Am I putting a positive spin to a negative circumstance to serve my own purpose? Hmmm…
Long-term unemployment can be a challenge for anyone to face, yet due to my particular circumstances, looking for a job was put on hold for the entire year.
What a person chooses to do when they find their lives sidelined can be very crucial for their inner well-being, and can well determine their future path… so what happened in my life and what did I do with the time I was given? (I wrote an article about the effects of long-term unemployment, and I’ll try to do my best to look at myself objectively to see if the predictions came true!)
My life seemed to be turned upside down last year when I was let go from Missouri Vein Care just before Christmas… I had politely declined the offer to move to Jefferson City to become the onsite Graphic Artist and the owner decided to hire someone locally who would be available at all times, and not through a long-distance office he visited once a week.
My reason for turning down such an offer? I’d be living 5 hours drive away from my family, and with all of us having been separated for years, and then coming together when my youngest grand-daughter was doing her second battle with cancer, I wasn’t going to choose to be separated from them again by many miles!
My decision to search for a Permanent Job after moving
Concurrently, last year at around this time my daughter was shifting gears from correcting old issues in her credit score to starting the process of buying a house. Living in a small town, a USDA home loan seemed to be a smart option to pursue. Naturally, there were many stages to go through and a lot of paperwork to process, but since she had been in her job a few years, her prospects looked good.
Talking with the Mortgage Broker, it seemed likely that she’d have her house by Spring-time or early Summer. After some discussion, I decided that I’d look for a permanent job after we moved to the larger town we were planning on moving to. There aren’t a lot of job opportunities living in a small town, and since we had both originally come from a large city, we wished to relocate to a more urban area in order to have more of the services and activities we were used to. (I didn’t want to be THAT person who accepts a permanent job knowing full well that they won’t be there for long, and that the employer will have gone through a job interview/hire process for nothing!)
Then, just as she had gone through all the hoops and had been green-lighted for a pre-approved amount and we were just about to start house-hunting, the unthinkable happened! A newly hired manager decided to clean house and fire people she felt were part of the old manager’s ways… and my daughter lost her long-held job!
We were back to square one! She found a new job fairly quickly in the new town we planned to move to and the on-boarding and certification process took a few weeks to complete. The Mortgage Broker then came back with an unfavorable offer, since this new employment was too new. We were told that if we waited 6 months, the underwriter would probably be able to give an improved offer.
The magical 6 month mark was at the end of October of 2015… since then the process to get a pre-approved amount from the underwriter has proceeded at a snail’s pace. We are expecting to finally get a green light… well, hopefully before Christmas! We have been living on the edges of our seats for a long time, and hopefully our lives will soon move forward!
So, what have I been doing this past year to keep myself busy?
For more than 9 months my daughter has been working long shifts as a bartender in a Casino in a town 90 miles (an hour and a half drive) away from where we live. She commutes, so the childcare and household tasks have all fallen to me to do!
I wake up at 5 a.m to wake her up since she’s a sound sleeper and absolutely has to leave the house at 6 a.m. to start her shift at 7:45 a.m.! I get the kids up at 6:30 a.m. for school, get everyone ready and drive them all… I pick the little one up at noon from her bus drop-off point since preschool is only for a 1/2 day, and the twins walk home from the bus-stop by themselves. After school sees us doing homework, folding laundry, eating supper, doing dishes and then the kids having baths and getting ready for bed. They’d get to spend maybe an hour with their mom when she gets home at 8 p.m. and then they’re off to bed!
When I’m not doing any of the above things, I’ve been using every spare moment to work on my writing, websites, Photoshop editing and other creative work!
Here’s my handy-dandy end-of-the-year report I prepared to showcase on one page all that I’ve done that is non-child/household related! I call it: What My Year Looked Like in 2015!
- I was so super busy with finishing the 2nd edition of my book and creating a brand new cover …
- Which of course led me to turn my WordPress blog into a full 17 page website…
- Then after taking a few online workshops, I was able to finally create the companion art journal workbooks….
- I started hosting Guest Authors, Artists and Photographers, writing articles, and sharing on social media!
