In a man’s world, there’s nothing more emasculating than losing your job. In a society where a man’s value is increasingly measured by his earning power, losing your job is the equivalent of disappearing from the human race. You feel worthless and weak and no woman wants you.
From the time you walk out of the building with your little box of stuff, the clock is ticking. It’s a loud ticking noise in your head, like one of those old Regulator pendulum clocks, tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. What it is measuring is the amount of time you have until the money runs out and you’re perceived as a deadbeat or worse. It drives you mad.
The fear can be overwhelming. From the moment you hear the words, “We’re going to make a change,” or “There’s just not enough work,” or worse, “We’re terminating your employment,” the fear begins. It’s an intense fear, a life-changing fear, a fight or flight kind of fear.
It’s not just the money. Losing a job means losing your life. Your routine, your friends, your after-work habits, and your home life all enter a massive state of flux. The “not knowing” when it will end is tremendously disconcerting. All the little things that re-assure you, that give you confidence, that bolster your ego, disappear in a flash.
And just when you’re at your lowest point, you must put on your most confident face to interview with potential employers. You must sit there, in a strange place, exuding confidence and stability, while interviewers grill you and intentionally try to make you uncomfortable. It’s a tough act. To portray yourself as valuable while secretly knowing if you don’t get the job, you’re a street person pushing a shopping cart in sixty days, is a performance worthy of an Academy Award.
The objects of worry are endless. How long will it take to find another job? Will I lose everything I’ve worked for? Will my credit rating take a hammering? Will my kids want to spend time with a guy that has no money to entertain them? How long will it be before my wife or girlfriend “cuts her losses” and moves on?
You can’t relax. Every moment you’re not actively trying to find work, your worrying. You can’t distract yourself with all those things you enjoy because you have no money. Even going to a movie for a couple hours seems like an extreme luxury. Trips to the grocery store turn into exercises in price per ounce comparisons. Everything tasty is out, beans, rice, and pasta are in.
After a while, it simply becomes a matter of survival. Bills must be postponed or put off completely, services must be disconnected, maintenance is out of the question, and credit card balances skyrocket. You do everything you can, but the reality is you eventually become a deadbeat.
Deadbeats are the lepers of modern society. Nobody wants to associate with someone that’s broke. Wives and girlfriends run for cover and bill collectors are constantly calling to remind you how worthless you are. You just want your friends to listen, to reassure you that someone cares. Instead, you get constant streams of unwanted advice, as if you haven’t thought of turning off the cable or switching to generic pasta.
As you apply for work, you keep stretching your preferences and skill set until a barista position at Starbucks starts looking really good. But then you realize that even fast food won’t hire you because your old, square, and overqualified. You consider jobs on the fringe of your ability thinking, “yeah, I took a JAVA programming course in college, how hard could it be?”
Being out of work makes you realize how much pain and fear exist in our society. And when you have skills, education, and experience and still can’t find anything meaningful, you start to look at the poor ilk waiting at the bus stops with even more pity and empathy. There is an ocean of pain out there.