I recently heard an interview on NPR’s Weekend Edition with two residents of Cleveland, Ohio who have been unemployed for almost two years. The story was meant “to bring a human face to the unemployment statistics.” They were asked about how they felt the recent unemployment report – unemployment fell by .4 points to 9.4 in December – and their prospects for 2011. Would this be the year they found a job – no longer a matter of “the” job, but “any” job?
One of the interviewees said he was living off of his student loans. He wasn’t happy about that, but he said he felt lucky, because, as his father said, “If you have your health you have everything.” He felt being unemployed had helped shape his perspective on how much he really needed to get by and that, “For some weird reason, I feel a little more optimistic for 2011.”
He sounded calm. There was no hint of anger, no hint of victimization, no depression – just acceptance of the hand that life, for the past two years, had dealt. Maybe because he was being interviewed on the radio, grace told him it was neither the time nor place to express the doubt unemployment inevitably brings.
When I was unemployed, I hardly felt the calm his words indicated. I felt more like I was on a swing of emotions that my anxiety would push higher and that I would analytically try to stop. But I can remember a few moments of tranquility, sitting in my studio apartment, with a cup of tea, reading a book, likely one from San Francisco’s many used bookstores, and feeling a sense of peace. A sense that for that one moment, for that one evening before the next day began, I was lucky. I had everything I needed and all I could really expect of the world, a warm meal, a place to lay my head. I existed as a whole, sitting calmly on my swing, level with the ground.