Some Creative Stats
- 41 Articles Written
- Mini book “That’s The Way The Cookie Bounces” written and published (not included on my 1-page 2015 report!)
- 50 Photo quotes created
- 25 Calligraphy quotes
- 37 Hand-towel art pieces
- 25 T-shirt Images created
- 450+ Photos meta-tagged and uploaded to Fine Art America
I’ve included a few things I’d like to accomplish in 2016 too: Publish Art Journal Workshops/ Create more Journal Workbooks and coloring books! Learn about Podcasting? End of my Sabbatical/Return to work!
Has My Year Been Time Well Spent?
Normally when people take a year off for a Sabbatical, it’s to pursue an activity like writing a book, starting a business, education, travel, etc… I feel my list of accomplishments does allow me to check off boxes:
- finish writing and publishing a book
- creating a website
- creating and promoting my brand
- creating new products for sale on Fine Art America
Yes, I’d say my time was well spent! Most nights saw me working on my computer well past 11 p.m.!
Have I experienced any of the negative personality changes from long-term unemployment Ali Berman wrote about?
Her article: http://www.mnn.com/money/green-workplace/stories/being-unemployed-might-change-basic-personality-traits prompted me to write my article: What? Personality Changes from Long Term Unemployment? which I’ve now had a whole year to either prove or disprove my original thoughts and advice!
“Unemployment might impact more than a person’s bank account. According to new research published by the American Psychological Association, unemployment can change a person’s personality, making some people less agreeable, open and conscientious. And those changes can make it more difficult to find work.”
As my own Guinea-pig, I can answer by saying that long-term unemployment for me has not resulted in personality changes! I would further extrapolate my results: if a person follows a personal plan (I gave numerous pointers in the other article), they too can avoid becoming a negative statistic!
Less Agreeable? I haven’t become depressed, given to long periods of self-deprecating thoughts or become an Internet Troll who negatively responds to posts by feeling sorry for myself or provoking arguments… in fact, I’ve been very positive and uplifting! I decided to take a further step and seek to actively promote other people on my newly created website by hosting Guest Authors/Artists/Photographers!
Less open? I participated in online workshops to learn more skills, which I set into motion when I created my website… I taught myself how to turn a Blog post into a full website; not only kept current with all office software, but deepened my knowledge and skills with them; and used these skills to challenge myself to create top-notch products!
Less conscientious? I have been driven to create to best quality work which I’m proud to stand beside! I’m my own boss and the standards I set for myself are nothing less than what I’d deliver to an employer or a paid customer!
In the first article I had written, (to counteract or balance out the potential negative effects of long-term unemployment):
“In order to look at solutions, I think it’s important to identify the major triggers:
- Reduction or elimination of incoming money;
- Not having a place to go to be productive;
- Not having anything to “do”, and getting into non-productive mode;
- Not getting exercise/ physical activity;
- Taking the loss of employment personally and getting depressed;
- Health being affected;
- Loss of Health insurance can equal not being able to pay for doctors and meds;
During a period of long-term unemployment, there are certain things which won’t change (until we find employment again), and which we have little control over.
Feeling out of control is a powerful emotion and can be paralyzing for many people. In order to unfreeze from this paralysis, it’s important to start with the things we do have control over, and set in motion a personal plan of REDEMPTION!
I say redemption, because we can save ourselves from falling into the pit, and we can help ourselves get out of it if we have slid into it.
What Are The Things We Have Potential to Control?
Depending on our own situation, we potentially can control:
- Continuing our job search
- Finding activities to keep busy
- Finding a place to be productive
- Developing new skills/ activities
- Getting exercise/ being active
- Choosing our thoughts
Since doing a job search was taken off the table for me, I focused instead on all the other items on my list.
How did I deal with the moments when I didn’t feel like working?
To be sure there were days when I simply didn’t feel like doing any work and it would have been very easy easy to become distracted by the myriad of tasks which needed to be done to keep a household of 2 adults and three children running smoothly!
