A Letter To My Employed Self

It doesn’t have to be new to be enjoyed. This has always been one of my favourite posts and I sincerely hope becomes one of yours too. Happy #tbt

State of the Ward

There’s a book by author Joseph Galliano called “Dear Me: A letter to my sixteen-year-old self”. It’s a wonderful compilation of letters written by people to their younger selves. Some of the writers are famous, some unknown and all are fabulous. If you haven’t read it, you should. If you have, you understand.

If we could go back and do it all again, some of us would do it exactly the same and some of us would write a hasty letter to warn our younger selves to do it all very differently. Likewise, perhaps when you look back at your last job some of you reflect and think, I’d do it exactly the same. But perhaps, some days, or maybe just in some instances, you think there are things you would do very differently. I do.

Inspired by the idea, I wrote a letter to my previously employed self…

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Working, or Not, Make It Work

Unemployment is beautiful. And unemployment is a vicious, evil, coward that devours your dignity and saunters away full-bellied leaving the scraps of who you were behind to rot. Both versions are right. It’s all a matter of perspective really. It all hangs on your point of view.

Not Working Sucks

Unemployment brings with it a luxury of time. The freedom to stay up watching TV until all hours, diligently doing your part to ensure the national anthem is played at the conclusion of programming hours (although this is tricky if you watch a 24-hour channel), only to rise to the heat of the noon-day sun, scratch, roll over and promptly resume slumber. You can swim, jog, hike, play, overindulge and underwhelm, do everything you want or nothing at all. It’s your choice. You have the time.

But here’s the catch, (you knew there would be one) you don’t necessarily have the money to do it. Doing everything you want has a price. And while we may not always think about it, so does doing nothing at all. (What, you didn’t think that TV was plugged into an almond tree, did you?) And that alone about sums up why unemployment sucks. Cause if you don’t work, you can’t afford to play. (Or eat. Let’s not forget eat.) And pretty soon you’ll whiter away, figuratively and literally.

Still, you can appreciate it for what it is and sometimes even for what it isn’t. Because for some of us, what it isn’t, is work.

Working Also Sucks

Working is beautiful. Working is that sharp-edged, steel pendulum that swings ever lower across your chest, day after exhausting day, scrapping away at skin and muscle and eventually bone, till it cuts you in half and leaves you to drain on the executioner’s table. Both versions are right. It’s all a matter of perspective really. It all hangs on your point of view.

When you’re gloriously employed and the bills are paid and the water is hot when you shower and the drinks are cold and the problem with cable is which channel to watch, it’s easy to take it all for granted. It gets easy to complain about getting up in the morning, too much traffic with the sun in your eyes, too little coffee and way too many meetings. And it’s so simple to nag about too many long hours, still too much traffic but now with the headlights in your eyes and way too little sleep. For some, the novelty of a uniform wears thin, or conversely, the enthusiasm of finding creative ways to make your 10 ‘must-have’ pieces into 260 Vogue-ready outfits, fades. Just listen. You’ll hear it all around you. Grumps. And if you entertain it, even though you’re working, you can whiter away too. Mostly figuratively. But you will whither.

You have got to get through the day. Getting through however you can, isn’t good enough. You have got to get through the day the best way you can. Eat well, rest well, play well and be well.

And if you can’t get through it alone, get help.

Making It Suck Less

Help can come in all forms. A pet, a friend, a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a boss. Stunned a few of you there huh? Didn’t see that one coming. I honestly didn’t either. But if you’re going to spend most of your waking hours at work, having a good boss sure helps. Mine is as good as they come. Extremely intelligent, quick wit, slow temper, knows her stuff and what she’s about and just the right mix of tough (B.A. Baracus would cringe) and fair. Known to encourage her team to go home and get a life. I’m working on mine.

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Find someone that works for you. Someone real. Someone to laugh, talk, motivate, walk, revitalize, scold, cuddle, cajole, listen, feel, care, heal, all of that good stuff and even some of the bad and that can do the same for you.

You just might find that with someone hanging in there with you, whether it’s in the land of wanting work or in the land of wanting out of it, hanging in, is easy.

