All Articles Tagged "unemployment"
I was oozing with agony as I packed up all my belongings and walked out of the doors of my former job into the crisp September air last year. One word kept ringing in my ears: “Fired.”
What was I going to do?
I’d just bit off more than I could chew with a brand new apartment. It was my first place; sunken living room with a patio and huge master bedroom for me and my pit bull puppy to enjoy. My best friend had moved in after her lease ended and she was unemployed. I’d been taking care of everything with my call center job, and although I hated every minute of it, the biweekly $1200 check made ends meet every time.
Now that all was gone.
Not even a full week after I lost my job, my best friend jumped ship and moved in with another friend who didn’t expect her to pay any rent. And I was on my own, aimlessly trying to put together a plan to get back on my feet and take care of my responsibilities.
For months, my job became finding a job. Every minute of every day spent submitting application after application. From fast food jobs to occupations in my career field, I had no luck. Instead, what I had was email after email detailing how they’d went with another candidate time and time again.
During the time I’d been working at the call center and afterward, I’d worked part-time as an assistant for a close friend of mine. He was a Hip-Hop artist and producer and, through my work with him, I was slowly but surely able to land small internships and opportunities with a broad range of PR firms.
When I lost my job, I’d been working freelance in public relations for a little over two years. My contact list had grown to over 1500 connections with media experts, writers, editors and journalists across the world. Despite being fired, these relationships I’d built with entertainment industry professionals and writers still stood firm.
My friend encouraged me to use the skills I had to start building a revenue stream. After all, what did I have to lose? Months had passed and still no stable employment had been secured. Applying for jobs left me at my wit’s end, but instead of giving up, I changed my focus entirely.
Instead of looking for a new boss, I’d become my own.
I began spending hours researching ways to build my own public relations firm. I’d spent years interning virtually for PR companies and with my extensive background in writing and journalism, entertainment public relations had become a niche I fit into with ease.
Within a few weeks, I had established myself as a full-fledged business owner. I secured my official LLC business certification and registered my company with the state of Missouri. Instead of wasting all my time investing in dead-end job applications, I was dedicated to investing in the advancement of myself.
And the outcome was extreme success.
Hours were spent laboring over my computer; posting countless ads on Craigslist, creating accounts on Angie’s List and other online business marketing platforms. After investing a small amount of money into a Facebook ad campaign, my phone began ringing off of the hook. Small business owners and burgeoning musicians were calling from all over inquiring about the services I offered.
And with the calls came the cash, money rolling in after paid consultations and monthly resource packages.
But with the money came many problems.
See, I wasn’t used to being my own boss. And although I had an entrepreneurial mindset, I was accustomed to working for someone else. Finding the balance between investing back into the business and maintaining everyday life necessities became an issue. Not to mention that I struggled trying to figure out what to reinvest in.
There always seemed to be a sacrificial point. Reinvesting into the business to make my brand stronger and more reliable resulted in a bill being unpaid or a lack of groceries in the house. Paying every bill on time ended in pushing back the new website design or the chance for a greater ad campaign yielding more customers.
There was no give and take. There just never seemed to be enough money to go around.
The summer months brought a slew of entertainment clients all looking to obtain press opportunities for their music and respective brands. However, most didn’t have enough of a budget to sustain an actual PR campaign. I would send out thousands of lead emails per day, with maybe two of those turning into actual clients in the long run.
I was overrun with frustration. The only feasible way to sustain my business and my lifestyle was to bring on more and more clientele. But I was a team of one and the fear of being unable to deliver results to a mass clientele kept me from taking on a heftier workload. I didn’t want my brand to suffer because I wasn’t able to care for an increased number of clients.
I decided to strategize, hoping that by maintaining the clients I had now I could retain a certain level of income. But as contracts came to an end, so did individual funds. Everyone seemed to be having financial difficulty, and public relations wasn’t a necessity. So it was an easy expense to cut. Client after client decided not to renew their contracts with me.
No clients and dwindling cash. I was back at square one.
Looking back, there are many things I would’ve done differently to make the beginning phases of my business better.
