Unemployment is the birthday present I’ve always dreamed about

Being unemployed on my birthday is kind of a downer. I’m just sayin’… for anybody pondering unemployment as a celebration activity. Go with a nice dinner and a cake, or maybe a weekend in Vegas. Don’t get me wrong, there are some upsides – more time, less work, fewer responsibilities. But there’s also one major downside – less money. And don’t forget that sinking useless feeling, that little voice that keeps going, “pss, pss, you suck, get a job, loser.” He’s a fun one to have along for the ride.

My birthday fell on a weekend this year, which would have been a day off anyway. And wifey picked up the tab, so it’s not my money. Of course, since we’re married, it kind of is. This wasn’t a milestone birthday; the late 30s all kind of feel the same. Age is catching up to me, though I still look reasonably young on top of the accumulating aches and pains. Still retirement and an easy life of panhandling to supplement my 401K losses is decades away.

The day was relaxing and enjoyable, if cold and rainy. I slept in a little and then did a whole lot of nothing around the apartment. Wifey went to a baby shower, and I fielded phone calls from family members. The first came from one of my brothers, who just happened to call that morning because he was bored. He figured out, with some prompting, that it was my birthday and, after hanging up, called the rest of my family to remind them. Some already knew. Others, having genes similar to mine, needed the reminder.

A couple hours later, I went off to the movies by myself. I Love You, Man wasn’t going to just see itself, and no one else wanted to go. Seeing a matinee on the weekend is a totally different experience from seeing one during the week. It feels decadent rather than depressing and pathetic. (Whatever, leave me alone! I can rationalize all I want. It was my birthday.) Everyone in Queens was waiting in line to buy a ticket from one person behind the counter. All the families made me worry that kids would soon be running up and down the aisles in my theater screaming at each other. But our good friends in Hollywood had much crappier fare to attract the parents’ hard-earned dollars. My theater was mercifully empty, except for the Whooping Cough guy.

I laughed, I cried. Then I went for a salad to get me through to the tasty dinner in my future. The location was still a secret, but knowing wifey, it would be very good. From there I wandered back home, stopping off for coffee at the cafe that banished me with locks on its electrical outlets. I cursed them while handing over my $2.

The rest of the afternoon was quiet. I can’t tell you what I did, because I don’t remember, not because I’d have to kill you. Maybe I watched TV. Maybe I played video games. Maybe I watched TV with the intention of playing video games, but never got around to the video game part. Cable can do that to a guy.

Fancy Manhattan dinner at Craft was the highlight of the day, and probably will be the lowlight of my wife’s credit card statement next month. Letting loose is worth it once in awhile. It’s not everyday you get older (or maybe it is, I skipped that class). Birthdays are supposed to be special, so why not splurge? We ordered the tasting menu, which meant more food came out in smaller portions over a longer period of time. This is how dinner should be. When I’m rich, I’m hiring Craft to feed me every day. Maybe breakfast would be a cereal tasting menu…

My birthday was a two-parter, the second half of which happened a few days later. Wifey secured tickets to the Flight of the Conchords show at Radio City Music Hall. Hi-lar-i-ous! Most of the songs were from the show’s first season, which I’ve seen. Despite the guys behind us explaining the finer points of the live concert experience (the show isn’t over until the house lights come on, who knew?), I had a wonderful time. Thinking back, some of the jokes still make me laugh.

I forgot all about unemployment during the birthday festivities, which took some effort. But now it’s back to my regularly scheduled life. Days run together, and progress is slow. Passing another birthday without a job is starting to weigh heavily on me. I’m questioning everything. My job search doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, no matter what I try. There has to be something somewhere. I just haven’t found it. And I’m kind of at a loss.

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  1. Imee wrote:

    Aww, that has to suck. It’s okay though, it’s the recession. Jobs are getting more and more difficult to come by. I know someone who’s been through nearly the same thing as you. He now works at a 7-eleven but he’s okay with it. You’ll find something. Good luck!

    Friday, April 17, 2009 at 4:04 am | Permalink
  2. edie wrote:

    well, i’m glad you had a nice birthday, but…you’re in your late 30s and you’re “accumulating aches and pains?” C’mon! Get real. I’m 49 and believe me, you don’t have aches and pains. Unless like, you’re a former weightlifter or something.Now that’s what i call feeling sorry for yourself.

    Friday, April 17, 2009 at 5:02 pm | Permalink
  3. Norm wrote:

    Thanks for calling me on that. I was letting the pity party get a little out of control. I do have a few aches and pains; I played a lot of sports when I was younger. But it’s nothing I should complain about.

    Friday, April 17, 2009 at 5:25 pm | Permalink
  4. thomas wrote:

    Norm,you are a young man for Gods sake!You have a loving wife,an MBA and a college degree!Compared to a lot of us suckers,your looking pretty good!

    Friday, April 17, 2009 at 6:34 pm | Permalink
  5. Dave wrote:

    Know the feeling. As a technical editor/writer working mostly in Silicon Valley, my career has looked like the E-ticket roller-coaster rides… I wonder what ever happened to the careers that one could have at *one* company that would nurture and take care of you while you worked your way up the ladder–those mythical companies that our parents told us to study hard in school, attend college, and get a good job in?… I don’t think they ever existed (although if you watched enough TV, you might think they did). Nope… being unemployed sucks. Big time. Being “entrepreneurial” is about our only option. We have to market ourselves, our talents, our skills, our crafts… and perhaps, like Guerrilla Marketers–we’ll get some gigs. Our whole U.S. economy is now turning into the “gig” mentality. Not a good omen. Thanks for your insightful post… I know your feeling–I’ve been there, and done that.

