Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Gift of Waking Up

Times are hard: a grotesque understatement for the millions of Americans with piling bills and seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel. Headlines regarding the employment crisis scream across news pages on a daily basis.

"This Years Job Loss Total: 1.2 million" - CNN
"Jobless Rate at 14 Year High" -NY Times
"Recipients of Unemployment Benefits Rising Fast" - USA Today

The new is frightening and overwhelming. The constant communication from the media that American life is in dire straits stirs sadness and frustration. And four weeks into my own unemployment I understand the feeling that it may never get better. But as concerning as the outlook for finding new work may be, the reactions of some of the unemployed worry me even more.

Yesterday, a frustrated unemployed man held his ex-girlfriend hostage before finally letting her make a call to talk to her kids. Then, he killed her before being gunned down himself. A man in California got laid off too and he returned to his former place of employment and killed his co-workers as well as himself.

When did killing become the answer to joblessness? This week the number of unemployed people in the United States is up to nearly 11 million. The last thing all 11 million of us need to start doing is killing folks for no good reason. They say that misery loves company but aren't we all in enough misery?

Like I said, I get it. I am one of the most emotional people I know. I can cry for days. Anything can set me off from a good dog food commercial to watching some high school kid make a game winning save at his soccer game. I don't even have to know the people involved. I feel very strongly. Every emotion I experience naturally comes with tears. I feel very deeply. Something simple to others, hits me at the core and stays with me. I get the sadness, the depression, fear and the frustration.

But I also know that even when life is the worst it can get, it isn't over. And some days the only gift you get is waking up. But you start with that. The gift of waking up... And you keep waking up until the rest gets better.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Man, I Miss Mondays

I used to dread them. I'd sit on the couch on Sunday night, which is my big TV night and usually an ice cream night, and wish that Monday would never come. But this last year has taught me to be thankful for Mondays.

A year and a half ago, I left a job in corporate America and returned to my first love, the ad agency world. My first and most obvious choice for a place to call my second home turned out to be a total nightmare. And after a short four month stay, I was let go. It was truly a blessing in disguise because due to circumstances associated with that job, I was headed down a fairly destructive personal path. But the timing was awful. It was the week before Christmas, I was given 2 weeks pay and my health insurance was completely cut off.

I spent the next four months freelancing and traveling all over the Midwest interviewing for new jobs. Cold and snow and delayed flights and long drives filled most of my days and nights until I stumbled upon my dream job.

Seemingly, out of nowhere, I found a place (or a place found me) where despite my greatest attempts to make it JUST work and to not get involved with my coworkers, I felt home. There was a good balance of chaos and fun, an abundance of good work and the freedom to be me. I had been looking for them for 15 years. I guess it's true what they say about good things finding you when you aren't really looking for them.

Eight months in, the US economy took a bad turn. And the effect on small business was devastating. Corporate panic and fear gripped the entire country. People stopped spending money in their every day lives but big companies also cut budgets and eliminated advertising dollars quickly. Eventually, I felt the impact personally when I was laid off.

Finding a job in this economy is like online dating. I'm clear about what I want, I know what is a good fit, I put my resume out there... but there are no good matches out there. The calls I've been getting are from financial institutions. Trust me, people, you don't want me handling your money. Michele will work at a financial institution on the same day that Michele dates a 67 year old guy who is 5' tall.

I pray the lay off really is temporary. It's not easy living on unemployment in your parents' house. In fact, it sucks. I get to stay up all night watching MTV and I can go to the gym everyday at 2pm when nobody else is there. But waking up on Mondays with nowhere to go is depressing and discouraging. I have worked too long and too hard to be in this situation. I want to find a place where I can stay for the next 20 years. I want to find a place to spend my Mondays. And I need to find it soon.

(If you know anyone looking for a project manager who believes she is as good as they come, send them my way.)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Life with Purpose

"...nothing in my life is going to be without purpose." -Will Smith

While I do not plan to dwell on politics in this space, I feel a need to dedicate just a little more room to this week's presidential election. And without focusing on political party or bringing up the issues... And while deliberately omitting my beliefs... I need to explain the impact the outcome of the election has had on me.

The world joked that Americans were banking on an immediate impact by the election's outcome. Cynics said that the hopeful idealists were praying that all the nation's problems would be resolved by the following morning. And many were disturbed by the platform on which the president-elect campaigned. There was so much talk about change.

CHANGE: to become different; to pass from one phase to another; to undergo transformation, transition or substitution

It will take months and years to repair our country's economy, to mend relationships with the rest of the world, to bring about a change in direction. But, my friends, one of the biggest and greatest changes has already occurred right before our eyes.

Over the last 21 months, Americans changed from individualists to advocates of unity. We joined to created a movement for a better future. There was a change in our mindset and a realization that together... TOGETHER... we can live better lives. United we stand. Divided we fall.

And then, in one moment on Tuesday night, there was another change in the minds of people every where. Obstacles and challenges seemed to fall down as belief in oneself rose up. For me personally, I have always believed that I could do anything I put my mind to but the election results reminded me. And the inspiration from all parties involved also reminded me that in everything I do, there should be purpose. No more nonsense. No more drama. Purpose. Reason. And the ability to affect change and the lives of others...

I heard Will smith say today, "if you are not making the lives of others better, you are wasting your time." That falls directly in line with my personal motto which has always been if the people around me are happy and well-cared for, I will be too.

There's so much to think about now. Planning to do. And purpose to be fulfilled.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Today, I Voted...

Today, I voted.

Today, on a gorgeous, sunny and unusually warm day in St. Louis, MO, I waited in line for two hours and I voted. And it was an honor and a privilege.

Also today, just a few states away, in Georgia, an 106-year-old African American woman named Ann Cooper cast her ballot for president. It's been said many times that she's seen a lot in her lifetime and that's an understatement. She understands the value of her vote and her responsibility to act on her right to cast it. Ann Cooper is a reminder that there was a time when all citizens did not have a voice as well as a reminder of how lucky we are today.

I have not seen nearly what Ann Cooper has seen. I have not personally experienced discrimination based on my gender or my ethnicity. But I am keenly aware of how fortunate I am to live in a place where all citizens can vote.

Just sixty years ago, the final group of American Indians were granted the right to vote. In other parts of the world, women are still not trusted with voting responsibilities. I realize that had I been born in another time or into another family, I might not have this privilege.

So I am thankful for those who came before me and endured hardship so that I may have this freedom. I am honored to speak out for my choice for president. And I am awe-struck for the first time in my life. Today's experience was unlike any other. I'd have walked miles and waited days to contribute to this historic election.

Today, I voted. It felt good and right. And I pray that this feeling of hope will carry us 'til morning and much, much further.