The first thing is capital. Having a set amount of funds available prior to starting my business would’ve set me up for more success. By dividing funds between business and personal expenses, I spread myself extremely thin. Not to mention, I had no idea how to reinvest into my business to make the money grow. I was just spending.
Although I attended a few seminars with the Small Business Association’s SCORE program, I had no prior knowledge of how to start and maintain a business. While there was a demand for the product I offered, getting my brand in front of the masses and winning their business over the competition was difficult because I had no realistic idea as to how to do so.
Repeated failed attempts led me to my decision to rethink my business plan and reevaluate the best way to move forward towards success.
No matter what my ups and downs have been, I’d encourage anyone to venture out on faith and start their own business. By doing so myself, I took control of my own destiny and invested in my dreams instead of building someone else’s. And I don’t regret doing so. However, the key to success is not only in the leap of faith but in the cushion you’ve placed securely on the ground to catch you after you jump.
During a time when the job market is stagnant and Americans are simply unemployed or underemployed, one woman found a way to land herself numerous interviews and job offers.
Carrie Kemeling, 28, quit her job on Saturday (Aug. 15), and by Monday (Aug. 17) she had an interview and 13 different employers offering her a position. So, how did she do it? Here’s a hint: she didn’t use trusty LinkedIn.
Kemeling took an unusual approach to her job search this time around, standing by a busy exit ramp off of a highway in Buffalo, New York with a sign that read: “Not Homeless but Hungry for success. Take a resume”
“I wanted to do something different; instead of just emailing a piece of my work history or dropping my résumé off on somebody’s desk,” she told Buffalo News.
“I’m just trying to get my word out to as many people as possible to show my creativity and innovation, and you know hopefully, I can find something that will make me happy. If people can give money to somebody who is homeless and not looking for work, they can also help someone who is trying to help themselves,” she said. “I believe this is going to be a success story. People want to see self-motivation. And I’m not giving up on myself and never will.” she sai.
On Friday (Aug. 15), before Kemeling quit her job at a local jewelers due to being passed for a promotion, she stood on the pedestrian crossing island passing out her résumé to 20 people and 50 more that following Monday.
“Even though I had a job, I’m still looking for better and I know I’m better,” she said. “I’m looking to find a company who is willing to invest in me and I’m investing in them as well. I’m really extremely trainable.She said she’d been “looking to advance myself for the past year. I sent résumés but didn’t get a response. So now I have the time to stand here and actually put myself out there. If I’m going to give my résumé to someone, I want to give it to someone who wants it.” she said.
The Buffalo Niagara region has been adding jobs at an average pace of 1.4 percent through the first four months of this year, nearly double the growth rate from all of 2014. After receiving a dozen employers offering positions, including the temp agency, a shredding company and an online startup, Kemeling plans to return to the Thruway exit and see what luck she’ll have.
“I want to keep my options open,” she said. “I want to give other candidates a chance. There might be others out there who are interested in hiring me.”
“Your position is being eliminated.”
My boss’ words seemed to hover in the air of our conference room for a few seconds before finally setting in. I had just returned from a business trip in Vegas. I walked into work expecting to carry on the usual day-to-day grind, but instead walked out with a tote bag full of my desk supplies and the reality that my job of only five months was being snatched from underneath me. Without even an inkling of what to do next, I was being shoved back into wilderness, officially jobless.
I felt as though my intuition had failed me. How could I not see this coming? I worked 10-, sometimes 12-hour days for a merciless boss who was notorious for being tough on new employees. I got along with all of my coworkers and always raised my hand for more responsibility. For all intents and purposes, I had proved myself. What had I done wrong? The initial sting of being let go is never easy to stomach, but after a few yoga sessions, a bottle of wine and some much-needed mornings sleeping in, being unemployed started to feel more like I had been gifted with an extended mental health break and less like some practical joke the universe was playing on me. I started jokingly calling myself FUN-employed to friends and family who tried to shower me with sympathy while not fully grasping how I could be taking it so well.
