Jeffrey Essmann tells the story of his recession:
15 months of unemployment does something to you, changes you. The obvious horrible thing about poverty, of course, is that you can’t buy things, but poverty also dices and shreds whatever self-esteem you might have left after losing your job and your apartment. I remember the weekend I had $3.48 in the bank and was hoping my food stamps would electronically replenish on Monday so I could eat, and recall wondering whether there was a state of the soul beyond humility. Whatever ego was left was readily worn down by the dull drip of the job market. Fifteen months and hundreds of resumes; maybe three interviews; one very sad job fair.
I thought I was overskilled; underskilled; perhaps had no skills at all. Or, in a kinder moment, that I had talent but not skills. Whatever I had, though, I seemed to be losing it. I was losing control of my life, and it was undergoing a dissolution about which I didn’t feel entirely Buddhist. So the job came along in the nick of time, of course, though the phrase is meaningless here. Long-term unemployment causes time to warp. It stretches and gapes. It idles. Everything happens in the nick of time. So when I accepted the job and the office manager asked which Monday I wanted to start, “Monday” almost sounded quaint. But I picked a Monday, he said see you then, we hung up, and my first thought was: “Oh no. Now I have to work.”
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