And if it’s all a matter of perspective really, if it all just hangs on your point of view, wouldn’t you rather see it all, as beautiful?

Pin-stripes, Peep-toes, Pearls & Panic

I’m all set. I have steamed my suits, shined my shoes and polished my pearls, all in preparation to return to the glorious land of the employed. I have packed my bag, trimmed my hair, buffed my nails to manicured and pedicured perfection so they are glossy. Yes, I’m all set. Outwardly anyway. But inwardly, as the first day draws closer, there’s something I am still yet to prepare for and a familiar, haunting chill has commenced a slow, deliberate ascent up my spine.

…a familiar, haunting chill has commenced a slow, deliberate ascent up my spine…

We have been unemployed for awhile now. So long, in fact, it’s become the unintended norm. Do you recall the journey that brought us here?  Of course you do, we recall it well, how can we ever forget.

At first it wasn’t so bad. We thought of our new found unemployment as an unscheduled holiday. We went to the beach, read a few books, hiked through a gully or two (there aren’t any mountains mountains in Barbados) and caught up on all the day time programming. Then, in the early days, we were so hopeful, believing the work intermission would be brief, we would return (to the regularly scheduled program) in just a moment.

Then that hope was tested. We became bored. There’s only so much day-time television programming one can absorb. (Have I mentioned before that Maury and Jerry Springer need to call it quits? Seriously guys, retire.) I recall we started sleeping a lot as a means of escape and some of us fell into the steely grip of snacks, getting pudgy around the middle (but let’s not dwell on this). Then we got discouraged. It was the accumulated bills that tipped us over the edge. And here is when it all went wrong. All of a sudden we discovered the beach was unwelcoming, its waves too rough, the books were disenchanting, somehow the hero was always rich, the gullies you discovered, seemed now to be home to crawly critters you hadn’t noticed before and the TV, well, that had long ago been switched off.

We kept each other going, you and I. I tried to encourage you and more than you know, so often, you encouraged me. (Thank you). But the feelings that come with unemployment can’t be ironed out, dusted away or rubbed off easily, feelings are not like our suits and shoes and pretty 3-tiered necklaces.

With unemployment there are a few things that plague us. Feelings of guilt, doubt, despair, loneliness, confusion, frustration, anger, failure and (while we don’t want to admit it) shame. These don’t just go away. Getting your emotional state back to ‘normal’ is a job all in itself. And this is the source of that wondering chill. This battle of feelings, attempting to return to their original state of virtue, certainty, joy, security, clarity, calm, success and assurance. This fight to return to normalcy, this is the source of my panic.

Will I be myself? Can I do this? Will I be good enough? Will I do well? Am I ready? Are they?

But as I get dressed (my personal dry-rehearsal before the curtain is raised), as I slip into my suit, step into my shoes and fasten my pearls securely around my neck, something else comes over me, like a warm blanket still hot from the dryer and draped over cold shoulders on a cool night. I am at peace.

…something else comes over me, like a warm blanket still hot from the dryer and draped over cold shoulders on a cool night…

I will be fine. And I assure you, you will be fine too. What’s done is done, we leave it behind and as we embrace all that the future has to offer, I am excited. Excited for all of us who’ve endured and come through. And I am excited for those of us still enduring, an end is in sight. I am sure.

I’m all set. I really am. I am ready. So, ready or not world, here I come.

Waltz Before You Run

We’ve been keeping busy sending off our applications. (It is still hunting season after all). We’ve tried various options for hunting, we’ve looked in the papers and scrounged around online and asked a friend (or even a stranger). We updated our resumes and tried to be creative with our formats, fonts and functions. We’ve networked and Twittered and blogged till our eyes are sore. But we’ve been flying around in the unemployment skies for too long now and it’s time to land (we are low on faith-fuel). Before bringing this bird in for landing however, we need to have a landing plan. If we come in too hot, too heavy, too fast or too slow, we risk crashing and burning. So let’s circle a bit. Maybe it’s time to rethink our approach. Perhaps a new method is required. Perhaps, we need to learn how to waltz.