Fast forward six months later… I am STILL unemployed (I know, not the twist you were expecting). Most people who hear that assume that I’ve either had an uphill battle finding work or I’ve been dragging my feet to get a real job. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Getting laid off was the perfectly timed roadblock that appeared right when I needed to start asking myself the tough questions. I had a career, but was I happy? I had a way to pay my bills, but did it excite me to get out of bed each morning? Would I return to my old profession for financial security or finally take a leap of faith and delve into my passion for writing?
After sifting through advice from tons of friends, old colleagues and my parents (who, as you can imagine, pushed the idea of me getting a stable 9-to-5) I felt more confused than ever. I was looking outwardly for the answer that only I could provide. I finally decided there was no better time to start activating my passion and letting hard work and relentlessness cultivate it into something more. During the last six months, I’ve laughed, cried, gone to museums, devoted at least one hour a day to my writing, bartended, worked on my blog, watched tons of new shows, networked, tried new recipes, spent random Tuesday mornings watching the sun come up on my roof, spent time with distant family and lived. Yes, truly LIVED without full-time responsibilities to lean on as excuses. I can honestly say the past six months I’ve had to mentally de-clutter have been the most fulfilling of my life. And I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you what these last unpredictable yet thrilling six months have taught me.
Money Isn’t Everything
As cliché as that statement is, I’d like to think that my joy is proof of its validity. When I was working, I could afford to shop and go out to eat much more frequently. But in retrospect my frivolous spending was a Band-Aid to cope with being verbally abused and sabotaged at work with few days off. Now, when I meet up with old friends and family, they smile and say, “You look good.” No, I haven’t lost weight or done anything different with my hair. I am smiling, my personality is vibrant and upbeat, and for once it isn’t a front. It comes from a genuine place of happiness within. You simply can’t buy that.
Time Is The Only Luxury
Though his self-obsessed antics can be eye-roll inducing, Kanye West said it best when he said that time is our only luxury. Having no job and no place to be, it was tempting to sleep until 1pm and lounge around in my PJs while surfing the Internet all day (granted, there were days when I did). But I decided to create a schedule for myself. I would get out of bed at a decent time, flip through my Rolodex of contacts and network. I sent emails to editors I used to freelance for. I’d pitch editors I didn’t know to introduce myself. I wanted to do something each day that would move me closer to my dream and I realized that in doing so, I would gradually see a return on the time I invested.
The More Seeds You Plant, The More Abundant Your Garden
Many people, including myself, never see their goals through to completion because we get so impatient with the process. Unless results appear right now, we quit. Unemployment awakened a beast in me that learned to be persistent without being annoying, that learned to pry open a window when one door closed. Every time I asked for what I wanted, whether a job or freelance assignment, I received it or was redirected to someone that could help. I applied to tons of jobs that I truly wanted and would keep applying even when I heard nothing back or knew that I wasn’t fully qualified. Now, each time I open my inbox, I receive a reply that I never thought I’d get. Can you imagine getting an email months after you thought you’d been rejected saying, “We reviewed your application and want to speak with you further?” The seeds that I planted have finally sprouted. The lesson here is, the more you try, the better your chances are of winning. In a sea of “no’s” there could be one “yes” waiting on you. You just have to keep swimming.
Employees clung to their jobs during the recession despite their dissatisfaction for fear of long-term unemployment. But with a recovering economy, workers are quitting in droves, MarketWatch reports. Sayonara, boss!
Demonstrating confidence in the economy, more employees are saying “I quit!” nowadays at a seven-year high, according to a U.S. Department of Labor report. Nearly three million workers quit their jobs in March; this is the most since April 2008 and up 15 percent from the year prior. It’s a sign that workers are confident that they can find a more stable career.
“Fundamentals remain strong,” economists with Wells Fargo Securities wrote in a research note. “Rising quits should support real wage growth going forward.”
Workers’ optimism is matched by employers, too. The number of hires climbed to 5.07 million; that’s up seven percent from the year before. The good news follows last week’s report, which announced that the unemployment rate dropped to a seven-year low in April. The U.S. created 223,000 new jobs that month. Average hourly pay also saw a slight bump of .01 percent to $24.87 an hour.
