'I am active in my community, something I would do even with a job.'

I am one of the many unlucky to be out of work for an extended time. I am in my early 40s. I find myself wanting to stride into crowded places and scream “What the hell else do you want of me? What else am I supposed to do?”

We fade and become invisible. Forgotten, if we do not fight back the despair and depression as door after door is shut in our faces.

I always thought I was doing the right thing. I went to college, got a bachelors in Chemistry. For many years, in various industries and R&D, I did do alright. Not fantastic, but well enough that setbacks were mainly of my own making, and those, not very terrible. My career began to plateau, and I began to consider what would be next. Circumstances gave me the opportunity to pursue a long term goal of a small farm. I bought 20 acres in a nearby rural area and the commute to work was pretty easy. Put in a well, power and an RV to live in while I waited for the housing plans to be finished. It’s a small dream, but it was mine and I could see the path to it.

In September 2008, I got my house plans, made a list of lenders to call only to have the housing market crash. Fine. Let it work out and try again in the spring, right?  No. The major, international company I worked in had huge layoffs in October 2008 and I was one. I applied to jobs, had good interviews only to have them decide not to fill the jobs.

I looked into going back to school. Since my old job, according to my former company, went to China, I qualified for Trade Act Assistance. After a little soul-searching, I decided to pursue a Masters in Teaching. The TAA program would cover tuition and books, I’d keep getting unemployment, and how the heck could they outsource teaching short of shipping out the kids? It looked like a more stable avenue. Isn’t Science Education one of the Federal Government’s priorities—the STEM program??

I discovered, I LOVE to teach. I am passionate about teaching science and will do so even for random passing strangers making incorrect statements of science. I’ve had people smile after these encounters and tell me they wish I was teaching their kids.

So do I.

In June 2010 I received my Masters in Teaching, got my license to teach High School Science and Chemistry in the state of Oregon. The State of Oregon also decided in that same month that all state agencies (including schools) had to cut budgets by 10 percent. Of the 3 teaching jobs in my area I found to apply for, 2 were part-time, one was an on line alternative. I did not even get an interview.

I have interviewed for a few other jobs, mainly in my old field. One place I interviewed, actually gave me a personal call back. I asked them if the fact that I had my teaching credentials gave them the impression I would leave for a teaching job factored in the decision, I got the honest answer of “yes”.  I’ve sent out many applications, even to things I’m not sure what the job really is, but I rarely get even an acknowledgment that they received my application. Why do I waste my time throwing thoughtfully crafted letters into a black hole?

My unemployment ended in Oct 2010.

I could not even get on substitute teaching lists in nearby schools. I did get on some sub list and over the past school year, my main income has been from the rare substitute teaching opportunity. How often is that? Perhaps twice a month.

This year is even worse. I think I have a teaching job to apply for. I have to call. It’s a real stretch in fitting my skills with their skimpy listing. And I will be competing with 200 or so experience teachers just laid off in an area barely an hour away. An hour is not too terrible a commute around here. 

I still have my start of a farm. The soil is horrible clay. Gardens are routinely overrun with slugs. But I got ducks last year and notice a reduction of slug invasion. I will be able to sell a couple of goats for meat this year. I was pleasantly surprised at how popular goose and duck eggs were this spring. I could enjoy animal husbandry quite a bit. But as a business, it will take a few years to get going.

I don’t have a few years.

I live on savings—and there isn’t all that much left of that little nest egg. I still owe a mortgage. A land loan with a balloon payment. I need to refinance or extend it, but I can understand their point of view when I don’t have a steady income. I called about some advice and options with my mortgage. I was told I should sell it. Sell my land which has some real potential of generating a bit of income for me?? Leave my community and support system? My land, which was on the market for over 3 years before I bought it. Which doesn’t even have a house. Yeah, right. In this market, it won’t sell very fast.

I do live in a great community. I was welcomed and invited to parties before I even signed closing papers for my land. It is the first place I have lived that I feel I belonged. I know my neighbors. We help each other. I am active in my community, something I would do even with a job. I am currently serving as the local Grangemaster. It is more important that I am active, thought, because I can point to this in interviews and say, “See? Here. I did work organizing and motivating. I wasn’t paid, but here is a list of people who are glad I do it.”

The last thing anyone on that list will call me is ‘lazy’. I am not unemployed because I am ‘lazy’. I am unemployed because of the dearth of opportunity. I would take a low paying job. I can’t take just any job. I don’t have the stamina or strength for demanding physical jobs (never really did) and some health issues prevent a few other opportunities. Still, those positions I do apply for, are yet again, a black hole of silence.

I am exploring options with my farm. I am looking into writing. I’ve created science fiction stories to amuse myself all my life and I wouldn’t mind sharing it. The getting published part- now that is a bizarre beast. Or an endless maze.
I’ll be taking some classes later this summer to be able to teach middle school. I haven’t seen any jobs for middle school science teachers in my area, but it might expand my substitute teaching opportunities.

Oh, and I suppose I should move to the jobs? My mother lives not too far away in a major metropolitan area. I could live rent free with her, rent my farm and visit weekly. BUT. No jobs for teachers in her area either. They’re laying off. For what is worth, the Almighty Dollar is not worth chasing to the far reaches of the earth for me. Not if it means uprooting from the place I finally found to belong. I never understood being homesick until I moved here. I can’t leave more than 2 days without longing to come back.

Such is my story so far. I am not an entrepreneur kind of person. I detest “selling” myself in an interview. We are, after all, supposed to get ahead on our merits, right?

I have evidence for the passing of bull.

I desperately wish I could focus on one thing or another. Pursuing several things at once means none of them are pursued thoroughly. I’m will to do nearly any job I’m physically able to, but I often don’t even know what that is. How do I look for something I don’t even know exists?

I don’t want all that much. Stay were I am. A more solid roof over my head. Raising ducks and goats.  The fun of exciting a crowd of 13-14 years olds about science and how it impacts their life. Pursuit of my happiness is pretty dang cheap, America. Why is it so wrong? What else am I supposed to do for it?

Norina N., via email

Stories from a bad economy, as told to
Yahoo! News


view archive

about this project

browse stories