Some of us have been selective in the effort. We’ve sifted through the classifieds carefully and cross-referenced, methodically matched and strategically analysed the pickings (which are slim), looking for the best of the lot. This is satisfying though not necessarily successful method.

Some of us have broadened the effort and have widened our search to hunting for jobs in the general theme of things. We’ve stretched it a bit and tried to convince ourselves (and others) that some of those jobs are well within our reach. Once they are within your capabilities, I say go for it. I’m all for trying something new and highly encourage it, so straddle the fence and widen your boundaries. You may want to note however, that owning a cat does not qualify you to work as pharmacist for the veterinarian’s office, since you are not, after all, a pharmacist. (You know who you are). But this can be a rewarding method if you are really interested in broadening your scope within your field, or if you are trying to start a new career slightly off where you started. It can however, backfire quickly if your heart isn’t in it, because if you just land a job for the sake of landing one and don’t put some heart into it, you may very well be back on the breadline too soon (crash) and recovering from another blow so quickly may not go well (burn).

But if you selected and sorted and then stretched and straddled and still come up empty, your distance swim can feel a whole lot like sinking. And for those of us in this category, we’re going to dance our way to shore. Side step, back step, back step, forward.

Featured imageIf you haven’t worked for awhile, now may not be the time to try to move up the ladder. It’s not impossible (don’t let me discourage you) but it’s highly improbable (I won’t encourage you either). Stick to jobs within a similar level to where you were a few months ago before you were unemployed. In other words, before you step up, step to the side. But the brave of us dancers who grew up on Fame and Solid Gold, we know that before the mid-air twist with a somersault finish, the best dancers, took a preparation step back. Be willing to do something different and possibly earn less than where you were before. (Earning less is better than earning none). So before you skim over jobs you can rock out in your sleep, consider applying for them. Frankly, apply to everything. You just may land one. And once we’re back in the land of the working, that’s definitely taking a step forward. And once we’ve stepped forward, we can dance our way home.
(Oh, by the way, I’m not training you for the next installation of Dancing with the Stars so you may not want to take my dance instructions too literally.)

A Letter To My Employed Self

There’s a book by author Joseph Galliano called “Dear Me: A letter to my sixteen-year-old self”. It’s a wonderful compilation of letters written by people to their younger selves. Some of the writers are famous, some unknown and all are fabulous. If you haven’t read it, you should. If you have, you understand.

If we could go back and do it all again, some of us would do it exactly the same and some of us would write a hasty letter to warn our younger selves to do it all very differently. Likewise, perhaps when you look back at your last job some of you reflect and think, I’d do it exactly the same. But perhaps, some days, or maybe just in some instances, you think there are things you would do very differently. I do.

Inspired by the idea, I wrote a letter to my previously employed self. And in writing it I made a simple yet startling discovery. Unemployed describes me at this point of my life, it does not define me. It is what I am currently, but it is not who I am indefinitely. And you are not defined by what you do or don’t do. Just in case you had any doubt, I totally rock. And I’m sure if you write a letter to yourself, your younger self, or your employed self, you may very well discover, you totally rock too.

Dear Janelle,

I am proud of you. You have done well up to this point, better than some expected. Better than you expected too.

At the still somewhat tender age of 23 you would have already made management. You have been offered jobs you didn’t even apply for and one or two of those you even turned down. (Be careful with this practice). From where you stand it seems the whole world is ahead of you. Jobs are mere stepping stones on the path of a promising career. But be cautious my dear, it won’t always be this way. There are rocky roads ahead and I’m afraid you are quite unprepared. There are a few things you should know and so you are not left out in the cold on a rainy day, I think it is my duty to prepare you.

The grass on the other side may offer more green, but is not always greener. Worse yet, you will find, sometimes the grass is false and its blades will not grow.

You must stop taking people at face value my naive child. All those that smile with you, will not be your friends. (Even when they say so). But all those that seemingly ignore you, will not be your enemies.

You should have learned by now to talk less, (though I know how much you like to) and listen more (even to the things that may not seem logical at the time). But in fact you have not learned this lesson at all and you must try harder still to put this into practice. It will come to serve you well.

