Belt Loops: MACtion Helps Navigate the Troubled Terrain of the Unemployed

Justin Sullivan

Get a job.

Unemployment sucks.

I know that's not particularly eloquent, but anyone who has been without gainful employment knows that there is certainly an absence of eloquence in being jobless.

It's an unpleasantness that I am all too familiar with.  Certainly, there are different stages of unemployment, all of which I've not experienced.  There's the "Circuit City fired me but that's alright because I still live under my parent's roof and anyway I have a second job at Blockbuster" type of unemployment.

That decision was ultimately overturned but if you're scoring at home, yes, I was once simultaneously employed by two now defunct major retailers.

Then there's the "I got fired but that's alright because I'm in school and now can focus more time on my studies" type of unemployment.

That feeling never lasts longer than the day.  In the morning you will wake up hungover/stressed/anxious/depressed/nauseous wondering how you'll pay rent.

Then there's the worst for somebody like myself.  The "I'm no longer in school, have begun my professional life in a city I'm largely unfamiliar with based on a job that was just viciously ripped away from me" unemployment.

I was there.  September of 2006.  Not six weeks after taking a job as a drug counselor across the street from the hottest spot in Indianapolis to buy heroin, I was canned.  My first client was 75 years old.  He had been abusing opiates for 50 years, more than twice as long as I'd been alive.  I was unsuccessful in rehabilitation.

Realistically my job card was revoked because I had already run through all time off and exhausted the patience of my superiors.  I took the job while still living in Muncie, and was commuting five days a week to downtown Indianapolis for a job that started at 5am.  By the time I found a place to live in Indy, I was already treading water.

Now I will grant you, I never had to resort to the actions of this Ohio University employee.

Or these Ball State swindlers.

Nor did I feel compelled to follow the course of a troubled Central Michigan professor. Perhaps he was teaching at the wrong university.

Still, my anxiety level went through the roof, even if I wasn't in the position of those called out in this tweet from Ball State running back Horactio Banks.

If you're like me, the first thing you do is go buy as many buffalo wings as you think you can keep down, gorge yourself, and fall asleep for as long as possible, because in dreamland we're all employed.

Nearly a month later I was still without a job and in the best shape of my life.  Debt ridden with food not occupying nearly the place it once did in my budget, I spent most days working out, searching for jobs, wash, rinse, repeat.  Entertainment?  Non-existent.  Sleep?  Hard to come by.

Family?  Family? I had not told my family.  I had only a couple nibbles on the job front and was for all intents and purposes "broke."  My mother contacted me over one early October weekend, informing me that she was going to be in Indianapolis for business and would like to have dinner.  I vividly remember her saying "When will you leave the office?"

Feeling a level of shame that I wasn't aware existed to that point, I picked a time I'm told employed people usually leave work.  The day of that dinner I engaged in my usual routine of applying for jobs, working out, and consuming as little as possible.

At about 5pm, I showered, and believe it or not, put on a suit.  That's the depths I reached.

We had dinner at a downtown P.F. Changs.  My rap was good, I talked about what the employed talk about.  A mother's intuition is too strong, though.  Halfway through the meal, (which I had planned to mock reach for the check and then mock begrudgingly allow her to pay), she asked what was wrong.  Without emotion I told her of the farce, and that I had been unemployed for about a month.

My mother is a woman of exceptional grace and wisdom, whose accomplishments far exceed my own.  Think Clair Huxtable. My father on the other hand is more Tim Allen.  No, not that Tim Allen.

In a response more bordering on stoicism than compassion, though not to say cold, she asked me what I planned to do.  Whether or not I interpreted this accurately, I took this to mean that the next roof over my head would not be their home.  Either way, I proceeded with that understanding.  Two weeks later I had a job.

I do not work in sports media, though via my interactions with SB Nation I talk to many who do, or aim to.  My field is mental health, which makes me especially qualified to work with these people.  If you're fortunate enough to have a forum to hone your craft and share your work, then use it. To not use it means you probably don't want to work in that field all that bad.   For those who do, hang in there, and remember:

Things are tough all over.

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