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The silver lining of unemployment

Wednesday, April 8, 2009 | 12:08 p.m. CDT; updated 1:17 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Looking for a job has me stressed out, and the lack of income is starting to become depressing. "I feel like a loser," I said to my grandfather on the phone the other day. I told him the places I applied haven't been calling back and when I call them, they say they've already filled the spot. "It's not just you, it's everyone," he said.

I'm floating in a sea of the unemployed. I realize I can't throw my resume out the window without hitting someone affected by the recession and, although this brings me solidarity, I am still unemployed. When I graduated in December, I had a job ahead of me. But suddenly, hiring freeze after hiring freeze has kept me stuck in a weird limbo between being a student and being out in the real world.

According to the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, Missouri’s unemployment rate for the month of February was 8.3 percent. With the uncertainty we are facing in today’s economy, joblessness seems more like a disease people are catching without being able to find a cure.

Joblessness carries all the symptoms of a virus or disorder — anxiety, trouble sleeping, depression, upset stomach, headaches. I found myself with more time on my hands but less patience. I became ill-tempered and snapped at the smallest thing. My ego and self-esteem definitely took a hit and I wasn't sure how to deal with it. All of a sudden, all the jobs I was qualified for had turned into unpaid internships, and I didn't have the experience to get what had now become an entry-level paid position. And when Brian Williams started saying employers will hire 22 percent fewer college grads this year, I had a little panic attack in my living room.

Like all viruses, unemployment knocks the wind out of you. Just as bed rest will let your body recuperate from the flu, take some time to relax and readjust. Toni Bowers, a blogger for TechRepublic, says, “Yes, time is of the essence — there’s not a moment to waste — but most people underestimate how long it will take to find the right gig. Pace yourself and spare the whip.”

This is a trying time, but you should also use it to do something that makes you happy. Exercise or volunteer, get some much-needed R&R and hold strong to your support systems (family, friends, community). Don't forget exercising releases endorphins, chemicals in your brain that relax you and relieve stress. Laughing will also relieve stress brought on by work woes, that's why one of the best parts of my week is when all my girlfriends get together to watch NBC's "The Office." After a day of clicking "refresh" on my inbox in hopes of hearing back from an employer, I welcome Thursday nights where I can just be me, job or no job.

I can't stress the importance of getting all those feelings of doubt, stress or helplessness out. Blog, email friends or even journal if you are a private person. Writing down your feelings and problems helps you put them in perspective. It's a good way to track how far you've come and list the goals you set for yourself. Erin Pavlina says in her blog, "Written goals serve as a solid reminder whereas goals just floating around in your head don’t always take root."

I hit my lowest point when I realized I wasn't doing anything to be productive. I didn't have a job, so I felt like I wasn't contributing or making use of my time. But after some good talks with my girlfriends, I realized the job (or lack of job) didn't define me; the way I spent my time did. People say "time is money" but we often equate that to "job is money" because all of our time goes into "working hard for the money," as Donna Summer would say.

I decided to do the little things I never had time to do before: going through my closet and donating clothes I never wear, reading all the books that have collected dust on my shelf for years. I even took up scrapbooking, which I never imagined myself doing.

I no longer go to bed thinking, "I didn't accomplish anything today." It might not be what I envisioned for my life at this point, but it has allowed for personal growth, reflection and a new mindset. I am just short of grateful for this time because I have learned to appreciate so many things I once took for granted.

Tracy Barnes graduated from MU in 2008 with degrees in journalism and English. She is a former copy editor and multimedia editor for the Missourian. She can be contacted at tracylbarnes@gmail.com.

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Comments

Charles Dudley Jr April 8, 2009 | 8:41 p.m.

Tracy Barnes I got one solid piece of advise for you and anybody else dealing with this issue of Economic Depression Syndrome.

You can leave it on the table or pick it up and run with it.

Get up out of the house and go something every single day for some one and that means any one who is far worse off than you are.

If you think everything is so bad there is always somebody worse off than you are I guarantee you 100%.

Take it or leave it that is your choice.

(Report Comment)
Andrew Hansen April 13, 2009 | 12:05 p.m.

Of course, there is a huge psychological difference between 'recent college graduate and unemployed' and 'laid-off and unemployed with mortgage, car payment and kids'.

(Report Comment)

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