Zooming in on African Americans, according to The Kansas City Star, Blacks have made notable gains in jobs. “The unemployment rate for whites has held flat at 4.7 percent. But for blacks? It’s fallen from 10.4 percent to 9.6 percent, hitting single digits for the first time in the recovery,” the paper says.
Valerie Wilson, an economist and director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy (PREE), predicted that the Black unemployment rate would hit the single digits by mid-2015 — and she was right.
This is marvelous news. The Great Recession plunged the Black unemployment to its highest rate ever since 1984 and it is a relief to finally see promising job figures for African Americans.
But there is still some work to be done. Experts say that to strengthen the job market, employers need to offer higher wages to attract and maintain workers.
“You only saw a modest increase in wages,” senior economist Jennifer Lee of BMO Capital Markets told MarketWatch. “We need to see bigger gains.”
It’s lookin’ real good out there for job hunters. The economy is showing signs of rejuvenation with more than 250,000 jobs injected into the market, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate, Business Insider reports, dipped from 5.7 percent to 5.5 percent.
The total number of unemployed Americans dropped from 9 million to 8.7 million, and the jobless rate is the lowest it has been since May 2008.
For 12 consecutive months, the economy has been adding at least 200,000 jobs each month. And over the past three months, job gains averaged 288,000 per month. Not bad!
The job gains sprouted from food and drinking sectors, business and professional services, construction, transportation, warehousing and healthcare. Other major industries, such as wholesale trade, information, government, and financial activities, saw inconsequential change over the month of February.
Zooming in on African-Americans however, the jobless rate stubbornly remained at 10.4 percent, according to Consumer Affairs. A recent New York Times article even noted that “simply being black makes it harder to find a job.” Progress in employment for Blacks, the NYT adds, can happen if hindering barriers are knocked down:
“It is possible stronger growth would have even larger benefits for black workers, by eroding the importance of the various structural obstacles that have historically made it harder for them to find jobs.”
The NYT also points out that Black workers’ resumes, on average, are less competitive because they’re more likely to have been incarcerated — this can be attributed to living in lower-income communities where it’s much easier to have a run-in with law enforcement.
“Living in these places may also make it harder for workers to obtain a good education.”
The unemployment rate for other major groups, white (five percent), Asians (four percent) and Hispanics (seven percent) remained stagnant as well — except for teenagers. Adolescents saw their jobless rate dip down by 1.7 percentage points to 17.1 percent in February.
The average hourly earnings for all workers on private payrolls rose by three pennies to $24.78.
January’s jobs report, for comparison, initially reported an addition of 257,000 jobs, but that figure has since been revised to 237,000.
From a big picture perspective, last week’s jobs report, which boasted a 5.8 to 5.6 percent drop in unemployment — sounds pretty inspiring. It is, after all, the lowest unemployment rate since June 2008, before the Great Recession. But zooming in on the Black jobless rate, that figure is nearly twice the national average at 10.4 percent. Worry not, though — there is hope! Analysts foresee a single-digit jobless rate on the horizon.
According to BlackVoiceNews, Black Americans may see the unemployment rate dip down below 10 percent by mid-2015.
“If the same trends in the labor force participation rate and the decline in the unemployment rate that we saw in 2014 continue into 2015, the Black unemployment rate should get down to the single digits by the middle of this year,” said Wilson, director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy (PREE) at Economic Policy Institute.
Wilson analyzed the labor force participation rate, which includes those who are currently working or actively looking for a job, and the employment-population ratio. “She found that Blacks had the biggest increase in both measures from December 2013 to December 2014,” BlackVoiceNews wrote.
Though the Black unemployment rate still hovers at a disheartening double-digit percentage, it did decrease from 11 percent in November and 11.8 percent from the year prior. Focusing on the labor force performance of Black women over the age of 20, BlackVoiceNews notes a decrease from 9.5 percent in November to 8.2 percent in December. For comparison, White women saw their jobless rate slide from 4.5 percent to 4.4 during the same period.
