The image above showing the word UNEMPLOYMENT “between the cracks” or in the margins between torn pages is quite appropriate to the experience of joblessness and underemployment. Unemployment involves a “rite of passage” in the sense of losing an identity and needing to construct or achieve a new one. The transitional ‘passage’ people must undergo with this life crisis event involves what anthropologists or sociologists would call LIMINALITY, which is simply the feeling of being “betwixt and between” (in Victor Turner’s terms): no longer in your original status or role (or, job), but in a sort of limbo zone of adjusting and trying to form a new social identity, and/or obtain a new job.
Today I will list some writing or reflection prompts that can relate to a Better Endings approach to this week’s topic of Unemployment. I do not mean to express any denial regarding the dire situation, frustrations, and anxiety; the ‘down’ side of this difficult passage affecting so many people in the world today. Better Endings as a universal, hopeful principle suggests we can still find or look for silver linings, even in the heaviest of clouds, and this is what we discovered most of the people who shared their unemployment stories with us for the Colorado Springs Tell Your Story project were often able and wanting to do. They told us of their plight and concerns, but many also shared their STRATEGIES for coping, for seeking new positions, and for thriving while outside the workforce. Many pointed out how unfortunate it is that when we first meet someone in today’s urbane society, our introductory query is likely to be, “What do you DO?”; as though what we do to earn an income defines who we ARE as a human being. Many people who are un- or underemployed must learn adaptive and often very creative ways to REDEFINE themselves while they are ‘between and betwixt’ more structured roles in society. So yes, even unemployment can have a positive, fruitful aspect; it can present a time of adjustment that is ripe with possibilities.
The Tell Your Story participants shared the following ideas and strategies as ways they have coped with or adapted to being jobless or underemployed. I invite you to share YOUR story, too, either in the Comments box below, or you can submit your story to share with readers. Or, you might wish to journal, talk about, or actively contemplate one or more of these adaptive ideas. Even if you are NOT un- or underemployed yourself, some of these strategies might still inspire or be of benefit to you. How so?
Some Better Endings Prompts for Unemployment or Underemployment:
- Redefining yourself
- Entrepreneurial opportunities
- Community non-profit support programs
- Returning to or learning new hobbies, arts, musical instruments, sports, or exercise programs
- Education grants/ retraining programs
- Living with and providing household services for friends or extended family
- Workforce center services and programs
- Social Security Disability qualification
- Early retirement or pension programs
- Community Bartering or self-help networks (e.g. Family Independence Initiative; Fixing the Future programs)
- Shelters & Food banks
- Creative activities