I was caught napping about 5 minutes today before I was due at tennis! I have never moved so fast in my life, racing to dress and get out the door and to the court, fortunately just down the street, in time. Surprisingly, I played really well. Go figure. Maybe that comes from the 1-2 times I was late to work during my 42 year career. Once you’re upright, you’re fine.
What this blog is about continues to be my theme of joblessness and how it’s affected me. If you read my other blog, The Rules Have Changed, you will find out how jobless I became. Now in the process of 6 months’ recovery of being released from a job, hellish, I might add, but a job, nonetheless, I’m finding other emotions swaying my feet.
At first, I raced to find a job RIGHT AWAY, sign up with a temp agency, update my LinkedIn profile, and tweak my resumes as well as dumb them down. The longer my resume is, the older I appear. And yes, while I AM older, I AM also a better worker for it. I own my jobs, am reliable, trustworthy, and as tenacious as the day is long. But of course, that doesn’t convey in an email attachment. And when the interviews didn’t begin, I sat back for awhile and surveyed my surroundings. What did I want to be this time around? Someone’s admin asst AGAIN? Take a lot of abuse for very little appreciation and pay? 2nd guess myself all day long? A plain old secretary (no one calls admin assts secretaries anymore. The term is obsolete.) A clerk? Data entry clerk? Receptionist? Fingerprinter? Phone sex professional? Prostitute? Landscape foreman? Deli clerk? Wegman’s cashier? Flag Girl? The longer time went on, the less resistant I became to trying just about anything. I even have since applied for many, many jobs at what I do best – administrative assistant, although I must admit, my stomach still clenches at the thought.
Reinvention is the name of the game when you’ve been laid off at age 50 and over. Which can be fun, if you’re in a fun mood. I recently worked as a deli clerk in an old historic general store. A deli clerk? Yes. I only lasted 3 weeks because I couldn’t take standing for 8 hours a day. But I mastered everything else, including the lottery machine, and learning lottery language, which is similar to texting, “Mega, str8 for five, squared five.” Learning that I couldn’t take standing for long periods of time negated retail jobs in general.
The temp agency didn’t call me until one day in July, out of the blue, begging me to take a 2 week job utilizing Blackbaud, a software used by most nonprofits. I had worked in Blackbaud for 10 years. It was the day after I’d begun at the general store, and of course, I couldn’t just quit one job and go to another. Well, maybe some people would, but I don’t work like that. I can’t switch roles that easily. Perhaps, that is a sign of aging, but should not be used against me, because I cannot deny I’m getting older.
I turned 62 this summer, and though I thought at one point that I could hold off retirement until I was at least 70, I am now officially retired. Early. It’s the only way I can pay my bills. Unemployment stopped in June. I raided an IRA 3 times, and as of next month, if all goes well, will be officially receiving social security checks. But I still browse the want ads, Indeed, CraigsList, SchoolSpring, and AIMSMDDC, where my chances of being hired are slim to none, because independent schools want youth, not experience.
Over the past 6 months of unemployment, my emotions have been up and down, in and out, like a yo-yo. Working gave me a sense of purpose, sometimes great joy, and pride when I worked in a school where everybody knew my name and spoke highly of me. I survived one layoff, 3 years ago, but this time around the job market’s tighter, there’s more competition, and I can’t reinvent myself too much, or I won’t know who I am. Depression has played a part in my recovery from being laid off, as well as relief that I don’t have to sit behind that hot seat anymore and take grief from students, parents and 12 bosses!
I’ve been to the beach 3 times, done a lot of gardening, reading, writing, and playing tennis. I even applied to be a tennis coach assistant, but didn’t get an interview. Lately, I’ve begun dog sitting, which has peaks and valleys of busyness.
But…retired. Age 62. Typing and making typos, something I haven’t done in a very long time. Still answering my home phone with the name of my former workplace. Oops! Not working is all so new. Mind changing. So…hard. Free time is nice, but as any kid will tell you, recess all the time can get boring too. Sometimes I have to pinch myself and make sure I’m not still caught in that nap where I almost didn’t wake up in time for tennis. I’d always heard that when you retired you had to have a plan. Plan? My plan is to not be a deadbeat in the credit industry where I have two active credit cards. Plan? Traveling to the Caymans was never in my future, even when I worked. What I did hope for was financial security, a seemingly simple thing, that now dangles in front of me at the end of a very long tunnel.
Life shouldn’t be this hard when you reach age 62. Take your body, for instance. It’s been working for 62 years. Cars don’t last that long. You can’t just go and get a 50,000 mile check up and be cured of sore feet, forgetfulness, or stomach ulcers. Joblessness has brought me some joy, meeting new people while playing tennis, and catching up with friends. When I worked, there were many things I missed. Funerals of friends, births of babies, staying home with a sick child, staying home while I had pneumonia, being with my mother every minute when she began to die. I was always in a hurry, racing to work, racing to lunch, racing home, racing to grocery shop, racing to the doctor, oftentimes skipping annual medical appointments in favor of meeting work deadlines. It was so crazy, I often wondered if I would live long enough to retire!
Fear. I don’t miss living under a cloud of fear that if I mistepped at work too often, I would be written up, or fired. People make mistakes all the time, but some workplaces take advantage of that and bully you and hope you quit. Home becomes a haven, and every day the sun comes up, I now feel blessed that I have a forthcoming option – social security – to tide me over until I find the perfect fit for myself in society once again. As for napping, it’s a pleasurable way to pass time, and invigorates you for what next will come, good or bad.