As for Black men over the age of 20, the unemployment rate trickled down from 11.2 percent to 11 percent from November to December. White men saw their November 4.6 percent jobless rate drop to 4.4 percent in December.
During a Q&A Facebook session with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and Labor Secretary Tom Perez, one inquirer posed that very question about why there is such a stark difference between Black and White unemployment rates:
“Why is it that under the First African-American POTUS only African Americans have had double digit unemployment his entire term and why nothing is being done to address that crisis?” Heyward Johnson asked.
“The unemployment rate for African Americans has fallen 6.4 percentage points since its peak in March 2010. It is close to its pre-recession level but is still unconscionably high. The President’s investments in skills, highway infrastructure and minimum wage help all workers, including African Americans. In addition, the President has targeted specific investments through his My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, Promise Zones, and Secure Cities, Secure Communities initiative to help address the persistent unemployment and opportunity gaps in minority communities,” Perez replied.
Wilson would assure Johnson that the labor force projections for African Americans looks optimistic: “The African American workforce is benefiting from the job growth that is taking place right now and the longer that continues, the better it’s going to be for those communities.”
“The country added 252,000 jobs last month, higher than the anticipated 240,000,” MadameNoire wrote. “An average of 246,000 jobs were added each month in 2014, the highest since 1999.”
The latest job numbers continued the gains we’ve seen in past months, but the final tally was markedly lower. In July, 209,000 jobs were added to the US economy, versus 298,000 in June. While the number is disappointing, taken from a wider view, 1.5 million jobs have been added in the past six months, the strongest figures since 2009. That includes a small comeback in the manufacturing and construction areas, which were hard hit when the housing market collapsed.
“Jobs in these sectors tend to offer middle-class wages. The recovery is no longer dominated by hiring for low-wage retail and restaurant jobs,” writes CNNMoney.
Nearly nine million jobs were lost during the recession, according to numbers provided by the site.
Still, there are roadblocks to this recovery. The unemployment rate actually went up a touch, from 6.1 percent to 6.2 percent as job seekers, seeing encouraging signs, decided to resume the search for work.
Then there’s the fact that the job gains are not evenly spread. For Blacks, the unemployment rate jumped from 10.7 percent up to 11.4 percent between June and July. Then you have the persistence of the wage gap, which impacts everyone, but some groups more than others.
“Women of color across the U.S. face a wage gap affected by both gender and race. An African American woman working full time, year-round, makes on average a whopping $18,650 less each year than a white man working full time, year-round,” reads The Huffington Post.
And the repercussions of the wage gap are felt well into our golden years.
“Because retirement savings are ever more closely tied to income, the widening gulf between the rich and those with less promises to continue — and perhaps worsen — after workers reach retirement age,” reports the Associated Press. “That is likely to put pressure on government services and lead even more Americans to work well into what is supposed to be their golden years.” The average Social Security payment last year was about $1,300 per month. And retirement savings is dropping as fewer people participate in savings plans, in some cases because just living from month to month is a struggle.
Finally, the wages themselves haven’t increased by a significant amount — only a penny an hour in July to $24.45. Overall, wages have gone up two percent in the past year, not enough to keep up with the rising costs of food, student loan repayments, and the other necessities of life.
A CNN/ORC International study released on Friday found that 41 percent of people rate the economy as “good” while 58 percent say it’s “fair.” So people realize that while things are improving, we’re not out of the woods. (Though the one percent seem to be doing just fine.) It’s forecast that the economy will play a big role in who gets elected in November, and the minimum wage question will continue to be debated as one solution for what financially ails the country.
These days it’s pretty hard to find the silver lining in being unemployed. With close to half of the jobless giving up their search and what seems like a scarcity in jobs, fewer and fewer people are entering the workforce. Here’s a rundown of the best and worst states for the unemployed. While this information may not help to change your situation, at least you can see how your area is doing when it comes to things like job growth and benefits.