Don’t answer a question just because you have been asked. Don’t think because you have been asked, your opinion will make a difference to the outcome.

It is okay to say no. Say no more frequently.

Standing up for your subordinates does not mean you have to take a fall for them.

Never lie, (this will come too easy for you, try at least to not be so blunt), but do not say everything you are thinking (this you will need to work at).

Curb your youthful enthusiasm. Youth is excellent in reference to skin care, but age is excellent in reference to board-rooms.

Your boss (like your Mother), is always right. You don’t have to believe this but never say otherwise. You will be told you can feel free to speak your mind, don’t. Hush child.

Receive compliments graciously, but don’t meditate on them, this will make you arrogant. Also receive criticisms graciously, but always meditate on them, this way you will learn from your errors and this in turn will make you wise.

Your family will always support you. When you need them, your friends will be there. Your friends are not who you think they are, you will be gravely disappointed and pleasantly surprised. More people love you than you know. There will come a time when you will feel lonely, but even in that time, you will not be alone.

If you can learn all this right now, you will do even better than you or I expect. But if you don’t, that’s okay too, you will learn these lessons eventually. And when you have learned these things, you’ll be ready to take on whatever life throws at you.

Believe in yourself always, you are bigger and better than you can ever imagine.

With love forever,

Mine Rescue Comes

Were you glued to the nearest television for the last 22 hours watching from the edge of your seat as the 33 miners were rescued? Me too. It was a beautiful event to behold. I’m still on a high. As a wife, my heart rejoiced as its broken state was mended. As a daughter, I was relieved as I set eyes on nearly lost fathers. As a sister, I couldn’t stop smiling with the jovial spirits that emerged from that darkness. As a human, I was proud of the people who worked tirelessly to make it happen. And knowing that I rejoiced, sighed, smiled and cried with the rest of world, was truly a wonderful feeling. I shed a tear for each and every one of them, weeping openly in parts, although I’ve never met any of them. I’m sure you understand.

It was a story I followed from the beginning. There were a few days that I recall being frustrated because the ‘updated’ reports had no new information from the day before. It was a nerve-racking time. I followed the reports and watched the videos and thought to myself, could I do it? Could you?

Many reports from the best psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists (and even psychos) said the men found strength in each other. They were able to support each other throughout the ordeal physically, socially, emotionally, medically and spiritually. There was safety and strength in numbers. Additionally, by keeping a scheduled routine through having ‘work’ and delegated tasks, set meal and sleeping times, the miners kept a sense of normalcy. All these factors contributed to them staying sane, safe and stable. And I dare add, hopeful and (yes) happy.

Sometimes in this period of unemployment, we feel as though like the Chilean miners, we’re trapped in a dark mine waiting for someone unseen and sometimes unheard to come save us. The difference is however, we don’t wake daily to see 32 others around us, which makes it easy for us to think we’re here alone. We’re not. Not only are there other ‘miners’ with us, there are an estimated 15 million unemployed globally as of September this year, with predictions to reach 25 million by December 2010. And in addition to our fellow unemployed partners, we have family and friends who wait eagerly to ‘rescue’ us however they can. The trick is, we have to allow ourselves to be rescued.

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Rescue 101
Before the minors could be rescued a few things had to happen. First someone had to know they needed rescuing. Then they had to know exactly where they needed to be rescued from. And once the rescue plan was in place the miners themselves had to be in the right physical and emotional state of readiness for the rescue to be successful. We have to do that too.

Know That I Need
If no-one knows you need to be rescued and like the miners you can’t necessarily save yourself, then let’s face it, you’re pretty much screwed. So while it seems obvious, you’re going to have to tell someone to help you. Sending off a few applications is a good start, then tell your friend and family to keep their ears to the ground and mouths by the ears of their friends. Get the word out that you’re looking for a job. But the help you need won’t only be in the job-hunting. Additionally, and most importantly, you’re just going to need some good old fashioned love.