    Monday, April 20, 2009 at 9:04 pm | Permalink
  6. Patte wrote:

    Norm, you know I love you but please stop calling your wife, “Wifey”!!

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 1:00 pm | Permalink
  7. Norm wrote:

    Patte–I actually started as a response to her jokingly calling me hubby. It’s all in good fun. She doesn’t mind the nickname actually, though I rarely use it outside of the blog.

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 2:05 pm | Permalink
  8. amanda wrote:

    Yeah, I kinda like it. Maybe it’ll get old once we’re no longer newlyweds, but for now it’s just fine.

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Permalink
  9. MBDH wrote:

    3:27 a.m. Had a meltdown early this evening, the kind of death sob that gripped me in December when my mom passed away. Why, I ask, am I feeling this way. Then I realize, “Oh yeah! The bumpers are gone!” ‘What bumpers?’ you may ask. The bumpers that stood between myself and homelessness,

    My story starts with a brain injury (my Mom) in 2004 that rendered her an invalid whom was taken care of at home by my siblings and I, each as we could. Since she lived in a different state, all of us spent hoards of money over the past four years that we didn’t have or should not have been spending. Much to my horror, I discovered that, when we go through a crisis that depletes our financial resources, the money does not magically email itself back into our account when the crisis is abated.

    Quite the contrary! The real terror has just begun! Back then, when Mom was alive, at the very least, I could have lived with her and taken care of her rather than look and feel like an unemployed loser. But who can hold a job when they must leave state for month long shifts every 4-5 months? For the first year, Mom was in a state where we, nor she, knew nobody. That meant hotels and eventually renting an apartment.

    During that four years was my divorce. Everyone told me to start stashing cash and hiding assets. Why would I want to lie, or be such a greedy schmuck? Instead, I took all debts in my name and any that were joint with my spouse and began paying them off. Business debts. I paid off over $300,000 of lines of credits, mortgages and credit cards that were used strictly for business, and now to go care for mom. While well-meaning and irresponsible friends begged me to stop paying things off and stash my cash, I continued paying off, dreaming of the day I would be debt free and living off the profits of my business.

    Then divorce court. To make a long story short, all money that I made was to be split. However, I had a sucky lawyer who never looked at the case until we entered court. The $300,000 plus that was used to pay off bills was not taken into account. Therefore, the $14,000 left that he had in his own name, I was left to split that with him and give half of everything else – which was literally nothing because I had spent it all on debt. No lush vacations, pedicures, boob jobs, or liposuction. Not even new clothes. I had so lived in the dream that I never saw what would hit me in court.

    With a Masters degree, being half way through a PH.D. and over a year of job hunting, here I am at 3:41 a.m. May 1, 2009, realizing that my life has amounted to nothing. I feel myself being sucked into loserhood, something that is foreign to me as my cup has always been half full.

    But what is it that makes the difference? How, after 46 years and over 20 years of corporate administrative experience did my cup become half empty? I thought and thought. Then I realized, the bumpers are gone. Like driving a car with no shocks.

    In the past, I thought I was near homeless. But there was always a way to shake money from the trees. Rent a property, take on a cleaning job, sell something on Craigslist, and, if really desperate, ya know those shingles that blew off the roof last year? There was just another storm and NOW is the time to call and make a claim.

    However, all my valuables are sold in hopes of relocating and starting a better life. My life is better. Being homeless in the south would be much better than be homeless in the freezing ass, dark, dank, north. However, all those things that insulated me from stress. The cash in the bank that enabled me to get a new brake job. The extra cash after bills were paid to go buy an outfit to replace the worn and tattered one. The cash to get my hair done, look modern, updated and marketable – both to a quality man who is not a loser and for a job.

    I’m realizing how one could spiral down. I hear the breaks in my beautiful car squealing when I use them, yet I can’t afford to replace them. Is this how people end up with “white-trash” mobiles? My computer, like the previous writer, is butt-ass slow, but I can’t afford to get that fixed. My hair has roots and I can’t do anything about it. It is only a matter of time before I get desperate and do my own color and cut job, totally confirming to others what a loser I am – with that yellow hair and chopped, uneven cut.

    I even went to the thrift store and, I swear, the clothes were one’s that I donated years ago, in a state 1000 miles away.

    So, hear I am. 3:50 a.m. now. Looking out at the beautiful live oaks and wondering if they have any money up in there that I can shake out of them. I wonder what the neighbors will think of my out there in the middle of the night, in my nightgown, shaking down the trees. The bumpers are gone. The bruises are worse. Without the bumpers – that we all so take for granted until they are gone – life’s bumps and grinds will batter you to a pulp. No wonder why the people we see on park benches have given up. Their bumpers are gone and life has beat them up.

    I just need a frigging job!

    Friday, May 1, 2009 at 4:56 am | Permalink
  10. Norm wrote:

    Hello MBDH–I’m really sorry to learn of your situation. I felt humbled reading your comment and thought about it all yesterday. I delayed responding because I didn’t want to sound trite; your situation is so far beyond my experience. I didn’t come up with any magic solution for you. I did try. The best I can offer is to stay out here in Internet-land, writing about my own situation. Maybe my words can offer you and others some small amount of support, or at least a short break from reality. Good luck. It seems like you’re overdue for some.


    Saturday, May 2, 2009 at 11:30 am | Permalink

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. JoblessandLess (Norm Elrod) on Friday, April 17, 2009 at 4:06 am

    New blog post: Unemployment is the birthday present I’ve always dreamed about http://tinyurl.com/dgfp62

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