by Mariam Williams
If you’re fortunate enough to have electricity, you’ve seen my state on the news. Snow, rain, sleet, ice, and more snow have blanketed the state of Kentucky, wreaking havoc on our roads, homes, natural scenery, and daily routines. At last count – the last time I called Louisville Gas & Electric’s power outage hotline for an updated recording – over 200,000 households were without electricity. LG&E has given us an estimate of 7 to 10 days before electricity is fully restored. Displaced families are depending on kind neighbors, friends, extended family, emergency shelters, and hotels for warmth and a touch of comfort. Stately oaks and maples bearing the weight of snow and ice now more closely resemble weeping willows, their sad branches still threatening cars, power lines, and roofs, even though the precipitation is over. Children have been out of school since Tuesday and will be out for the rest of the week, forcing those who otherwise would have been able to make it to work to stay home with their children or to find other childcare alternatives.
Even my mom took an extra day off from work today to help take care of me; she drove me back to my dark, frigid apartment to pack a week’s worth of clothes and rescue the perishable food from the freezer. She made several trips back and forth from my third-floor apartment to the car parked about a quarter-mile away at a supermarket, then drove me back over the cleared roads to the icy streets in her neighborhood. My car remains trapped by a tree that fell across the entrance to the apartment complex yesterday morning before I could escape. A neighbor who was fortunate enough to have parked her car at the supermarket when she came in from her third-shift job drove me to my mother’s house yesterday.
I looked out of my mother’s kitchen window today and said, “Everything is so white.” On my drive around the corner to the neighborhood YMCA to use their Wi-Fi (mom’s ISP isn’t functioning), I observed the sky, the trees, the ground – all devoid of color, looking lifeless, a clear reminder that winter is upon us.
I’ve likened the whole situation to living life laid off. For most of those in the unemployment line, it’s a cold season. A seemingly strong fixture in workers’ lives that they depended on has fallen. The unemployed apply for jobs but run into dead ends. Many suddenly find themselves displaced, discovering that they really were just two paychecks away from losing their homes. The routine and lifestyle they built around their job are gone. Friendships built over months for some, years for others, and decades for more, disintegrate, and loneliness and sadness can set in. And just like when you go to flip on a light switch out of habit even when you know you don’t have electricity, the unemployed worker has to stop doing what he or she has been used to doing and make some serious adjustments.
Staying with my mom for an extended period of time for the second time in about four months (the first was during the Hurricane Ike residual wind storm that knocked my power out for eight days) has been an adjustment for me. It’s also reminded me that even though I said (in “Pinched,” Velocity, November 19, 2008 ) that she’d take me in if I’m still unemployed when the state checks expire in April, and I know she would, I don’t want it to come to that. I love my mother dearly, but we just live differently. She functions best in clutter and noise; I prefer a clean workspace and silence. She honestly believes she needs sweets every day, as if they occupy the widest space on the food pyramid instead of grains; I still worry about indulgences affecting my girlish figure. Whether she’s going to work or not, she wakes to watch the news for the top stories and weather at 6 a.m., goes through her private morning routine, then returns to the news by 6:45, at which time she also turns on the Tom Joyner Morning Show and alternates the volume on each of them as interesting stories come along. I prefer a 7 a.m. wake-up call, quiet time and private morning routine, and the Tom Joyner Morning Show without competition from Good Morning America. And let’s not get into how much I just like my own space, or how I dread leaving my own method of organization, or selling all the items I picked out and purchased to decorate my apartment according to my own style.
So I admit it: I’m concerned that I’ll be forced to go back to mom’s place for a while. “I’m afraid” might be more accurate, but I don’t like to think that or say it. I’m certain that if I operate in fear, I’ll end up taking a job, not staying in anything remotely related to my career aspirations, not enjoying my work, and going further and further away from my own long-term dreams. Perhaps at this point, or in April, I shouldn’t have dreams; I should grow up, face responsibility and just do what I gotta do.
But I’m not ready for that yet, and a framed sign on my mother’s living room wall, written in Latin and signed by the chancellor of my alma mater, is supposed to mean that I don’t have to accept just anything. At the last official count, holding a bachelors degree gave me an advantage over 64% of everyone applying for a job in Kentucky. Of course, no one is immune to the axe, and there’s a direct correlation between unemployment numbers and enrollment in adult education. But when God opens up an opportunity for me to return to work, I don’t believe he’s going to direct me to a retail store, an assembly line, or even back to an office that needs an assistant or someone on the same level. I appreciate those who think of me when they see a job opening, but I continue to look for jobs every week and to choose NOT to apply to those in which I have absolutely no interest. I promise I’m trying, but I’m holding out for something better too. After all, spring is only 50 days away.
I’ll try to remember that while I’m in the snow, and while I’m daily living life laid off.
© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.