In need of a job or looking for that next opportunity? Check out the MadameNoire job board!
The job market in general is tough for college graduates, but it is even tougher for black grads. According to a new study, African Americans face more difficulty when it comes to finding a job after school is done. Twice as many black grads were unemployed in 2013, according to new report the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a left-leaning think tank that studies inequality and other economic issues.
“Recent black college grads ages 22 to 27 have an unemployment rate of 12.4 percent, more than double the 5.6 percent unemployed among all college grads in that demographic,” reports Al Jazeera America. This comes down to more than half of black graduates, 55.9 percent, being underemployed.
It doesn’t even seem to matter what major the students graduated with degrees in. Recent research shows that those with a liberal arts degree will have a harder time finding employment. While there is an overall need for STEM field grads, black graduates in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math still have a 10 percent unemployment rate and a 32 percent underemployment rate.
When there are economic downturns, it is usually young workers who suffer and, more particularly, young minority workers. The black jobless rate has been consistently almost twice the white jobless rate for the past 60 years–yes, 60 years! So black grads are facing a double whammy.
There are various ways black grads are facing discrimination. “One study found that job applicants with “black sounding” names (researchers gave Lakisha Washington and Jamal Jones as examples) were less likely to get called back for an interview than their counterparts with the same qualifications who had “white sounding” names (like Emily Walsh or Greg Baker),” reports The Huffington Post. And as we recently report, another study found that employers are more likely to assume black applicants used drugs without the benefit of a drug test.
All this does not bode well. “Experts note that a person starting out at a disadvantage straight out of college will face the economic consequences over a lifetime,” reports HuffPo. Explains Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, “earnings over the course of a career depend critically on where a person begins.”
My Own Battle With Depression: Why People Should Empathize With, Rather Than Criticize, Karyn Washington
“Yeah, tell me about it. Stuff around here has been crazy for me too. I can’t even begin to explain. But I can tell you that there ain’t no crystal staircases around here,” I said in a telephone mouthpiece.
I knew I had butchered Langston Hughes in my attempt to sound profound, but I was too broken to care.
And so was the long-lost girlfriend on the other end of the line. We were never super-close really, only knowing each other in a professional manner. But we were cool enough to the point that I didn’t mind her reaching out to me for help not too long ago. At the time, I just didn’t understand what she thought I could do. “Yeah I know. I’m just going through everyone in phonebook. It’s just really bad right now,” she said, as her voice trailed off into a whisper.
Admittedly, it has been a tough period in life for the both of us. She, a part-time artist, lost her full-time job back in August 2012; Me, a part-time writer, I lost my full-time gig a few months after she did in October. I was saddened to learn that, like me, she too had been struggling to make ends meet while trying to forge new paths in life. The news was somewhat stunning at the time, considering that my colleague always seems to be involved in one thing or another. If she isn’t volunteering for park projects, she is organizing events in the community or having an artist showcase. I see her name and face tagged in all sorts of happy pictures on social media, and the times I had run into her, she always seemed to be extremely positive, optimistic and in good spirits. But she was actually feeling the opposite way.
“Somedays I can’t even get out of bed. And I’m starting to think I have depression,” she confessed.
I was pissed at my friend for not reaching out to me sooner. But that annoyance quickly evaporated when I looked inward and reflected on my own inability to reach out. Then I understood: Who am I to judge?
I think this is why I find myself irked when reading the threads and conversations around the passing of Karyn Washington, founder of For Brown Girls and #DarkSkinRedLip. In particular, it is the lack of empathy and casual dismissals, which have found their way under my skin. I’m not going to call anyone out specifically, because I’m not trying to accidentally throw these specific cowry shell hawking, anti-black women ministrants anymore publicity than they already don’t deserve. But I want to speak to the less opportunistic lot of you, who seem confused about how someone can act as a beacon of empowerment for other women, and not be that for herself. Although I admired her work, I never met Washington, so I can’t tell you her whys and hows. But I can share with you my own battle with depression, which hopefully will give you insight:
I was convinced that losing my job was a universal sign that it was the time to go out and give my part-time dreams a full-time whirl. All of them. I was going to excel professionally (and more importantly, financially), find love and travel. For a while I was really believing that. And then winter arrived – both literally and figuratively. First the heater went. Then the polar vortex happened. Then my plumbing messed up because of the polar vortex. Then the parking authority had it out for me. Then my dog got injured and I had to put him to sleep. Then my grandma died. Then money wasn’t adding up…
Basically, the grand investment in myself, which I was sure the universe had co-signed, had turned into the sequel to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Incidents.