If you always wear a brave face, no-one will try to cheer you up. You may tend to feel that no-one cares when in fact many people care a great deal, but they don’t want to weigh you down with emotions if they think you’re doing fine. So if you’re feeling low, say so. Need ice-cream and can’t afford it, tell a friend. Have Mum buy you new shoes and let Dad fix you up a steak when you’re tired of corned-beef. (I am so leaving hints here). Just knowing they can help makes the ones helping feel better too, so let them. You are not in the mine alone.

Know What I Need
Where are you weak? And when? For me where I need help is in company, or I’ll wallow in isolation. I don’t mind being alone and enjoy my own company (I’m hilarious) but if I spend too many ‘me’ hours I get pretty down and once I’m there I can find it hard to re-socialize for days after. (It’s better when other people laugh with me).

When? Well I’m a morning person. I usually more perked up than my coffee from the word ‘go’, so with caffeine and sugar added I can accomplish a good deal by noon. (With a grin on too). I do well until about 3.00 in the afternoon and then I crash for 3-4 hours. No kidding. No exaggeration. Typically this is my low time and the time I most hate being alone. To compensate, this is the time frame I schedule to hang out with my family and friends. But when that’s not possible, this will be my blog, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter time, where I can still feel like I’m having some kind of social interaction. Failing that, I just sleep through it. (Well it’s not like I have to work, ha!).

Know what will help you get through the day and put your rescue plan in place. Because once you take each day at a time, before you know it you’ve survived the week and then in no time, you’ve survived the month. And in order to be ready for rescue, first we have to survive.

Be Ready for Rescue
Keep a sense of normalcy. Set your alarm and wake at the regular time (or a new slightly delayed ‘regular’ time, it’s your right), shower and dress and start doing something. Keep a schedule. Have set meal and sleep times and keep writing ‘to do’ lists. If nothing else, write the list of things you need to do. This does wonders to help you feel you’re doing something during this time when you seemingly have nothing to do. It doesn’t have to be rocket science, it can be ‘water plants’, ‘watch Passport 246’ or ‘call Mum’, but when you cross it off your list, it’s a minor victory. All the little wins make for a very productive week. And a good week makes for a happier you.

Did you jog, stretch, dance, skip or hula hoop today? Your emotional state is linked to your physical state, so cheer yourself up and keep moving. The miners danced, you can too. What you do is not nearly as important as how long you do it for. I’m not a certified personal trainer so I won’t advise you on this in detail, other than to tell you, have fun with whatever you’re doing. That way you’ll stick to it and you’re more likely to do more of it. And by the way, I’m challenging you to hula hoop longer than I do, (yes you) but we can discuss that later.

Finally, (this is the really hard one) you have to stay positive. Didn’t you choke back an emotional tear when the miners sang the Chilean anthem and even cracked jokes? That sure motivated me. Family and friends can motivate too, so stay surrounded by positive people. An unemployment support group is great, but an over-caffeinated friend hyped on the last episode ANTM is better. I had lunch today with a wonderful friend and by the time dessert rolled around I was grinning and smiling and ready to conquer the world (again). Be ready for your rescue. I’m ready for mine. When your next job rolls around be ready to give it all you’ve got in every way. There are 10 other people who can do your job, (so they say) but you are the only one who can do it with your spirit.

One last thing. (I know I said finally before, but this is really it). It’s not part of the rescue effort but it will help make the world a better place. When you do land your next big job (and you will), remember to say thank you to all the people who rescued you. The ones who came down the chamber and waited in the mine, the ones who pulled the ropes, or just held your hand, those who hugged you when you needed it or gave you a meal, who helped you to your feet and shed a tear or two with you. All the people who directly and indirectly lead you to that better place where the sun shines, when it finally stops raining, remember to say thank you.

It still rains for me, but it won’t always. My rescue plan is in effect and I’m looking forward to coming up from the mine. You should know if you’re reading this, even now, you are part of my rescue. And to you, all of you, I’d like to say thanks. Thanks. And cheers! Here’s looking forward to sunshine. See you in the sun.

Reference: Global unemployment statistics – BBC News
Note: ANTM – America’s Next Top Model