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A friend of mine from church wrote this on his status page. Like him, I was unemployed/underemployed for a while and pretty much everything he talks about here happened to me. It’s important to know that other people are going through this in this way. It sucks, it’s hard and it’s just like this. I wish I followed some of his advice during my time in that hell. I hope others are able to follow this advice.

The Event Horizon of Unemployment

Just sharing some thoughts as life progresses.

An event horizon near a black hole is the point at which the gravitational pull becomes so great as to make escape impossible. The horizon and any object on the horizon seem to remain the same for an observer no matter how its surroundings move, because light can’t escape from it. The present is frozen like a snapshot.

Unemployment is a lot like an event horizon. You know the exact moment you’ve become unemployed, but nothing changes, appearance-wise to observers. You look like the same person after that you were before. There are conversations about how things are going, checking in, buying groceries, paying the phone bill, etc.
However, your life starts to be torn apart immediately by unseen forces mostly beyond your control. Anxiety, depression, fear, uncertainty all crowd into your daily life unbidden, forcing you to respond whether you like it or not. Unpleasant tasks crowd your day. Short term ones that make life seem constant: buying food, applying for jobs, meeting with family and friends. Medium term tasks like contemplating moves to other housing situations, or even uprooting to other areas of the country if a job is available, leaving family and friends behind. And those nasty, unpleasant long term realities of housing with no money, putting up pets for adoption, the humiliation of no worth in a society that demands employment in exchange for feelings of adequacy.

So what do you do?

Exercise, eat well, rest and share.

Physical fitness is so important to anyone who finds themselves on the short end of the employment stick. The discipline of working out will give order and meaning to your day, and has the excellent benefits of endorphins and well-being.

How tempting is it to drown your sorrows in a bag of chips or handful of chocolate or a glass of wine? Stay focused on what you put in your mouth, it matters.

Rest is a pretty hard one to master. You feel fatigued all the time, so it’s almost counter-intuitive at this point to mention it. But making sure to get to bed on time is key, rather than staying up to watch television.

Share in the way that matters to you. Part of the difficulty with unemployment is that it makes you go through changes rather than the other way around. Friends, relatives or even casual acquaintances may label you tone-deaf, heartless or smug given your behavior.

Now you know that isn’t the case. It’s hard to stay centered and balanced during this difficult time. And hard to come across as grateful for help that is given. So stay open, ignore what doesn’t fit and respond to what does.

There is an old Buddhist saying that if you meet the Buddha on the side of the road, you must kill the Buddha.

So what should an observer do if you see a person on the event horizon of unemployment? You could sue him because he owes you money. You could give him a bag of food because you’re feeling charitable. Or you could ask what would be helpful.

I suggest the last option. It may have the best results.