Maybe these five tips will help you or someone you know. Or maybe not. This is not a hippie-dippie-New-Agey feel good list about how to find yourself. I hate that shit. But if crystals, tapping, tarot cards, focused mediation or whatever works for you, go for it. This is what works for me.
- Have friends who are going through similar struggles. In my life, I have Mary, Lorraine, Teresa, Dorothy and Deb. Without them, I probably would have killed myself or someone else a long time ago. Believe me, people who have not been unemployed during this economic downturn DO NOT understand what you are going through. And long-term unemployed people over-fifty have special issues these days that younger people do not have to deal with. The combination of less jobs, jobs that don’t pay a living wage, employer reluctance to hire older, long-term unemployed persons, the requirement of specialized skills instead of general knowledge and many other factors make this recession vastly different from the ones that have occurred previously. If you don’t have any friends you can commiserate with, talk to people at your nearest job search center, connect with people online, even if you have just leave comments on websites like the National Employment Law Project (www.nelp.org) and Over Fifty and Out of Work (www.overfiftyandoutofwork.com). As long as you get confirmation that you are NOT alone. But if you feel that your mental health issues go beyond feelings of inadequacy or frustration because of your lack of employment, seek professional help. Call a Suicide Prevention Hotline if you feel that you might harm yourself. Many cities have mental health clinics or places set up for low income persons to get treatment. Don’t be afraid to ask to help.
- Treat Yourself. Sure, funds are limited and times are tough, but do something that makes you feel good. Even if it is just taking a walk, going to a free museum, a free event, or joining friends for a cup of coffee – you need to find some joy in your life. I wouldn’t recommend spending your last dollar in a thrift store or on the lottery, of course, but do what you need to do. Remember that every day that you wake up is a good day.
- Learn from your mistakes and don’t dwell on the past. Everyone who has been affected by the economic downturn would probably have done things differently if they had known what was on the horizon. But you can’t beat yourself up about it. You can’t change the past, but you can learn from it. I never in a million years thought that I would end up homeless, but it has given me insights that I would never had gotten any other way. Everything is a learning experience…blah, blah, blah. As Mary always says, “It is what it is.”
- Find your passion. Yeah, I know this sounds like more hippie-dippie bullshit, but it works for some people. There has to be something that you wanted to do or try that you never had the time for or the balls to do before. Look into things that interest you. Go to a lecture on the subject, take some community college or community center classes, hang out at places where people do what you want to do. Maybe once you see it from the inside, you will discover that it isn’t for you. But a lot of times, you have to step out of your comfort zone. Maybe people won’t take you seriously because you are older or inexperienced. But check it out anyway. All they can say is “no” and that won’t kill you. I’m not one for taking giant leaps, but little baby steps may be all you need to get the ball rolling.
- Don’t Give Up. Even though the New York Times says, “The long-term jobless, after all, tend to be in poorer health, and to have higher rates of suicide and strained family relations.” But don’t let it get you down for long. Sure, everyone has those days when you just want to throw a giant pity party and stay in bed. But don’t stay there indefinitely. Good things do happen and sometimes they actually happen to good people. People laugh when I tell them that I enter lots of contests. But in the last year, I have won a VIP trip to Los Angeles (which included airline tickets, transit passes, restaurant vouchers, museum and amusement park passes and a $500 gift card), CDs, concert tickets, tee shirts and other stuff. Other than writing contests, I only enter contests that have no fees attached. I read the general rules and make sure that it is legitimate. But be careful who you give your personal information to, though. Entering contests is fun and it gives me something positive to think about for a while. And that never hurt anybody. I have always found that in my life, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” So don’t give up. Be proactive rather than reactive. I can’t say that I believe in a fairy-tale happy ending, but I believe that moments of happiness happen in all of our lives.
There you have it, the lessons I have learned. Take it or leave it. And if you think that all of this is just some happy horseshit, come up with your own list. I wish you luck, strength and wisdom (and a lot of fun, too).
Lowrey, Annie. “Caught in Unemployment’s Revolving Door.” New York Times. N.p., 17 Nov. 2013. Web. 17 Nov. 2013.