Swallowed by a Sarlacc

Job searching takes a toll on you. Extended, earnest efforts, over years wear you down. Those of you that have never had to do it, or never struggled that long, you don’t get it. I’m not talking about occasionally firing off a resume here or there. I’m talking about earnestly applying, writing cover letters, skill building, networking and still having an inbox filled with more rejection letters than opportunities from African Princes or other types of canned processed meat. It’s soul crushing.

Unemployment kills dreams, destroys friendships, burns relationships, kicks love out of reach and drags you into a sarlacc that chews you up, spits you out and when it’s hungry again, licks you back in for another round. If unemployment doesn’t starve you to death, it depresses you into suicide so you kill what’s left of yourself after it has killed your hopes, the ability to even dream, your confidence, skills and network and knocked out your optimism, and gratefulness. Some days it feels like you are trudging up a quicksand dune, sinking in with nothing to grab onto. Once you’ve been swallowed alive a couple times you learn to just hang on and take a deep breath right before you go under, knowing that if you can hold your breath long enough, you’ll come back out the other side, the sarlacc spitting you out, the clouds parting. In those moments, that sand dune can feel like a beach. You probably roll around in it, jump up and down, call your friends and invite them over. You gasp in deep breaths of the fresh air and you hold on for dear life, to the feeling of being alive again, the reprieve from the pain. You’re grateful for it, no matter how long it lasts. Just as you know the depression will pass, you know this too shall pass.

When I make it back out I get up and start running as fast as I can. I head for the hills, trying to capitalize on the burst of energy that accompanies escaping the depression that just tried to kill me. I assess my situation; tell myself I’m doing alright. I fire off applications with optimistic cover letters extolling my many skills and elaborating on all the wonderful things I can accomplish in this new role. I make plans with friends, clean the house, pick up my hobbies and studies, I try to date and I get out to meet new people.

For me, gone are the long extended periods of depression and negativity. The dark months where I would avoid friends, and even hide in the hallway, out of the view of any windows when someone would come around. The rounds are much shorter these days, usually just a few days, but I get scared because they can be far more intense. I’ve found ways to help fight the feeling. I’ve tried meditating, running, praying, studying, yoga, taking classes and even daily affirmations ala Stuart Smalley. I do better now. Longer stretches of “up” days, and even a fair amount of pride for what I have been able to accomplish. I do my best to accept myself and that this is my lot in life, but I know I’m meant for more. Why? I know I’m at least meant for something, not this nothingness of being unable to get a job. I’m meant to make people laugh, and smile and encourage them. I know, because I do.

But years and years of trying, hundreds of cover letters, dozens of interviews, version after version of resume… actually this post was supposed to be about resumes, but after several drafts which didn’t get the vibe right and were sounding too depressing, I caved into the depression and decided to write this post. This is after all, the tale of my struggles. So be warned, this tale won’t always be witty sarcasm or comfortably entertaining. You’ll have to accept it as I have just done and be prepared for occasional posts like this. Besides, what’s more pathetic than being almost 40, sitting in a coffee shop on the edge of town, writing to yourself and trying to choke back tears? That’s rhetorical. I have many more stories to illustrate the girth of my patheticism.

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