I’ve been thinking about the experience of the first day at a new job.

I’m sure this is partly because work (and the lack of it) is never far from the thoughts of those who, like myself, have been unemployed for a while.

When we’re not feeling sorry for ourselves, we’re worrying about just how we’re going to jump on this crazy old merry-go-round again without being summarily flung off on our noses while the pretty painted horses that stop for no one keep circling and the riders laugh their arses off at the schlub who can’t keep his balance for more than five seconds.

And the tinkly calliope music keeps right on playing, mocking our incompetence.

Can I still hack it?  Do I still remember how to sing this song?  Or has the economic vampire of long-term unemployment sucked my bones dry?  Self-confidence tends to be one of the first casualties of those who can barely remember their last paycheck.

So, yes, I’ve been thinking about how a new job would mean starting all over from zero.  You barely know where the rest room is located, much less who does what and how to get things done in the corporate culture in which you’ve found yourself.  It’s a little like parachuting into a foreign land with nothing but a crude map and a canteen of water.  You’re going to have to live by your wits for a while and, most likely, depend on the kindness of strangers.

The trigger for this line of thought was a post on Simple Dream in which Automattician Lance Willett reminisces about his first day at his current gig.  “I was new, overwhelmed and maybe even scared,” he confesses.  He then goes on to explain how his curiosity, willingness to ask questions and “investigative mind” has been the key to his success.

I particularly like the way Willett admits that he has no idea what he’s doing, the precise sentiment I expressed in yesterday’s post.

As John Michael Montgomery sings, “life’s a dance you learn as you go.”

While visiting family over Thanksgiving weekend, my mother suggested that we apply for “food stamps.”  These days, that translates into SNAP food supplement benefits loaded onto an EBT card.  Although these are federal benefits, they are administered by the individual states.  And each state has its own rules.  We quickly discovered that, in California, as long as I am still drawing unemployment benefits, I make too much money to qualify for SNAP.

Now I feel positively rich.  For one thing, I’m doing a lot better than those who have already exhausted their unemployment benefits.

But, hey, 2014 beckons, and things are bound to improve in the new year.

After all, when my unemployment runs out, I might become eligible for SNAP.

Unless, of course, I leap back on that merry-go-round before then.

If I do, you’d better believe that I’m going to hold onto that pole as if my life depended on it.



5 thoughts on “Merry-Go-Round

  1. Being unemployed taught me so much about gratitude and not taking things for granted.

    Before I felt sorry for myself about divorce, I felt sorry for myself about my wretched, broken marriage. Before I felt sorry for myself about my wretched, broken marriage, I felt sorry for myself about being unemployed for 18 months.

    It was my first personal crisis. I’m still crawling back.

    If there’s anything, anything at all, a stranger in Ohio can do, I hope you’ll reach out.

    In the meantime…

    Thoughts and prayers, sir.

    • Thanks so much, Matt. You are much too kind. Please let me know should your employer find itself in need of an itinerant web writer, former graphic designer, sometime journalist and recovering attorney. Has a sense of humor, charges flexible rates and willing to change blog title to A Map of Ohio.

      • You have a J.D.!?

        Nevermind. You’re INFINITELY smarter than me, and I can’t help you.


        No, I mean it. If you can think of anything. Though, we have the same skill set. Only yours is better.


  2. That’s not the way it works in Connecticut. I was on unemployment and was able to get SNAP, but maybe I made much less than you, I don’t know.

    What I DO know is that being unemployed is hard, and it sucks, and when you’re in the throes of it it’s hard to imagine it being even worse. I have a job now, but I’m still barely getting by from paycheck to paycheck. Still, I’m thankful. I hope things go well for you. Keep your chin up!

    • Thanks so much for your kind encouragement, Janie. Regarding SNAP, this federal benefit is administered by the states, and each state has its own rules. California has among the strictest requirements in the nation. Lucky me! I used to live in Connecticut and I miss it. Thanks for visiting A Map of California!

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