Long-term unemployed and sad tonight
Hello everyone. I know I started this blog to talk about writing and professional sorts of things. I named my blog after my book series after all!
But tonight I hope everyone can give me the space to defer the talk about writing and work to speak from a different place in my heart.
Tonight, I feel very much unwanted, a burden to life. No, I'm not thinking anything extreme. Just sad.
It's been three and a half years since I lost my job as a commercial photographer and graphic artist in Manhattan. I worked for Superior Sewing, one of the largest sewing machine parts wholesalers in the United States. In that work I created over 5000 images for them, showing the beauty and most important features in the most simple objects no one thinks can be conveyed as beautiful. But I can see it, though I have over 90% sight loss, better than any fully sighted person I know.
The problem with being a creative person is that your job is the first one to go when a company downsizes. Somehow people think that just ANYONE can take great photographs and produce great marking images from a camera, that talent has NOTHING to do with graphic arts.
I was not valued at Superior. Some even said that the recession had nothing to do with my job loss (despite two years of sales losses), that my job was eliminated because I am internally deficient. You know...sorta like the arguments I hear Mitt Romney saying about the 99% of us who are not as wealthy as he is, who have to struggle and work, who have worried about having enough money to pay rent/mortgage, transportation, utilities, and food.
I know that losing my job was not personal, not about me. But three and a half years of unemployment feels personal.
I loved living in Brooklyn, New York. No where else in all my wanderings was I so content with the place where I lived. In Brooklyn, my sight loss did not matter much -- even though there are many physical hazzards for the blind. But I was truly independent. Brooklyn is a mostly pedestrian city, after all. You don't need a car in most areas -- walking, buses, and subway trains will get you nearly everywhere you want to go.
But it's still expensive.
I was careful while I was working about money. I paid down all my credit card debts from five years working minimum wage in northern NJ (where working seven days per week, 340 days per year could still only pay for rent -- no food, phone, heat, or electric) -- over $12000 in debt. Then I put aside 10% of my net pay into savings accounts with ING. I paid careful attention to interest rates and took out certificates of deposits to maximize my savings.
I did everything I could to secure my future.
Then I lost my job. Unemployment only covered half of my living expenses, so I went back in debt, carefully avoiding spending much of my savings -- just in case I could not find a job before unemployment ran out.
It ran out last year April.
A month before I befriended a man online who also loves the same science fiction shows I do, in particular 1983's Benji, Zax, and the Alien Prince. He was worried about my unemployment and invited me to live with him should I need a place to live.
By May 2011, I realized that I had little choice but to accept, to move three hundred miles west from my comfortable urban home and into the wilds of western Pennsylvania, a place with no real public transportation and a complete loss of my independence.
At 39, I had to take the same chance with my life that I was recklessly taking throughout my 20s.
What I did not know when I took that chance was how quickly I would become unwanted.
In many ways, my friend is kind and certainly he did not have to bring me all the way to Cambria county, Pennsylvania; he could have let me be evicted from my Brooklyn. But he is also someone who loves living alone, something I don't think he understood about himself until after I moved in. He is someone who likes doing certain things and certain way -- and feels he cannot do those things with someone else around, someone else sharing his space.
Somehow, he cannot live his life the way he wants to with me around.
He says I'm wanted, of course, but when someone tells you that he is not free to live his life by virtue of you living with him...how can I feel he wants me around? How can I feel I am not a burden.
So often I feel like I'm just a burden to people, that no one values anything real about me, that my value is only in what profit someone can derive out of me. Who cares about me just because I am me? Who wants ME?
I am someone people just tolerate for a little while. It's been rare for someone to look at me for the special person I am and tell me that s/he wants to spend time with me just because I'm interesting or fun or whatever.
I am all of those things. Yet why cannot people see it? Why cannot people adore me as I am? Why is my value tied to having a job or having money or something else that other people can profit from?
Oh, I know I should not be feeling this way, that crying is unproductive. But tonight I want to just be myself and feel my pain.
As hard as I am working to make a new and better life for myself, I am still not there yet. There is still road to tread before I am there.
I hope someone can relate to my feelings of sorrow and the stress I am under. I have lost so much since 2009, including my dignity.
It hurts to feel like a burden to someone who is happier living alone.
It hurts to be unemployed.
Laurel A. Rockefeller, author
The Great Succession Crisis
E-Book ISBN: 9781476243344
Print book ISBN: 978-1479144808