Thursday, May 13, 2010


I’m worried.

Since I was let go by my job, I have been unable to claim unemployment – my only real financial lifeline. It’s not a game or reality TV. There are no second or third lifelines. My finances are stretched too thin.

I have to call the unemployment office. After 10 consecutive calls to a recorded message claiming high call volume, I finally have the right to be placed on hold. The previous 9 calls were all rejected.

I’m being tested.

The initial wait time is 25 minutes. Nine minutes and 35 seconds later, the wait time doesn’t change. What’s the point? I’m going nowhere. It has to be temporary, right?

Ten more minutes pass, the hold time is 15 minutes. I see a glimmer of hope. This call is a microcosm of real life. It’s a long journey. It’s a reminder that life is a battle – not just for the unemployed, but for everyone. For me, I never know how close I am to the end. Does 15 minutes really mean 30? Even if I get there, will my problems be solved?

I am at the mercy of the system.

That’s the life of the unemployed. The ebbs of daily living are exacerbated and the flows are too short. Unemployment is persistent self-doubt. Am I good enough? Am I smart enough? Can I be happy? When will this test end?

I’m constantly judged – by everyone. It’s hard not to judge. We all do it. I must look right, act right…say the right things. It’s a never-ending interview. One mistake ends it all. It’s competitive.

29 min, 25 seconds into the call, the wait time is 10 minutes. At this point, the recording asks me to call back later. But, I’m so close. I’m being tested, I know it.

There are days that I feel invisible. There are days I can barely look at myself in the mirror. That must be natural, right? The truth is, most days I struggle with my feelings of self-worth. Let’s face reality: for a lot of us, our self-worth is inextricably linked to our jobs. Of course, life is complex, so there are many things that determine our self-value - family, friends, health. Often though, who we are, is what we do. Your day can be shaped by the outcomes of your job and it affects everything. Facebook and twitter status updates confirm this, usually in 140 characters or less. Our self-worth is often attached to our business card. Why shouldn’t it be? Most of us spend more time at work than with our family.

When you remove the job from the person and replace it with an environment of complete uncertainty and financial worry, you take away part of an identity. Can I change that? I want my life to be defined by my actions and not just by my job.

I’m not a martyr.

My profession is a biomedical engineer. But if I want my actions to define me, then who am I? I am a man. I am a husband. I am a father. That’s a good start. My feelings are raw. I’m an animal rescuer. I’m compassionate. I’m loyal. I’m persistent. I’m determined. I take advantage of second chances. I can help you. I’m going somewhere.

My call is answered. I am no longer waiting. They don’t ask for my name. I am just a number arbitrarily given to me by the government. I’m sad to realize that.

Then something amazing happens. She helped me. She was kind. My problem was solved. It was a small victory that was wrapped up in a neat little bow. It won’t always be like that and I know it. But today…I won my battle.


  1. Thank God for small favors.
    Job searching is TOUGH. Resumes seemingly fall into black holes.
    And I agree that I found out being home with my kids that yes, your job is linked to your identity.
    I wish you all the best. I was in the science field. What exactly is a biomedical engineer. Just wondering if I can help at all.

  2. Just found your blog, thanks to your wife :-) I'm touched by your post - I was where you currently are, filled with the exact same emotions, insecurities, reminders to recognize unusual life affirmations, it DOES get better! Take the small wins - they add up (just like your unemployment saga!)

    And...YOU make a difference - not defined by a job, but by life's contribution. You have a fan here, JTM - keep the faith!

  3. You are a Biomedical Engineer by virtue of your education and professional experience, but your identity, as a whole, is defined by characteristics greater in scope than anything you could learn in the classroom.

    The way you make our family laugh - not just chuckle, but full-body laugh. Your love for animals. Your creativity and thoughtfulness. The way you interact with our son- with patience and energy and love. Your ability to handle adversity with grace and composure. These things may not show on your resume, but when I think of you, these are the things that come to mind and make me smile.

  4. I just stumbled across your blog. Just wanted you to know how much I appreciated reading this today. I am going through unemployment and its just nice to know other people are going through this too. I needed to hear something other than the usual "don't give up" or "it will get better soon" from people that are a little luckier than myself right now. So thank you!

    ps. there are a few posts about my experiences with unemployment on my blog if you need to feel the same.

  5. Thank you everyone for your continued support! Despite an unfortunate situation, it is nice to know I'm not alone. My family has been amazing through it all (Yes, you Hungry Dog Heaven!). Not much makes me feel more important than my son, who continues to amaze me on a daily basis.

    Stay tuned...more to come soon!

  6. I'm in a similar situation and face many of the same struggles as you. I was the bread-winner, the provider for our family and now I sit out of work. Not only finding work is a struggle but I too struggle with the identity aspect of it all. Hugs to you.



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