Nothing like becoming an adult than watching those around you become victims of the economy while you're still struggling to regain your own sense of working self. A year ago we all imagined that now we'd be in a place populated with jobs, money, and options.
Ok.Slight fabrication. We knew that the world changed. The adulthood we expected wasn't there anymore. A year wasn't going make any magical overnight changes to the economy and trees weren't going to grow gummy bears. That didn't mean we weren't hopeful for the end of layoffs, uncertainty and lower rent. Don't judge, I still wish on stars for lower rent. It may happen.
I've been watching a number of close friends who've been laid off close to a year now struggle. Struggle in the same ways I had and struggle in different ways that I can't understand. I feel like my soccer coach from when I was kid watching from the sidelines trying to keep us invested in the game and looking at the larger picture. The ball may be going here at this second, but where will it go next?
I confess, I only played one season and I was more interested in picking grass and playing in the net than kicking a ball down the field. Watching people you are friends with struggle is harder than going through it yourself. When I was unemployed I was in my head. I controlled the situation and could bring myself out of my own self-described deprecation, but now I'm back on the other side and as I so eloquently first stated there are things you never tell an unemployed person. What can a former unemployed friend do from the sidelines?
- Follow up - Like any good coach, check in with your unemployed friend. I personally try to avoid talk of jobs, applications and money only because I try to respect someone's boundaries, but honestly, some people need to be pressed and forced to open up.
- Be available - My coach used to run up and down the field along side us (or so I imagine, I was like six at the time). He didn't always interrupt play, but was there, and available, at crucial times. It's not always having the right thing to say, but being there to listen.
- Show support - It's a pat on the back or a hug, but mostly it's a genuine interest in how your friend is doing and supporting them during their ups and downs.
One of the hardest things to deal with about my unemployed friends is my own personal desire to scream I've been there. Listen to me! I have all the answers in the universe. Seriously, it's like this overwhelming desire to sit on a sofa and talk about my unemployment and tell them what they can do, what I've done and how it can all right in the end. I can't though. When you're there, in unemployment, you know you're not alone, but at the same time your situation is unique to you. It's hard to hearing but the thoughts inside your head.
It's been a year and we all have places we thought we'd be and persons we'd become and things we would be doing. We take what we can and we reboot. Something I've learned is that taking a step back doesn't mean failure. It's a chance to regain composure, refine your skill set and breathe. As for the rest of this year, I'm not counting on gummy bear trees or salt licks that won't kill me prematurely. I just want to survive and retain my sense of humor. I'll keep the unhealthy salt lick for that.