In the midst of record low unemployment and looming recession talk, I’m reminded of how financial highs and lows can coexist. I am fortunate to be on the relative ‘high’ side of things right now. I am comfortable. Sustaining. I mean, I’m still giving my grocery receipt the side-eye, but I’m not underemployed or living in that precarious state of check-to-check. I do remember when things were different, though.
I remember being out of work, thanks to the last recession, and in the frustrating no-woman’s-land of between jobs. It had been three months—long enough for the dust to settle. Long enough for the shock to wear off. The commiserating with friends and colleagues (those who’d been affected by layoffs and those who’d been spared), the shaking of fists at the “soulless corporation”, the well-wishing and encouraging and greener pastures speeches had all dulled to a whisper. That’s when it got lonely.
Yes, I had friends outside of the workplace, but I was coming to realize how much socializing actually happened at work. Before, meeting a friend for a spontaneous lunch or grabbing an afternoon coffee took no more effort than an inclination and an interoffice phone call. Now, I had to plan it. (I was not a big planner.) When I did get together with friends from the old job, and I asked, “How’s work?” The answers were staccato. Because now I was an outsider. They had to weigh what they shared with me, the one who wasn’t in the staff meeting or at the presentation.
I, too, began to hesitate about what to share with them. We would discuss my job searching and soul searching but not my applying for unemployment. I filled them in on the freelance work but skipped the story about sitting in the social services office waiting to apply for food stamps. I assumed they couldn’t relate and, to be honest, I probably had some pride issues about it. I was conscious of how the dynamic might change, and I didn’t want anyone to be uncomfortable, including me.
Enter my sister-searcher, a fellow job-hunter and joy-seeker. She had lost her gig within a month of me losing mine, and though I hated that it had happened to her, I was so glad to have her in this with me. When sister-searcher and I first met, it was under far more abundant circumstances. We were both riding the ‘high’ of white-collar work in a new city. We’d crossed paths, became acquaintances, and that was that.
Somehow, we connected again, but this time in a very different context. Joblessness seemed to be new territory for both of us. We did our best to encourage each other, share useful information, carpool from one government office to another. We held each other accountable while extending to one another the grace that we sometimes had trouble giving to ourselves. This experience definitely brought us closer together than any happy hour or young professionals’ mixer ever could.
It’s an unlikely bond, joblessness—like being roommates during a hospital stay or becoming friends with someone because you both got stuck in an airport. You didn’t expect it, you don’t particularly care for it…but there you are.
Sister-searcher and I are both on the other side of our respective slumps. I suspect it’s a combination of being blessed and prepared and capable and connected. We’re not as close as we were during the hard times, but I’m still so grateful we had each other in those unemployment trenches. And when we both made it out—you’d better believe, I told her the first happy hour was on me.
Have you ever bonded with someone over a shared hard time?
Tyfanni Penn says
I love the realness of this.
Al Kerr says
Yes, it was something super real and relevant about this one. I guess it’s because every time that there is a layoff or a discussion like this it makes the story even more real.
I remember back in the 90s meeting a young lady and I was in the same position. Yes, we bonded and actually became best friends. We are still friends today.
Pat Jackson says
I love your story and commend you for never giving up. Times are hard and you have to do what you gotta do. I admire that. I hope other women look at this and realize when you are down, you have to pick yourself up and keep on pushing.
Yes, I’ve bonded and unfortunately it seems it‘s the unwanted journeys that connected us… Breast Cancer. It seems none of us want the uncomfortable journeys but they lay a solid foundation for genuine connection and honesty, more than the superficial relationships.
Al Kerr says
That sounds like a life bond
Al Kerr says
Wow, this is super real and relevant to what’s happening right now. There’s so many places in the story that I just remember the times.Wew and there were times…..
I had bonded with some people during hard times when I met a few ladies at a Women’s homeless shelter. We remained friends from that although we left at different times. I then went to an SRO ( Single Adults Occupancy/ Single Room Occupancy) after the shelter to eventually work and have my own apartment. I’ve been on Food stamps/ SNAP and still on them. I too have had my reservation when I didn’t want people to know I was in a shelter or still with SNAP and now a housing subsidy but with the economy the way it is, I’m grateful I have these and can look for Gig work that works for me.
Thank you for sharing your experience
Yes, Our parents dying within months of each other. Unfortunately, the friendship only lasted a few years. It was like that saying, someone coming into your life for a season. But we will never forget being there for each other through a very difficult time in our lives.
Haven’t experienced this but thankful for this space read, learn, and empathize with the diaspora.
Cheryll Gordon says
Yes I have and we still rocking together.
Absolutely! I can relate to this story so well. My joblessness made me feel less than initially. My company was birth out of my joblessness season. I was grinding trying to grow my business. My conversation and language shifted. I spent a lot of time with other entrepreneurs trying to make connections. It was different because even in that environment, I was the odd one out. They were more seasoned at being entrepreneurs than I was. What a time and season. The one that period birth is so grateful.
Jam Thorne says
I bonded with my daughters step mom when my husband and my daughters father decided they were leaving us (three weeks apart). I know how this may sound but it made our relationship stronger. We cried on the phone together, laughed together and gave each other strength that was needed in those hard times. I am grateful that we were able to connect on that level. Till this day, we are still amazing friends.
Cynthia Daniels-Banks says
Thank you for this.
It so resonated with me.
It reminds me not to be ashamed of where I’ve come from . . . and to continue to be glad for the progress, peace, joy, and blessings of where I am now. #GratefultoGod. 🌹
Sharonne D Ayers says
This was a delight to read. Very colorful and humorous but dead on in realism! I will be retiring soon so I can relate!