Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Reaching Out

Its easy, when you've been unemployed for a long period of time, to take a negative viewpoint on many things. People become soured about the controlling political power not providing jobs, become soured over their inability to buy, become soured over the news reports that seem to indicate that the economy is improving when, in fact, nobody they know sees it.

I can’t say I’m jumping for joy that I’ve been out of work for more than 8 months now. I can’t say that I’m elated that out of the uncountable attempts to find work, it hasn’t even resulted in one interview. Note, I didn't say a positive interview or a negative interview.  Just an interview, period!

When I first lost my job, I did a meet-n-greet with one particular agency that gave me the impression they’d have me working in less than two weeks. Now I can’t even get them to return my calls. I was told by the agent that my skills were very refined and there was not much competition in the market. My knowledge of MS-Excel is so extensive that I’m probably in the upper 10-percentile meaning that few can match my knowledge. I know that while I was employed at AT&T, no one in my team of over 400 had the knowledge I did. I was called on to fix even VBA routines that others had written and was “broken.” At one point, my boss was so impressed that she had people from other organizations within AT&T contacting me to assist them with problems. I really felt valued. So it has been a bit of a shock that I haven’t found work yet.

I've joked about becoming a greeter at Wal-Mart. But then I’m probably too young (at 60). (Yes, that was my weak attempt at finding humor in a sad situation.)

My age is one thing. It seems no one wants a person in my age bracket. Employers can hire much younger individuals for much less money and intimidate them into producing the output they want. Folks my age and with my experience-level don’t tolerate that treatment. But then, from what I am seeing of the present economy, there is no particular age group that is immune from being members of the unemployed ranks.

However, in my case, my age is not the only thing. I have CLL (the least aggressive form of leukemia). When I was first diagnosed in October of 2010, I was told they discovered the disease in the very early stages and that even without treatment, I’d still have another dozen or so years of life. More than year later, after bi-monthly blood tests, the condition is worsening ever-so-slightly. There are days when I have such bad dizzy spells that I need to lay down and rest. There are mornings that I wake up completely soaked from profuse night-sweats (both are symptoms of the condition). Still, the oncologist feels I am only at the very beginning of the condition and says he plans no treatments of any sort nor has he prescribed any meds for the condition.

Given my symptoms, I sense that it is unlikely I could hold down another typical Monday thru Friday, 8-hours-a-day job. I know I need to try. I’ve tried earnestly to find something that would allow me to work from home—all to no avail. There is one possible opportunity, but even if it works out, the potential for earning a living will be a very slow-growth situation. I know a CPA whose customers are mostly small businesses that use Excel but not as proficiently as they could. After learning of my skills, this CPA felt we could work together to develop a mutually beneficial partnership. It sounds like it is exactly what I need. But even after a couple months of working together, I’ve barely generated enough for a dinner-for-two at a moderately priced restaurant. It’s nobody’s fault. He’s just very busy with his CPA work.

So what’s the bottom line, after all this reflection? As I started out saying, people can become very negative. I've found that feeling sorry for myself, feeling anger about being laid off, feeling frustration over not finding work is counterproductive and self destructive. I’ve realized that focusing inward is not the solution. I’ve kept myself busy reaching people with the Bible’s message. I find in my outreach efforts, that there are plenty of people that are much worse off than I am—mostly because of all the things that are and are not going right in their lives, the one thing that is really damaging them is their lack of understanding from a spiritual perspective. In contrast, my faith in Jehovah, the God of the Bible, and his son Jesus Christ is unwavering. Even though the situations with my unemployment and my health are discouraging, I at least have a well-anchored belief that I can intelligently converse over. This alone I feel has kept me grounded with a positive frame of mind.

But even those without faith might be able to glean something from my ramblings—try community work of some sort. It can be rewarding and restore a degree of self-worth.

Why do I share these reflections? I hope that by doing so it may touch someone, anyone, that is looking to make some sense of the times we are living in.

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