I Can’t Afford It
I’ve been out of work for over a year now. It’s been more good than bad.
My office closed, and two weeks later, there I was. I was looking for a job for the first time in 13 years. Not getting all the jobs for which I interviewed for the first time. Oh, wait, maybe the second time. I had interviewed for one that I didn’t get one time. It was forgettable.
Yes, losing my job was a surprise, though perhaps it shouldn’t have been. It often happens in my industry (insurance/employee benefits). Many of my friends had lost jobs, and I had been fortunate to retain mine through those years.
The old notion “if you work hard and are good at your job, you’ll always work” doesn’t always apply these days.
I received severance and then collected unemployment. Going into this I had no debt other than my house payment. I also had some savings. I slowly started cutting back the unessential.
One of the first things to go was my cable TV and house phone. I rarely watched TV, and only have ancient ones at that, so it wasn’t significant to me. When I mentioned it, a few people looked a bit horrified. How can a person live without TV? Easily. Though it smarts a bit when it is Super Bowl Sunday, and you stay at home. Poor planning on my part. I had plenty of places I could have watched it. I was introverting.
I cut back my budget and eliminated many things but didn’t have to change my lifestyle majorly. I even went on a few trips. Not essential to most people, but to me they are. Traveling is one of my priorities and each trip was carefully weighed and budgeted. They preserved my sanity and helped me not feel as though I was wasting a year of my life.
I could feel some confusion and judgment when I went to Wales in November, but I waited over a year for this trip. We had concert tickets, purchased the year before. Other than my plane fare, expenses were minimal. I stayed with a cousin and my wonderful family and friends there fed and entertained me. It was a special time. I had no qualms, no regrets.
But as time goes on, the available funds deteriorate and the budget gets cut more and more. I haven’t stopped eating out entirely since so much social life surrounds it, but I don’t do it without thought. I order carefully to get the most value. Budgeting is nothing new for me, though. I’ve always been one for a good value. My friends and family have graciously grabbed bills and paid for me, on occasion, or have called with invitations telling me upfront they are paying. Some reminded me I had done it for them many times in the past. I had forgotten.
I learned the lesson of receiving in the past few years, mostly from telling others of the importance. Sometimes when we refuse to receive, we keep people from the pleasure of giving. I have had to eat my own words, accept, and say “thank you.”
I’ve reviewed insurance policies, put my gym membership on hold, and shop only rarely. Mostly it is for groceries. I eat most meals at home and cook soups and such that I enjoy for days at a time.
But there are things to which I must say no. I can’t do the things I did in the past. That doesn’t bother me. It’s life. If you haven’t earned it, you shouldn’t spend it. I’ve believed in that concept for a while.
But I have realized that the phrase “I’m sorry, I can’t afford it” is not only foreign to most, but can be even horrifying when you say it publicly when you are with them. I giggle inwardly at some of the expressions people get on their faces. They are embarrassed for me. I’m college-educated, middle-class, and was an Assistant Vice President at my former company. I believe they think it is beneath me. I don’t think anything is beneath me.
Day one of losing my job, I did the reality check. I knew that whatever happened, I would be fine. If I lose all my stuff, it’s just stuff. Many friends and family have said, “You can always move in with me.” My mother especially loves the idea. She forgets what my teenage years were like and that she isn’t always thrilled that I became the independent woman she raised. I don’t plan on moving in with anyone, though the sale of my house remains on the table.
I never thought it would take this long to find a job. My desire for a company culture that fits me is a part of the problem. I’ve grown to accept that my age and my salary and the idea of me commuting where work is available also impacts. While I thought I could move and haven’t ruled it out, my mother’s dementia appears to be escalating. While my siblings are supportive of me, whatever I decide to do, it feels less and less like moving now is the right thing to do.
So I’ll continue to fill out the endless applications, go through the interview cycle, and probably have a few more heartbreaks like the recent one where I didn’t get the job for which I interviewed four months and felt an offer was imminent. The needs changed for the position in a couple of days after our last interview, after that long interview process where they seemed sure of their needs. It isn’t the first time that has happened, but it hurt the most.
But while I want a job, I don’t feel sorry for myself having to live a more meager lifestyle until I get one. You shouldn’t feel sorry for me either.. I’m good with a bowl of soup, a book, and perhaps some great conversation. Life is still so very good without the frills. I promise.
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Kim McKinney loves great stories and storytellers, listening to live music, hiking, and chasing hot air balloons. She does not enjoy job hunting in today’s world.