to do at the outset so I would focus on the training. Instead of sending out resumes for five or more jobs a week, I’ve become more selective, choosing only those positions that seem to be the best match for my skills, my background. But I’ve also tried to be flexible, sending out resumes to employers looking for content writers or editors outside of journalism, copywriters. My heart’s desire, however, is to remain in the news industry.

To this point, staying positive, being able to find humor and ultimately falling back on my faith has helped stave off the black dog that has hounded me through this trial. I’ve held onto the glass half-full approach, too, because I want to be an encouragement to those who read my work from time to time. While I often write about the industry, one of the driving motivations behind my starting this blog was to let others know they are not alone in the emotional turmoil that accompanies a layoff. By sharing my thoughts, my feelings, my hopes and my fears, I sought to help others understand these are fairly normal aspects of this kind of life change.

So I’ve tried to be utterly open and honest in this blog, touching not only on the high points, because there have been those, but also, at times, on discouragement and depression, because to ignore the negative would be deceptive.

Over the past month, I’ve plumbed new depths of discouragement; larger and darker, the black dog has waited eagerly, its wagging tail signaling its joy, not mine.

So here is another tip for those in straits similar to mine: Find a support system you can rely upon and trust personally and completely. I’ve heard how important this is but in recent months I have come to understand it is something I have lacked. What should be my closest personal relationship on this earth is all but dead; there is love, for my part, but no comfort or counsel there.

The friends I most trust are scattered across the country; that distance is a handicap, as is not seeing them regularly. Instead of getting a daily sampling of Ted as his mood and tone vary from week to week, I find myself reluctant to write for fear I'll become a black hole to them, sucking the life out of them because of my spiritual and emotional need. I’d rather they get a more well-rounded (I’d say balanced, but these friends might just disagree) sampling of Ted.

Email/Facebook responses fall a little flat — the encouragement they send is always good. But sometimes a guy just needs a hug from, or a time of prayer with a friend he can trust completely. You can’t do that from 100 miles or so, let alone 1,000.