Sunday, January 3, 2010

The New Year: Plans or Just Dreaming

The New Year. The beginning of a new decade.

Winter in New England, on a cold, snowy day. Not much to do. While the snow we just got was predicted to keep falling until midnight tonight, by 2:00 this afternoon we were looking at clear blue skies. I've never understood how the weather forecasters can be so consistently wrong. It's the reason I just stopped planning around them.

But still, on a day like today, there isn't a lot to do. I hate snow, and the cold and the wet. I’m solar powered. I like the sun and the hot. So we do what so many people do in New England in the winter and stay indoors and read and play music or surf the net. Just chill. Winter in New England, some say, is for recharging. For making plans.

And well, planning has been a problem of late. Plans are something you can make when you have resources. Otherwise, it's just dreaming.

Work this past year has been a struggle as it's been for so many around the world. The Europeans refer to this economy as, The Crisis. It was a year ago December 11th that I got laid off. And I thought I'd be able to find work and make some sort of living freelancing. I really didn't want to go back to an office. And I did cobble some work together freelancing--all small jobs or part-time contacts--supplemented by unemployment insurance. But the work simply isn't there, full-time, part-time, contract. Despite what the government is saying, this depression is still here. Companies are still laying off--Digitas, where I got laid off, has already scheduled more layoffs for March. People have been notified.

Then last week when my unemployment ran out and I filed for an extension, I learned that my unemployment, because I actually worked, was cut by more than 50%. If I hadn't worked, making the small bit of money that I made, roughly 50% of what I was making at the agency, I would have continued receiving the benefits I received in the past year for another 21 weeks. In other words, if I had just sat on this couch and written plays like I really wanted to, I would have still made a fair living, at least for another 21 weeks. The system really is set up to reward people for not working.

So, how are you supposed to make plans, when you're scrapping from week to week, sometimes day to day?

The economy causes me to wake me up in the middle of the night with worry about what happens if I get sick, or what's going to happen to me in ten years when I'm ready to retire with no savings. I can barely meet my expenses as it is, and I still have two college-age kids who look at me and, while they probably don't mean to, make me feel absolutely helpless for not being to pay for even part of the colelge. The economy can frustrate me because, when I finally found someone who shares the same hopes and dreams that I've had for so long, that we may not be able to see our dreams to fruition.

The economy also forces me to think differently about what I can and can't do. I'm seriously questioning my ability to make a (real) living as a corporate writer as I have for the last 29 years. Despite all of those years of experience, I don't have a masters in communications that hiring managers seem to be looking for at the get-go. And, while you can't prove age discrimination, when you interview with someone over half your age, you can see it in their eyes. It's not always about the diploma.

The new decade may give some people hope. Some are so glad to kiss the first decade of the 21st century good bye with its 9-11 and recession. But a new swing around the sun isn't going to change what's going on in this country. And a new swing around the sun is not going to mean anything to me. The only differences I can make are in the changes inside me. How I approach this new world that so many people seem blind to. I've never been a quitter. I'm not quitting. But I do get awfully dejected at times.

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