My Unemployed Life: The Forgotten Woman
My name is Mollee D. Harper. I am a 41-year-old single woman, never married with no children and unemployed now for 836 days and counting.
In my previous life, I was a successful and effective CEO/CFO of a construction company where I increased annual revenues from $600,000 to $1.3 million in one year's time with a 10 percent profit to the bottom line. I covered my salary expense, increased the owner's annual compensation by $70,000 and increased the pay and benefits for all employees. To top that, I met the owner's goal of more time off, giving him the opportunity to take six vacations in the last nine months of my employment, and paid quarterly profit sharing bonuses (based on company performance) to each of our 12 team members. I worked at the pace of a machine and loved every second of it.
A hard-hit industry
The construction industry was one of the first industries to take a hit when the economy crashed. Heartbroken, but determined, I watched and assisted as the well-oiled machine I helped build was disassembled one team member at a time until it was my time to leave. The last I heard, the owner has returned to work – running as a one-man entity and surviving the best he can.
Since losing my job, I have literally applied to thousands of job opportunities, starting first in my current city, then branching out to Florida statewide, then countrywide, and eventually to jobs in Canada, Ireland and Scotland. With each passing month, then years, the reality set in that I have, in fact, been discarded, thrown out, no longer useful or desirable to any team anywhere.
For a woman like me -- single with no children -- my career was my life. This was my venue to make a difference in the world. Being benched for a period of time was one thing, but coming to the realization that my experience and skills are no longer desired in this economic climate is the biggest and most painfully jagged pill I have ever been forced to swallow.
A slow, painful loss
No one could have ever prepared me for the magnitude of loss that accompanies unemployment. What most people don't realize is that today's unemployed are the lepers in society from years gone by. The judgment and apathy you experience from others is indescribable at best. I was once surrounded by hundreds of friends, happy-hour invitations and social outings; now I am completely and unequivocally on my own. Single in the truest sense of the word. Oddly enough, my closest friends left first, within the first six months. And as each month passed, the phone calls of support lessened, the offers to help disappeared and e-mails went unanswered.
Although the isolation, rejection and abandonment by friends and family are so unbearably painful some days that I pray for days at time, I did find a strange new sense of empowerment in my new life. There is comfort in knowing that all of the false pretense, dead weight and lies are gone. While walking a daily tightrope of not knowing whether I might disappear into homelessness or suddenly get my lucky break is exhausting beyond any ability to imagine, there is something powerful about knowing that while you walk that rope alone, you at least walk it in truth with honor.
Before losing my job, my debts were paid on time. My credit score was 785. I was never late on my mortgage or car payments. I was neither rich, nor poor. I lived comfortably, never wanting or needing more. I gave generously to my friends and family, albeit putting little importance on saving. Since losing my job, I've lost my car. My first home, modest and old, is now in foreclosure. I have sold all of my jewelry, some furniture, my surround-sound system, childhood collectible dolls, bicycle and iPod. Golf clubs, extra bedroom set, dining table – anything and everything I have left is now has a price tag, listed in classified ads and being peddled to friends and neighbors for pennies on the dollar. But necessary pennies, needed to cover the most basic expenses of toilet paper, water, refrigeration and electricity so I can continue to breathe and continue to seek employment. The daily fight for survival -- a battle I admit I am losing -- is palpable, yet unnoticeable to others. It's so surreal. The psychological torture is indescribable.
A fruitless quest
A savvy business woman, I spent countless hours writing President Obama, the governor, state senators and congressmen. Unemployment benefits were stopped for all of us who have been unemployed for over two years in June, 2010, and since that time I have had no income whatsoever, with the exception of food stamps. I experienced eight days without electric and water two months ago, something no American ever expects, in this free country that aids so many third-world countries in the same predicament. The government has yet to respond on provisions for "Tier 5" citizens. My e-mails and letters remain unanswered to this day. I suspect they have all given up on us and know within months we too will disappear. Without power, we will lose our voice. One senator did respond, only to advise me that I should find a church to help me. I called every one of them in my home city. I left no stone unturned. But that did no good. The non-profits and charities I reached out to openly discriminate against women like me, because I'm too young, I'm not pregnant, I don't have children, and ironically, because I am unemployed. I have become a despicable beggar.
A wise man once said "you can never give up, for you know not what the tide will bring in." So every day, I continue to create new resumes, apply to new jobs, network with prospects, old friends or colleagues, sell the last of my possessions and find small paying jobs wherever I can. Most importantly, every day I pray. I pray for a light to show me a way out of this darkness. I pray for all of the others who feel exactly like me -- unloved, discarded, forgotten. I pray for this country, for the blind to see. I pray for an awakening for you, for us all, before it is too late. I pray for one last chance to make a difference in this world before I disappear.
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- The Real News? Women Supporting Women [The Huffington Post]
- What To Do When You Lose Your Job [Reader's Digest]
- How To Get Through Tough Times In Your Career [Glassdoor.com]