And yet, I was walking around with a fake smile. When anybody asked how things were going, my response was always, “fine.” That’s what we are suppose to do. That’s what we are taught to do: Think positive thoughts. Think so that one day you become. Don’t give into the negative. Negative thoughts become you.
Abracadabra, laws of attraction and all the rest of the self-help jazz hands.
But by mid-February – after the umpteenth snowstorm, fifth personal crisis and the second blue letter from some utility company threatening to cut-off my lights and heat like I wasn’t still living there – I finally snapped.
I went around the house, cursing the heavens, throwing stuff and turning over furniture. It was actually quite therapeutic–until I smashed one vase too many and a fragmented piece ricocheted off the hardwood floor and smacked me right in the eyeball (To this day, I still think I have a piece of porcelain in my eye, but medicaid hasn’t expanded in my state, and I’m too poor for Obamacare, so if there is glass in my eye, I just have to make due with looking around for it right now). Man, I felt like I had hit rock bottom. I couldn’t even get angry and throw s**t, correctly? I curled up into a ball on the floor and wailed from both the emotional and physical hurt of it all.
I thought about it. I thought about the box of over-the-counter sleeping pills in the cabinet. At the time, it totally made sense. What was it all for? What am I doing here? Nothing I do seems to matter. I don’t feel like I matter, and if this is the case, I might as well make an early retirement and find out for sure what is on the other side.
I would like to say that it was faith, which told me not to take those pills that night. Believing in others, and truthfully, even myself, has not always been a strong suit of mine. Rather, I think it was actually hope that kept me strong that night–the hope that I’m wrong about everything, and that I do matter and what I do matters out here.
And it is that contradiction within myself, which inspires me to write daily on principals of justice, equality and empowerment, even at times when I feel powerless. And I imagine it is also why my friend volunteers her time and energy into the community; and why poor people in general tend to be more charitable and helpful to others than their more wealthier counterparts; and why some of us, who harbor the most personal insecurities and hang-ups, teach the virtues of loving yourself to others; and why those in lockdown are often the ones who sing the loudest about black folks gaining their freedom from racial oppression. It’s the hope that whatever we put out into the world will find ways to manifest in our own lives. Maybe.
Some folks may think I’m weak and a hypocrite. But while we ponder over the strength and vitality of those, who have thought about taking their life, and those who have actually given in to the thought, let us also remember those times when we criticized, mocked, denounced and sometimes angrily confronted people, who talk too much. You know who I’m talking about: the over-sharers on Facebook with baby-mama/daddy drama; The random lady with the frowny-face on the subway you just commanded to “smile” because, “it ain’t that bad”; The sensitive guy, who you laughed at because he dared to show tears after a hard breakup or some other personal loss. As a society, we are good at being judges and jurors, but suck really badly at being good stewards and helpmates to one another.
“Honestly I think the answer is that we have to stay connected with each other. Like, that is the only way we can get through life,” said my long-lost girlfriend on the other end of the phone line. I listened to her wax poetic some more about the emotional and physical value of interconnectedness. She made some solid points. I told her that if she is ever feeling down, I don’t care the time or day, to give me a call.
Then I hung up with her and reached out to another girlfriend, who too is part of the long-term unemployed, on top of her other personal problems. She told me she was happy I called because she was, at that moment, going through it. We talked old-school style with a single bottle of malt liquor on a park bench, unloading on each other. She listened without judgment and I listened without fake concern trolling. Nothing in any of our lives was solved that night. But at least we helped each other to not feel alone.