How to be unemployed (and not be ashamed of it)
April is usually one of my favourite months; spring is in full bloom with blossom on trees and flowers in the grass and a general lilt in the air. It’s the time of year when usually I feel free from winter blues and full of anticipation and motivation for the rest of the year ahead.
I don't know if it's because we still haven't had much in the way of sunshine so far this spring but I am not feeling the usual spring in my step.
OK, truth be told it's probably got more to do with the financial worries I've got hanging over me right now. From riding the high of taking a break from the rat race and starting up my own small feel-good business last year, I'm now in a completely different place. The business didn't generate enough money to support my little family but took too much of my time to do anything else work-wise. Well OK that's no biggie, I can roll with changes and I was pretty good at what I did in my career but woah - I did not realise how hard it can be to get a new job. Especially when you've got a break in your career and an unrelated business set up on your CV.
So now I find myself in a position I have never been in before: I am unemployed and claiming benefits. Wow is it hard not to feel shame about that.
There are things I did in my hedonistic youth that I don't necessarily want to shout about now I'm a mum and supposedly a sensible member of society (ahem) or there's the fact that I've had relationships with the same sex that some would want to hide from public scrutiny, but it turns out there is nothing more shameful for me than not being able to support myself financially.
Since I left home at 18 for university - or actually even before, when I was told I wasn't allowed to buy things I wanted because my parents didn't have the money or didn't approve of the purchase - I have made it a point of pride to make my own money or suffer the consequences of not. At times I've been a total martyr, literally starving and penniless but still refusing to accept charity from family or friends. And when I became a mum, I only conceded to working part time for a while and, before I made the decision to leave my partner, I made sure I was in a position at work to be able to support me and the children by myself.
Why? Well working = money = independence. It makes me die a little inside to give up my independence and be beholden to somebody else for money. I'm a grown up, I want to make my own decisions, be the driver of my own life and for someone else to make decisions for me, or give me conditions to adhere to in order to get money...? Na-ah, nope, not for me, no way, no thank you.
So clearly having a fair portion of my self-esteem or self-image wrapped up in that and being in the jobless position I'm in now, makes for a pretty tough time in my head. Add jobless to single mum plus claiming benefits and wow, there's a Daily Fail stereotype if ever I saw one. And it's me! Yikes. But I've got children who need me to not crumble now, so I've got to find a way to ride this.
The title of this post is a total misnomer because I have no idea how not to be ashamed of being unemployed. Or rather, being on benefits. I can definitely shoot down one misconception though: that being on benefits is a life of Riley. It really isn't. I've always worked hard for my money so I've never considered myself lucky before but oh boy was I wrong. At 40, I'd got to the stage where I didn't need to think about how much I was spending on food or taking the children out or paying bills. I wasn't raking it in but I was comfortable. On benefits and owning my home, I'm borrowing money from my ageing parents to pay the mortgage and paying for a much reduced life off a very small income from benefits and child maintenance. It won't be long before I'll have to sell the house to pay for rent or I'll be sending my parents to the workhouse. And I don't need that on my conscience as well.
Flipping heck. That sounds pretty depressing and I can't quite believe I'm writing this on here to make public but actually it feels pretty good to get it out. Having worries makes me very quiet. Mainly I think because I'm trying to suppress the thoughts and therefore worry, and I certainly don't want to talk to all and sundry about it cause, well you know, shame. But I've done the disappearing act on people so many times and clearly I'm fed up with it or I wouldn't have started this blog.
Smokey Mirrors was always about me dropping the act so surely it follows that I've got to stop hiding now too. And actually, although I could have a panic attack at a moment's notice, I'm coping OK and staying positive. I'm sure I'll get something at some point. I'm smart, capable and someone'll see that at some point so my chin is still up. I've just got to stop beating myself up about something that's sort of out of my control.
And the sun is apparently going to be shining next week, I've got my health and the hugely life-sustaining love of my children so I'll be alright Jack.
Oh and if anyone needs a project manager/business administrator then give me a shout!
Thanks for reading.