I fit in household tasks/childcare into my work routine, and for the days I felt sick, I allowed myself time to rest and recuperate.
As to the other times I simply didn’t feel like working? If I had been pushing myself and had gotten a lot accomplished in the previous week or two, I’d allow myself some time off… otherwise, I’d do what any other working person does and give myself a pep-talk and just buckle down to work!
Did I think I’d have a whole year off work?
There were times when I felt panicky! I wasn’t accustomed to not working for a living! Thankfully I had put aside some money in the bank to continue to pay for my bills, but without any income my savings were steadily depleting. I hated not being able to have any financial leeway, and during this year I cut my personal spending down to zero.
I was sure we’d have been moved into our new house in our new town many months ago, and so it took a great deal of self control to curb my impatience. I wasn’t always successful, but my daughter and I both shared the same feelings and so were able to commiserate with each other!
Why didn’t I Blog about my feelings during this time? Was I ashamed of what I was feeling?
There were times I started to write articles about what I was going through, where I started to pour out my feelings… whether I was panicking, or feeling somewhat depressed or down.
The thing I found about writing about these feelings in an arena where I knew other people would be reading: I started to feel inadequate and unsure if people would be judging me!
During the years I had gone through all the lessons which are in “On Becoming a Lemonade Maker”, I had found ways to deal with a downward depression spiral… and writing about them publicly while I was going through them didn’t seem to work for me… you see, I had already been shunned by people in two Evangelical churches, had been told that my chronic Shingles (on and off for 10 years) was God punishing me for undisclosed sins and I had been blamed for my daughter’s IBS by the psychiatrist at the French children’s hospital in Montreal! I definitely knew what judgement felt like and what the effects were on me emotionally and spiritually!
Instead, I have found that I need to use the tools I discovered for myself (and which I’m sharing in the new Art Journal Workbooks), to deal with any negative emotional times which tend to come up during a period of unemployment.
If I try to write about my emotional state before I’ve had a chance to process my thoughts and feelings, I tend to get very self-absorbed and spiral downwards into negativity.
I’ve found that I need to take the time to honor the thoughts and feelings, process them, and find ways to move forward. I need solutions and plans.
Those are the things which bring me hope, because I know from personal experience that when I can set something in motion, I’ll see positive results!
I’ve learned it’s imperative to focus on the positive!
Now, that hasn’t been always possible for me to do every moment of every day, but I’ve learned I can take control of my thoughts when I acknowledge them and work them through!
2015 is drawing to a close, and we still need to find a house and move. Since this year hasn’t resulted in sufficient income streams being created to support me, I’ll be starting a job search after we move.
What kind of work will I look for? Am I prepare to return to a regular job?
I’ve done many types of work in my career, so I’m open to the thought of new challenges… which doesn’t take away from the thought of returning back to the type of work I had done previously: Executive Assistant or Administrative Assistant!
Since I’ve been very productive during this past year, sometimes working many hours a week beyond 40 hours, I’m not nervous about returning to a “regular” job!
One of the most interesting and challenging jobs I had was when I had moved to Missouri to help my daughter when the baby was re-diagnosed with cancer, and I did a few month stint as a Virtual Executive Assistant for the co-CEO of Bioneers! My job there had actually ended just the Friday prior to Tiana’s diagnoses, but Nina had called me a couple of weeks later and asked if I’d fill in to help her until they found a local replacement. That job was accomplished under the most difficult of life circumstances… there were times when I’d Skype into a staff meeting from my grand-daughter’s hospital room!
I’m definitely open to seeing what opportunities will present themselves and where I’ll end up!
What am I doing in the meanwhile?
I’m continuing to work on publishing the Art Journal Workshops! The first workshop is in the Beta reading stage, and once I get some honest feedback and make any necessary changes, I’ll be in the pre-production/pre-selling stage! I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted with all that!
What can you do if you’re in the same long-term unemployment boat?
Do you have any pointers to pass on to me? Have you been in this situation, and how did you handle it? If you were to do it again, what wouldn’t you do?
Please let me know how it all turns out for you? I know you can do this!
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